Highly educated churchgoers on the rise

A more highly educated churchgoing population. Young attenders are the most highly educated yet.

Resource Type: Article

Topics: News Feb 2018 churchgoers

There was a strong increase in the proportion of churchgoers with a university degree and a strong decline in those with only a school-level education, between 2006 and 2016.

The result is a more highly educated churchgoing population. Young attenders are the most highly educated yet.

In 2006, half of church attenders had school as their highest level of formal education. In 2016 this proportion had dropped to 38%, a decline of 12 percentage points. This most likely reflects the passing of older attenders, who are more likely to have completed only a school-level education.

Alongside this, there has been a rise in churchgoers with university degrees from 27% in 2006, to 33% in 2011 and 37% in 2016, an increase of 10 percentage points in 10 years. The shift is due to generational changes in education, with more recent generations in Australian society more highly educated than those before them.

Within denominational groupings, Anglican and Baptist churches have more attenders with university degrees than with a school-level education. In contrast, Catholic, Lutheran and Uniting churches have more churchgoers with school-level education than with university degrees. Pentecostal churches have a more even spread of levels of education among their members.

Overall across Australia’s churches, with about four in ten attenders university qualified and the same number having a school-level education, a dichotomy may also exist between the two groups. The implications for highly educated younger ministry staff is to meaningfully communicate with the full educational spectrum represented in their church.

Church leaders will still need to remain aware of the needs of less educated attenders as well as the emerging highly educated ones. Young adult attenders are the highest educated group yet.

See the article Stained glass stories to the digital age: Education levels of Australian church attenders for education by age groupings and Education by attenders' country of birth, along with more information on the education levels of churchgoers.


Fast facts in summary:

  • 37% of all attenders in 2016 have a university degree, up from 33% in 2011 and 27% in 2006: an increase of 10 percentage points in ten years.
  • 25% have a trade certificate, diploma or associate diploma: fairly constant since 2006.
  • 38% have primary or secondary school education, down from 42% in 2011 and 50 per cent in 2006: a drop of 12 percentage points in ten years.
Miriam Pepper, Kathy Jacka
Data Sources:

2016, 2011, 2006 NCLS Attender Survey [Data files]. Sydney: NCLS Research.

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