Todd’s Thoughts – December 2019

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” I recently ran into some interesting facts you might be interested to know. In 2018, membership in the Unitarian Universalist Association grew for the first time in a decade. It grew by 0.67 percent, or 980 new members among the UUA’s 1,012 congregations, amounting to total of 148,242 members. By my calculations, that’s 0.04 percent of the U.S. population. That’s not dismal compared to other mainline religions, like the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and UCC, who declined anywhere from 1.9 to 4.6 percent last year alone. But our small gain doesn’t make up for the 7,727 members lost between 2008 and 2018, nor for the 15,172 kids who’ve left our religious education programs. That’s a 27.37 percent decline in enrollment. I suspect this mostly has to do with population decline in general. Young parents are having fewer kids these days, if any at all, and there’s a lot more to attract their packed schedules than a sixth day of school. I also learned recently that when the UU Association was formed in 1961, 86 percent of its members were Unitarians, compared to 17 percent Universalists. At the time there were 151,557 members total, plus another 77,446 enrolled in RE. The most members ever reported were 177,431 in 1968, plus 104,876 in RE. Today, including the Church of the Larger Fellowship and 21 international congregations, we have 154,704 members and 38,116 in RE, the latter being the lowest enrollment ever. These number obviously aren’t the most encouraging. Yet, as I often respond when asked how big my church is, “About as big as a stick of dynamite.”

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