The Church of the Brethren denominational membership was 114,465 in 2014, according to data from the “2015 Church of the Brethren Yearbook.” Compared to 2009, when denominational membership was 122,810, this represents a decline of 8,345 members over the previous five years.
The Church of the Brethren denomination has experienced a decades-long trend of declining membership since the 1960s.
Denominational membership is one of the numbers included in the statistical section of the annual Yearbook, which collects statistics from the previous year–the 2015 Yearbook reports statistics from 2014. The Yearbook also includes a current directory for the denomination. The Yearbook may be purchased from Brethren Press and is provided in pdf format on CD.
Yearbook figures are based on data provided by congregations that turn in statistical reports. However, not all congregations turn in reports. In 2009, 686 or 65.5 percent of Church of the Brethren congregations turned in a statistical report. The 2014 statistics reflect the reports returned by 602 or 59 percent of the churches. The numbers of reporting congregations are relatively consistent with most recent years, and so provide a means for comparison.
The total number of congregations in the denomination, which includes the United States and Puerto Rico, in 2014 was 967. In addition, there were 54 fellowship and projects across the denomination. Five years previously, in 2009, congregations numbered 994, and fellowships and projects numbered 53.
In 2014, the denomination reported a total average weekly worship attendance of 50,625 for the year, also a decline from five years previously when average attendance was 58,830.
Congregations reported 1,074 baptisms in 2014, compared to 1,394 in 2009.
The denomination gained a district in 2014, with the addition of Puerto Rico District. This increases the number of Church of the Brethren districts to 24 from the previous 23.
Shenandoah District has overtaken Atlantic Northeast District as the largest in the denomination, in terms of membership. Shenandoah had 13,763 members in 2014. In 2009 Shenandoah came in at second largest, with 14,189 members. In 2009 Atlantic Northeast had 14,336 members; in 2014 its congregations reported 13,551 members. The third largest district continues to be Virlina District, with 10,598 members in 2014. In 2009 it also was the third largest district, with 10,947 members.
Congregational giving to denominational ministries increased to a total of $5,578,041 in 2014. The 2009 total was $3,519,737.
Congregational giving to special purpose funds and other specially designated gifts more than doubled compared to 2009. Giving by congregations to the Emergency Disaster Fund, Global Food Crisis Fund, Emerging Global Mission Fund, and specially designated gifts amounted to $2,859,134 in 2014, as compared to $1,401,454 in 2009. Such giving often is determined by the nature and scope of disasters or other events during that period. In 2014 that included the persecution of Nigerian Brethren by Boko Haram, and the American Brethren responded with resolve to support Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
Giving to the other two Annual Conference agencies that receive financial support from congregations also is recorded in the Yearbook: Bethany Theological Seminary received $313,907 from congregations in 2014, and On Earth Peace received $85,008.
To purchase a copy of the 2015 Church of the Brethren Yearbook go to www.BrethrenPress.com or call 800-441-3712.