Some Recent Surveys Of Australian Churches


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In his book “Pentecostals in Australia”, Philip J. Hughes quoted from the research of the National Church Life Survey of 1991 which related to the period 1986 to 1991. In a sample of 77,867 Pentecostals throughout Australia, [1] it was found that:


·         35% had been in their local Pentecostal church for over 5 years.

·         18.6% had moved from one church in their Pentecostal denomination to another church in their same denomination in the period 1986-1991.

·         9.9% were transfers or switchers between 1986-1991 from other Pentecostal denominations.

·         20.6% were transfers or switchers-in between 1986-1991 from non-Pentecostal Christian denominations.

·         only 6% were newcomers between 1986 to 1991. They were now regular attenders but had no previous church background.

·         6.7% were those who used to go to a church many years ago and had returned to churchgoing through attendance at a Pentecostal Church.

·         0.6% were visitors to the Pentecostal Church on the day of the survey. These were visitors who did not attend church anywhere regularly.

·         2.6% were visitors to the Pentecostal Church from other Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal churches on the day of the survey.


Here we see how Pentecostals in Australia between 1986-1991 had more transfers from non-Pentecostal churches (20.6%) than what they had newcomers with no previous church background (6%) and newcomers who used to attend church prior to 1986 but had stopped going to church for a while (6.7%). Also, note the survey did not say how many of this latter 6.7% used to attend a Pentecostal Church before 1986 before returning to church in more recent times.[2]


A survey of Australian churches between 1991-1996


In 1999, Peter Kaldor and some others wrote an informative book called “Build My Church”. [3] This book recorded the details of the 1991 and 1996 National Church Life Surveys. No survey is perfect. But these two provided very helpful information and details of the trends between these years in the Church in Australia. Below are some relevant statistics about changes from 1991 to 1996 in relation to:

·         switchers in – those who transfer in to a denomination or grouping from another denomination.

·         newcomers – those new people in a denomination who did not switch from attending another denomination.

·         new 15 to 19 years – these are previously churchgoing children who continue to attend church during the ages 15 to 19 years.

·         switchers out – those who transfer out to another denomination.

·         deaths.

·         drifters out – those who leave the denomination and no longer attend any church.





            %                           %                    %                  %                    %                %            %

DENOMINATION                  SWITCHERS    NEWCOMERS          NEW -              SWITCHERS        DEATHS       DRIFTED

                                                IN                                                       15-19 YEARS         OUT                                            OUT




Pentecostal                        28                10                  8                  15                2            17


Churches of Christ             22                7                  7                  21                6            13


Baptist                              19                 6                  8                  19                5              7


Salvation Army                 10                 10                  7                   7                6              5


Uniting Church                    8                5                  4                 10                 10            11


Anglican                             7                8                   5                   8                8              9


Reformed                           6                2                  10                  19                4             12


Lutheran                             3                3                    7                               5               6             13



From the above, we see that between 1991-1996:


1.       Most of the growth in the Pentecostal, Churches of Christ and Baptist groups was through transfers from other churches.

2.       For every single previously non-churchgoing newcomer in Pentecostal churches, there are almost 3 times as many transfers in from non-Pentecostal denominations.

3.       The Salvation Army had the same percentage of previously non-churchgoing newcomers as did the Pentecostal churches. This figure was 10%. The Anglicans had a slightly less figure of 8% and the Church of Christ 7%.

4.       The Pentecostals, Churches of Christ and Baptists are relying far too much on transfer-ins and are doing far too little effective evangelism of non-churchgoers.

5.       The Pentecostals had the lowest percentage of deaths. This was largely because the Pentecostals had a much lower percentage of older people than did other denominations during the 1991-1996 period. (Refer page 32).

6.       The Pentecostals had the highest percentage of people who left their churches without moving to attend other churches. This means the Pentecostals had the highest percentage of backsliders. The Salvation Army had the same percentage of new converts as did the Pentecostals. But the Salvation Army had only a 5% backsliding rate compared with a whopping 17% for the Pentecostals. Research needs to be done to find out the reasons for this latter high rate. The high rate may relate to poor discipling in some Pentecostal churches or people being attracted to some Pentecostal churches for reasons which do not in the long term result in commitment to and love for Jesus Christ.[4]



[1] Philip J. Hughes, “Pentecostals in Australia”, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1996, page 100.

[2] It was also interesting to note that in 1991: Sydney had the lowest percentage of Pentecostals in any capital city in Australia with only 0.60% of the total population. Brisbane had 1.48%. Adelaide had 1.42%, Darwin had 1.14% and Canberra 0.82%. Perth had 0.79%, Hobart 0.73% and Melbourne 0.62%. This means Sydney’s high gross figure was not reflective of its low percentage. Also note Sydney’s figure was inflated by large numbers of Korean Pentecostal immigrants.

[3] Peter Kaldor et al, “Build My Church”, Open Book Publishers, Adelaide, 1999.

[4] It would be very interesting to find out what are the percentages of transfer-ins, new converts and drifters out in the big Pentecostal mega-churches which have grown up in Australia in the 1990’s. This would provide us with one though incomplete test of the real effectiveness of each of these groups in their preaching of the Gospel.

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