How many people go to your church

Eternity updates attendance figures for networks of Christian Churches

Church attendance figures can be hard to find. If a church is doing well, it does not tend to send out a press release for fear of seeming to boast. If numbers are going down, figures are hard to find.

But some fresh figures have come across the Eternity desk. (If anyone has better figures please contact us at [email protected]).

We have used church attendance as our measure because it is the figure that puts everyone on a level playing field.

In contrast, Census figures inflate the numbers of historic churches at the expense of newer ones.

Here are the figures, with their sources.

1. Catholic
623 356 (“Average weekly attendance”)
National Count of Attendance, 2016, released in October, 2019.

The 2011 figure was 662,376 which indicates a 5 year decline of 5.9%


2. Australian Christian Churches (ACC) including Hillsong
272,000 “constituents”
This figure comes from a statement by ACC National President Wayne Alcorn to the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, 2015.

If all Pentecostals are counted as one denomination, they would be number two on our list of church attendance figures.

If the ACC plus Hillsong equals two thirds of Pentecostals in Australia, their total is 408,000. If the ACC plus Hillsong is regarded as being less then two thirds of Pentecostalism, then the number grows.

Pentecostal numbers likely track their Census results which show continuous growth.

293,134 weekly attendance, or 219,850 more likely. But probably much lower – see below.
The first figure is reported in the Viability and Structures Task Force report to General Synod, 2014. This figure is calculated from the report’s “expected attendance” ratio. Because this figure is derived from the Census, it will have fallen by some 5 per cent to 2016. (This report is no longer online.)

But the report notes “On any particular Sunday, the proportion of those identifying as Anglican who are present in a church service is close to 75 per cent of the expected attendance figures above, or around 7 per cent.” That gives us the 219,850 number.

The 2011 NCLS figure might be safer, 155,000, with later figures likely to be lower. While this does not affect the order of this table, it is probably the best figure, and it could be discounted by say ten per cent.

Below are Sydney Anglican figures from its 2018 Synod papers. Something like ten per cent of the churches have failed to report their numbers in the last two years; the difficulty is that it is not the same ten per cent each time. The same probably applies to previous years.

In Eternity’s view, this diocese has plateaued, or possibly is in gentle decline (just below 60,000).

2017 50,319
2016 51,620
2015 54,859
2014 54,047
2013 53,140
2012 52,947 (from the 2017 Synod papers)

4. Baptists

Church attendance 142,020 (2012 figure from Australian Baptist Ministries site)
Census figures: 345,142 in 2016
352,489 in 2011
316,733 in 2006
Across each Australian state, a consistent pattern of growth in 2006-2011 was followed by decline or plateauing in 2011-2016. In NSW, decline occurred during the 2011-2016 period – despite a move towards diverse modes of church life and church planting.

5. Uniting Church in Australia
Figure from a 2013 census by the National Church Life Survey, on the UCA Assembly website.

Attendance has declined by 40 per cent since 1991. A key figure is the media worship service attendance: 35 people.

The UCA has 41% of congregations in rural areas.

6. C3
Figure from C3, supplied to Eternity in October, 2019.

7. Seventh Day Adventist Church
59,238 “members”
This figure is at June 2015, from their Australian website. The church has a very high attendance rate by its members but members don’t (necessarily) amount to weekly church attendance.

Smaller churches

Positions from 8 onwards on our ladder are hard to determine.

26,000 “actual attendance” in a report to the 2019 General Assembly of Australia. Eternity was told by a contributor to a FB closed group “5,000 for the Free Reformed, 7,000 for the Christian Reformed, maybe 1,500 for the Westminster Presbyterians as typical actual attendance on the Lords Day.” This means the Presbyterian/Reformed group has an attendance of 39,500.

23772 (2016 Sunday attendance down from 28722 in 2011)


Please help us improve our information, especially on other denominations we have not covered in this story