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U.S. Congregations:
Research, Resources, and Results
Congregational Life Survey
Resources for Congregations
Community Profiles

A Field Guide to Presbyterian Congregations:
Building Identity Connections

Worshipers have an individual identity based on their age, education, and other factors. Worshipers also have a congregational identity that includes what they value as a faith community and their dreams for the congregation's future. What did we learn about the identity of Presbyterian worshiper?

  • Congregational Size

    Small congregations dot the landscape, but most worshipers find themselves in large congregations. The average PC(USA) congregation has 86 in worship just slightly smaller than the national average of 90 in worship. One-quarter of PC(USA) congregations have less than 50 in worship, and a large majority (82%) have less than 200 attendees.

    The View From the Pews

    While about half of all Presbyterian congregations are small (under 100 in worship), most worshipers are in large Presbyterian congregations.

    The largest 10% of congregations draw about 38% of all worshipers. Another 40% of congregations (those in the mid-size range) serve 44% of worshipers. The remaining 50% of congregations the smallest ones -- involve only 18% of worshipers.

  • Gender Profile

    Who sits in our pews? There are fewer men (39%) than women (61%) in most congregations. Women outnumber men in PC(USA) congregations by the same amount. This difference exists across all age ranges, as well, so the fact that women live longer than men does not explain the difference.

  • Age Profile

    In most congregations, those aged 45-64 make up the largest group (36%), but in PC(USA) congregations people at least 65 years old comprise the largest age group. In PC(USA) congregations, for every worshiper under the age of 25 there are more than six worshipers over the age of 65. The average age of worshipers in PC(USA) congregations is 58. This is older than the national average for all congregations, which is 50, and older than the national average for the U.S. population (15 years of age and older), which is 44.

    Age Distribution

    Age of Worshipers

  • Educational Background

    Worshipers in the U.S. tend to be well-educated. The U.S. Census shows that about 23% of people (age 25 and up) across the country have at least a college degree. Among worshipers in the same age range, the figure is 38%. In PC(USA) congregations, 49% report a college or graduate degree.

    Education Level of Worshipers

  • Household Types

    Most worshipers in America are married, and this is true in PC(USA) congregations as well (70% here are married). Overall, 47% of worshipers have children living at home, more than the results for PC(USA) congregations (38%). Again, worshipers differ from typical Americans. The U.S. Census indicates that only 52% of the population in this country are currently married, and about 33% have children living at home.

  • What Worshipers Value

    What do worshipers in Presbyterian congregations value? From a list of 14 possibilities, PC(USA) worshipers most value preaching, traditional worship, Holy Communion, ministry for children or youth, and care for one another. Although the order is somewhat different, these are the same things valued by worshipers in other types of congregations.

  • Seeing Possibilities

    How open are worshipers in PC(USA) congregations to change and new directions? About half of the worshipers in PC(USA) congregations (53%) feel their congregation is always ready to try something new. Most (71%) also express a sense of excitement about the congregation's future. Even more worshipers in congregations generally describe their congregation as willing to try new things (61%) and excited about the future (80%).

  • Committing to the Future

    Do worshipers in PC(USA) congregations claim a clear vision, goals, or direction for their congregation's ministry and mission? Most worshipers in PC(USA) congregations believe there is a clear vision or direction for the future (72% say "yes," including 65% who are committed to the vision). However, others are not sure that the vision is clear or that it exists (29%). The national average shows that most worshipers believe their congregation has a clear vision for the future (71%).

Go to: Field Guide to Presbyterian Congregations: Summary

Go to: U.S. Congregations Home Page

Copyright 2002 Research Services. All rights reserved.

Last modified July 12, 2002 by U.S. Congregations Home Page Manager