According to the National Council of Churches, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the fastest growing church in the United States. The National Council of Churches produces the Yearbook of Canadian and American Churches. For 2008, it lists the Jehovah’s Witnesses as the fastest growing at 2.25%, while the LDS Church is listed second with a growth rate of 1.56%.
Let’s take a closer look at those numbers. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not rank in the top five or even the top ten in number of members. In fact they are listed at dead last in the top 25 at just over one million members. American membership statistics for the LDS Church are 5.8 million members, making the church number four on the top of the list.
Worldwide numbers for the Jehovah’s Witnesses are about 17 million, but they are very careful to only count active members – those who attended and spent ten hours witnessing each month. I wonder how the numbers for the LDS Church would look if we counted only those who come to at least one Sacrament meeting each month. Our numbers would easily be cut in half. Instead of thirteen million members, we could only count about seven million ‘active’ members worldwide and maybe three million in the United States.
The Roman Catholic church is listed first at 67.5 million members, with the Southern Baptist Convention second at 16.3 million members. The United Methodist Church is listed third at nearly eight million members. After the LDS Church at fourth (5.8 million), the top five is rounded out by the Church of God in Christ at 5.5 million members. Can we apply the same percentages for active members to other churches or is it worse for them?
Of the 25 churches listed, only six showed growth. All others were flat or showed decreases. The churches listed in order of growth percentages are the Jehovah’s witnesses at 2.25%, the LDS Church at 1.56%, the Roman Catholic Church at 0.87%, the Southern Baptist Convention at 0.22%, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church at 0.21% and the Assemblies of God at 0.19%. Not very many churches showed growth.
Every church seems to report their numbers differently. For comparison purposes, most use the number baptized. If you look at the total number of baptized members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States, that number would be 2.35 million. The National Council of Churches used their ‘active’ membership instead of their baptized membership. You can also see the same report for 2007 on their website.
In 2006 the Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed 1,059,325 active members in the United States at their peak. In 2007 that number was 1,084,005. That’s an increase of 24,680 or only 0.25%. I guess it all depends on how you count the numbers. 37,243 were baptized in 2007 while only 28,915 were baptized in 2006. That’s an increase of only 8,328 in the United States. In 2007 the LDS Church reported 272,845 adult converts baptized and 94,006 children added. The breakdown in the United States is not reported.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses reported 298,304 baptisms worldwide in 2007 and 248,327 in 2006. That’s an increase of about 50,000. In 2006 the LDS Church reported 243,108 converts for 2005 and 93,150 children added. Our numbers are always for the previous year. The increase of 29,737 is obviously less than the Jehovah’s Witness increase of 50,000. So yes, the Jehovah’s Witnesses church is growing faster than the LDS Church in the United States.
But who cares about numbers? Religion is all about how we treat each other and how well we live according to our faith that really counts. Are you surprised by the numbers?
NOTE: This blog has not been conforming to the official style guide in reference to the name of the church. The name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I just couldn’t fit that in the headline.