Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

Under the Sun: Before Barna, there was Babson (1936)

In Uncategorized on 04/06/2009 at 15:45

Reports at the end of April of this year caused some stir and controversy, with declarations of the end of evangelicalism.  But 73 years ago, were things that much different?  Hands are wrung, woe is proclaimed, and still God’s work goes on.

Pews One-third Full Says Babson Report, The Christian Beacon 1.13 (7 May 1936): 1, 7.

Charles J. McCollough, private secretary to Roger Babson and vice president of Babson’s statistical organization, declared before the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, meeting in New York last week, that only 25 per cent of registered members were supporting their churches by personal attendance, and that only 30 per cent of the seats in the United States churches were being used.

“Our studies,” he reported, “would seem to indicate that Protestant Churches of America are suffering from inertia and lack of sufficient interest. Clergy and laymen should consider an overhauling and a thorough examination.

“Every department of church work depends on church attendance. If church attendance continues to peter out, our mission societies and all our other church organizations will go overboard. To save the church our laymen must go to church.”

In 1921, he said, the Protestants gained 1,710,000 new members by confession of faith, whereas last year they gained only 990,000.

Mr. McCullough said that attendance at Sunday Schools had declined even faster than church attendance. Between 1931 and 1935 it declined 8 per cent, whereas church attendance declined 1 per cent. Sunday School attendance reached its peak around 1917. The zenith of church attendance was in 1880.

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