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Report: New Worshiping Communities are more racially diverse and younger than traditional PC(USA) congregations

2020 Leader Report finds nearly 40% of NWC participants are unchurched, are affiliated with another religion or expressed no religious faith

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

The 1001 New Worshiping Communities 2020 Leader Report includes some surprising statistics about baptisms among worshiping communities in the PC(USA). (Contributed photo)

 

LOUISVILLE — A recently released 1001 New Worshiping Community 2020 Leader Report continues to show that NWC’s are more racially diverse and younger than PC(USA) congregations.

The report from Research Services in the Presbyterian Mission Agency also reveals the net of loss of PC(USA) churches — more congregations close each year than are organized — is mitigated by the gain of new worshiping communities.

“So many presbyteries were willing to risk starting NWCs during the pandemic,” said the Rev. Nikki Collins, coordinator for 1001 New Worshiping Communities. “And this year we’re back to what might considered a more normal number of NWCs starting.”

The Rev. Nikki Collins

In 2020, 37 NWCs formed, while 11 dissolved — compared to 22 closing per year in 2018 and 2019. Four of the 11 that dissolved listed the pandemic as their reason for closing, but three of the four plan on restarting once the pandemic has ended.

At the end of 2020 there were 529 NWCs, with 182 responding to the survey (34%). Here are some of the report’s findings:

  • 78% of those people participating in NWCs are under the age of 55, while only 44% of PC(USA) members are younger than 55.
  • 45% of those NWCs are people of color, compared to 11% of PC(USA) members.
  • 72% of NWCs use English as their primary language, 11% speak Spanish, 6% Korean, 4% Arabic, 2% Portuguese, and 6% speak other languages.
  • Nearly 40% of NWC participants are Christian (but hadn’t been attending church), are affiliated with another religion, or expressed no religious faith.
  • There were 212 baptisms of those over age of 12 and 69 baptisms for those under 12.

Dr. Angie Andriot, an analyst for Research Services, said it’s exciting to think about the number of baptisms performed in NWCs.

“There may have been as many as 624 baptisms, based on an extrapolation and some assumption of those worshiping communities that didn’t respond to the survey,” she said. “So, we can’t we be absolutely sure of the number, but still, it’s pretty darn cool.”

The most common source of funding for NWCs in 2020 was giving by participants, personal contributions from leaders and giving from donors, friends, and family members — followed by presbytery support and Presbyterian Mission Agency grants through the Mission Development Resources Committee (MDRC)-Partner Congregation giving.

In June 2012, the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.) declared a commitment to a churchwide movement that would result in the creation of 1001 worshiping communities by 2022. 

At the end of 2020, of 677 NWCs that have been formed. Five hundred twenty-nine (78%) were still active.


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