A year ago UUA membership declined by 132 members for a total of 156,015 adult members. This year membership dropped 267, a decline of .16 percent. Total adult membership this year is 155,748.And also:
Religious education enrollment dropped 1,262, for a total of 55,846 children and youth this year. A year ago it dropped 809. In 2002 it was 60,895.Now people are quick to point out that we're in a recession. And that churches report their numbers to the association, and then, for all small and mid-sized congregations, the UUA bases their fair-share dues on the number of members they have. Our UUA and district dues last year were $76 per person. So therefore, in a time when our congregations are having financial troubles, congregations will naturally want to trim every member off their rolls that they possibly can.
This is true. But I think that we always want to trim our membership numbers like this. We may be doing it more, but I don't think this accounts for this drop in membership. The reason why I don't think so is those religious education numbers. We pay our dues based on our adult members. We don't pay our dues based on our children. Religious education enrollment can include the children of non-members who are enrolled in our programs. So what explains this drop? A drop in children over all in our country? Well, the next census may tell.
But meanwhile, I'm saying, if you want to know the truth about the health of our congregations, look to our religious education. If we're dropping off there, which this report is saying we are, then I think we really are dropping off over all.
My guess, based on the way it is here, is that yes, we trim our rolls every year by a little--we look at who has moved away, primarily. But there are some people we never trim every year, because they're maintaining some small connection to the church. However, our religious education numbers report not how many children our members have, but how many we're actually seeing enroll in our program in the fall. If that number is down, that's the real truth. Membership means a whole lot of different things to different people, but it's the numbers of people who come and sit in our pews and go to our religious education classes that we should be really focusing on.