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© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use1 The State of the Church in Rhode Island Dave Olson
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use2 This is a Sample Presentation It’s purpose is to give you an idea of what is happening to the Christian church in Rhode Island, and what the complete “State of the Church in Rhode Island” Powerpoint looks like. The goal is to encourage pastors and church lay leaders to view and discuss together the missional challenges in Rhode Island that the Church faces. The complete Powerpoint is $14.95 and is available for immediate download at
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use3 In 1996, polls taken immediately after the Presidential election revealed that 58% of people claimed they had voted, when in reality only 49% actually did. This is called the Halo Effect. People tend to over-inflate their participation in activities that create acceptability within their social group. For many decades, pollsters such as Gallup and Barna have reported that around 45% of Americans attend church every Sunday. But there is a religious Halo Effect. Actual attendance counts have shown that the percentage of people attending church on any given weekend is much lower than was previously thought.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use4 The Intent of this presentation is to answer and then expand on two key questions: “How Many People Really Attend Church in Rhode Island Every Week?” “Is the Christian Church Going Forwards or Backwards in Influence in Rhode Island?” As the data is analyzed county by county assessing a number of factors, a comprehensive picture of the State of the Church in Rhode Island will begin to take shape.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use5 This study uses weekend church attendance as a more reliable and more immediate snapshot of Christian influence than membership. The following map shows the percentage of the population attending a Christian church on any given weekend in all 50 states in Rhode Island has an average church attendance percentage (20.5%), slightly above the national average (18.7%).
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use6
7 The Next Map shows the percentage of the population attending a Christian church on any given weekend in 2000 for each county in Rhode Island.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use8 18.0% Newport 19.0% Washington 20.9% Providence 21.6% Kent 23.1% Bristol 18.0% to 20.9% 20.9% to 23.1% 23.1% to 25.1% Rhode Island Counties 2000 Percentage of Population at Worship in Christian Churches on any Given Sunday Blue = Lowest Rose = Middle Beige = Highest
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use9 The Next 2 Maps show the population numbers for each county in Rhode Island. The first map shows the population of each county. The second map shows the growth or decline in population for each county from
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use10 50,648 Bristol 85,433 Newport 123,546 Washington 167,090 Kent 621,602 Providence 0 to 100, ,000 to 200, ,000 to 621,604 West Virginia Counties 2000 Population
Complete Presentation has Map of 2000 Population Growth for Each County
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use12 The Next 2 Slides show the ethnicity of Rhode Island in 1990 and The third slide shows the growth or decline in the percentage of the population for each ethnic group.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use13
Complete Presentation has Graph of 2000 Ethnicity
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use15
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use16 The Next Graph shows the attendance numbers for the churches in Rhode Island in 1990 and All groups have declined in attendance over the last decade. Unfortunately, as overall worship attendance has declined, the population has grown. A more reliable standard for evaluating increasing or declining influence is the percentage of the population attending church on any given weekend, shown in the second graph. This graph reflects a significant decrease in the percentage of the population attending church.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use17
Complete Presentation has Graph of 1990 & 2000 Worship Percentage by Category
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use19 The Next Graph is a Pie graph visualizing the percentage of the population at churches in each category in The “Absent” category indicates the percentage of the population that is not worshipping at a Christian church on any given weekend. The second graph shows the percentage gain or decline for each category in Rhode Island in 1990 and 2000.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use20
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use21
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use22 The 3 Next Charts show the relative strength of the 8 major denominational groups in Rhode Island. The first chart illustrates the huge influence of the Catholic church. The second and third charts show the significant decline of all denominations in Rhode Island, with the exception of the Pentecostal and Reformed churches.
Complete Presentation has Pie Chart of 2000 Attendance by Denominational Families
Complete Presentation has Bar Graph of 1990 & 2000 Attendance by Denominational Families
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use25
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use26 The Next Chart shows the 1990 & 2000 average church attendance by group for both this state and the nation. The second chart shows the 1990 & 2000 population per church for this state and the nation. Among states in 2000, Arkansas has the lowest population per church with 411 people per church, Utah is the highest at 4,586 people per church.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use27
Complete Presentation has Bar Graph of 1990 & 2000 Population per Church for State and Nation
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use29 The Next 3 Maps show the attendance percentages for the Evangelical, Catholic and Mainline churches in each county in Rhode Island in 2000.
Complete Presentation has State Map of 2000 Evangelical Attendance Percentage for each County
Complete Presentation has State Map of 2000 Mainline Attendance Percentage for each County
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use % Newport 14.7% Washington 16.1% Providence 17.5% Kent 18.7% Bristol 12.6% to 16.1% 16.1% to 18.7% 18.7% to 20.7% Rhode Island Counties 2000 Percentage of Population at Worship in Catholic Churches on any Given Sunday Blue = Lowest Rose = Middle Beige = Highest
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use33 The Next Map shows the growth or decline in the percentage of the population attending a Christian church on any given weekend from 1990 to 2000 for each county. 1 counties grew in attendance percentage, while 4 counties declined.
Complete Presentation has State Map of Christian Church Attendance Percentage Increase or Decline for each County
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use35 The Next 3 Maps show the growth or decline of attendance percentages for the Evangelical, Catholic and Mainline churches in each county in Rhode Island between 1990 and For evangelicals, 2 counties grew in attendance percentage, while 3 counties declined. For Mainline churches, all 5 counties declined. For Catholics, 1 county grew in attendance percentage, while 4 counties declined.
Complete Presentation has State Map of Evangelical Attendance Percentage Increase or Decline for each County
Complete Presentation has State Map of Mainline Attendance Percentage Increase or Decline for each County
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use % Providence -20.0% Newport -12.7% Bristol -8.6% Kent 63.7% Washington Decline Growth Rhode Island Counties Growth or Decline in Percentage of the Population at Worship in Catholic Churches on any Given Sunday Blue = Decline Rose = Growth
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use39 The Final Chart shows the net gain in the number of churches in Rhode Island in the past decade. There was a net gain of 16 churches. However, 25 churches were needed to keep up with population growth from
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use40
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use41 For More Information... Please go to for additional information on the American Church.www.theamericanchurch.org 12 Surprising Facts about the American Church is available at 12supm. htm 12supm. htm The complete Rhode Island Powerpoint presentation is available at
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use42 The State of the Church in Rhode Island... Because of the traditionally strong Catholic influence in Rhode Island, overall church attendance is suffering greatly as a result of the 18% decline in Catholic attendance. Evangelicals have declined slightly in the numeric attendance. Although evangelicals have started a relatively large number of churches over the last decade, Evangelical numbers have still declined. Mainline churches have also experienced decline in the number attending. The percentage of the population attending church has decreased, resulting in a 17% loss in the state-wide percentage of the population that attended church between 1990 and 2000.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use43 Information on the Information The spiritual health of churches is multifaceted, and is obviously much more complex than an attendance trend can portray. However, following the example of St. Luke in the Book of Acts, who used the number of people who showed up at various events as a sign documenting the health and growth of the early church, I would suggest that attendance is the single most helpful indicator of health, growth and decline. Information has been compiled only for orthodox Christian groups – Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox. The Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Unitarian-Universalists and the International Churches of Christ have not been included. In addition, information about non-Christian groups has not been compiled. African American denominations publish very little that is statistical – often not even a list of current churches. This study used data from the 1990 Glenmary study on Black Baptist estimates and AME Zion churches, the average African American worship attendance (from the Barna Research Group), and a statistical model based on the population of African Americans in each county in 1990 and These were combined to come up with as accurate an estimate as possible. Independent church data is almost impossible to obtain. (There are actually fewer totally independent churches than is assumed. Most are part of some voluntary association, which typically keeps some records.) Data from the 1990 & 2000 Glenmary study on larger Independent churches (limited to over 300 in attendance) was used along with a statistical model to estimate the attendance at smaller independent churches. In Catholic churches, the definition of what constitutes membership varies with diocese and church, making numbers sometimes inconsistent from state to state and county to county. In addition to actual mass counts from 1/3 rd of Catholic parishes, membership information has been merged with attendance patterns from similar dioceses based on the size of the diocese and the region in which it is located. Orthodox Churches are included in Totals, but not included as a separate group because of smallness of size nationwide. Division into Evangelical and Mainline categories is based on the division by the Glenmary Study. This study only looks at how many people attend a Christian church on any given Sunday. The term ‘regular attender’ can be designated to mean someone who attends a Christian church on a consistent basis. Using a simple definition for ‘regular attender’ (attends at least 3 out of every 8 Sundays), between 23% and 25% of Americans would fit this category. Adding ‘regular attenders’ of non-orthodox christian churches and other religions to the totals would increase the percentage to 26% – 28%.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use44 This Presentation is based on a nationwide study of American church attendance, as reported by churches and denominations. The database currently has average worship attendances for each of the last 10 years for over 170,000 individual churches. It also uses supplementary information (actual membership numbers correlated with accurate membership to attendance ratios) to project the attendances of all other denominational and independent churches. All told, accurate information is provided for all 300,000 orthodox Christian churches. 1 1 This presentation looks only at people attending orthodox Christian churches. Approximately 3 million people attend non-orthodox Christian churches, and perhaps 3 million attend a religious service of another religion. Those ‘houses of worship’ would add another 35,000 churches in the United States and increase the 2000 percentage to 20.5%.
© 2004 by David T. Olson Sample - Not for Public Use45 For More Information... Presentations such as this are available for the largest 100 metropolitan areas, for each state and for the nation as a whole, as well as other presentations to show what is happening in the American church. Presentations are available either by direct download, CD or print. Please go to for ordering information. To Contact Dave Olson, please him at
The American Church Research Project © 2008 by David T. Olson 1 The Case for Church Planting 2008 Edition.
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