How many people at your church?

NEWS | John Sandeman

Tuesday 11 August 2015

It is hard to get a snapshot that shows the big picture of Australian Christianity. Denominations and church networks are often reluctant to release attendance figures: if they are doing well, they don’t wish to boast, and if they are shrinking it is normally not the subject of a press release.

Eternity has gathered publicly-available figures for the largest church groups in Australia, as up to date and as authoritative as we can find. (If anyone has better figures please contact us at [email protected]).

We have used church attendance as our measure. This is because that’s the figure most churches appear to cite. There’s one denomination that states in the headline on the front page of their website where they fit in the order of Australian church groups, and as far as Eternity can tell, they have it wrong.

Here’s the figures, with their sources.

 1. Catholic 578,000
(weekly attendance at mass)
National Count of Attendance 2011, and “The Swag”, National Council of Priests in Australia
2. Australian Christian Churches (ACC)  272,000 “constituents” Statement by ACC National President Wayne Alcorn to the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse) 2015
 3. Anglican  220,000 (including the Sydney Diocese, 68,000) Reported in the Viability and Structures Task Force report to General Synod, 2014. The main figure is calculated from the report’s “actual attendance” ratio.
 4. Baptist  142,020 Official attendance figure from the Australian Baptist Ministries website.
 5. Uniting  97,200 Figure from a 2013 census by the National Church Life Survey, reported in Journey, the QLD Uniting Church Magazine.
 6.  C3  50,000 Figure from the C3 Global Office.
 7. Seventh Day Adventist Church  59,238 “members” This figure is at at June 2015, from their Australian website. The church has a very high attendance rate by its members, and is growing rapidly. But members don’t (necessarily) amount to weekly church attendance. Positions from 6 onwards on our ladder are hard to determine.

The next largest groups are the Salvation Army and the Presbyterian church. The Presbyterians and the SDA churches are engaged in extensive church planting which makes their numbers quite dynamic.

The Australian Christian Churches represent about half of Australia’s Pentecostals, another growing group. Combined, they would hold an even stronger number two rank.

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