23 July, 2007
Study Shows Average Age of Presbyterians Down to 83
Louisville, Ky - A recent study by the Barna Research Group published this past Friday was good news for the Presbyterian Church, USA. The denomination, which has found itself shrinking over the past decade, has also struggled to attract younger members. But the results of the Barna study revealed that the average age of members in the church is down from 91, in 1997 to 83 in 2006, showing that the church is almost 9% younger than they were ten years ago.
"This is tremendously encouraging news" stated Joan S. Gray, moderator of the 217 General Assembly of the PCUSA. "Our denomination has been striving for change over the past decade, opening new doors, welcoming in new people and promoting tolerance. We value and cherish our elderly, but at the same time the children are the future of our denomination, and new vibrant life is necessary if we are to continue to grow and develop."
But some state that the celebration might be premature. Further investigation into the statistics seems to reveal that the decrease may not be due to a substantial increase in younger members, but a decrease in older members.
"While it looks like progress on paper, what we have here is simply a reduction in the number of older members thus lowering our overall average" stated Rev. Jeff Coolidge, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Louisville. "If one examines the statistics, one will find that the reason that our average dropped is because almost 92% of members over the age of 85 have died in the past ten years."
A further examination of the statistics have also led some to believe that the decline in the number of older members may be theological.
"With the spiritual and theological decline of our denomination it's no wonder that so many of our older more traditional and conservative members have left" said Jack Miller of the PCUSA's Layman, a conservative voice within the denomination. "So many have just gotten fed up with the liberalism and left."
Still, many are hailing the new statistics as "progress" in the church.
"This is irrefutable evidence that we're headed in the right direction" said Gray. "We hope that by 2015 to bring that number down even further maybe even to 78 or 79."