Religious Attendance in Canada

The 50th anniversary issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion is out. In it, sales it includes a study looking at the changing patterns of church attendance in Canada between 1986-2008.

Overall, mind the study found a 20% decrease in religious attendance. Part of this is due to the increase in people reporting that they have ‘no religion’. The other part is due to a decline in Catholic attendance.

As for Protestants:

…the story is one of stability and even increase. Across age groups, treat Protestants in Canada are now more likely to attend religious services…These data do not allow us to disaggregate mainline Protestants from evangelical Protestants. This makes it impossible to determine whether the stability in attendance among Protestants is because of stability across Protestant denominations, or if evangelical groups have compensated for declining rates of attendance in mainline groups. (pg. 199)

I know of one mainline church that has been studied regarding declining attendance. There is research about the United Church of Canada that found that by 2025 the average United Church will have:
• 52 financially-supporting households.
• zero new members received.
• zero new members in Sunday school.
• zero baptisms (all ages).
• Zero weddings.
• Four funerals.

(It should be noted that in this research about the UCC, the author found that there is also decline in the evangelical churches, just not as fast as the UCC).

But, if as the newest research suggests, Protestants are holding their own in terms of attendance (be it due to an increase in evangelical attendance, or not), what does this mean for the announcement that religion in Canada is on its way to being extinct?

  • Thanks for this. I’ve heard (second hand) that the evangelical number haven’t exactly been thanks to “growth” (as in making new disciples) but in growth thanks to movement from the traditional mainline churches. Also, I’ve heard that the evangelical churches are merely 10-15 years behind the mainline churches in this decline. Heard anything about this?

    Anyway, I’m not entirely worried about the collapse of the church as we know it (mainline, evangelical or otherwise). It’s just a sign that the civil religion and Constantinian Christianity of the past will die and something new will take its place. An Easter moment if there ever were one, if you ask me.