It’s Been at Least 15 Years of Growth for the UUA: The Answer to Today’s Trivia Quiz

Today’s Unitarian-Universalist trivia question asked the last year that the Unitarian Universalist Association posted a decline in membership (of individual members of congregations, that is).  The answer is 1993, though the situation is a little more complicated.  Robin Edgar correctly guessed 1993, good work.

The UUA last posted a decline in 1993, but the figures for 1993 and 1994 are odd, out of line with a very steady growth rate from 1983-2007.  Therefore, there’s reason to suspect that something was off for the reporting of those years, especially because the figures as reported would signal an unusually high growth rate for 1995 that suddenly put it back on track for the same statistical curve that the UUA should’ve had going forward from 1992, an unlikely scenario.  To use less math-speak: there may have been a mistake in the reporting for 1993, which would mean that the last actual year of decline in the UUA was 1982.  UUA membership has increased about 20% over the intervening twenty-five years and now surpasses its size when the two denominations consolidated, but it is still not up to its highest level, achieved way back in 1968.

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6 Comments

Filed under Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism

6 responses to “It’s Been at Least 15 Years of Growth for the UUA: The Answer to Today’s Trivia Quiz

  1. David Smith

    The # of members of a UU congregation is problematic for many reasons.

    A more meaningful metric is the # of UUs per 1,000 residents. That chart is not going to show a steady upward growth pattern for the last 25 years.

  2. Jeff

    David, it’s more complicated once you begin to move to that sort of measurement. If we chart members of UUA congregations per 1000 residents, that number doesn’t show significant growth over the past 25 years–mostly, it just holds its own, not really increasing or decreasing much during that timespan. However, this is different from the previous decade and a half, when UUA membership per 1000 residents dropped by nearly 50%. Turning around such a precipitous trend is rather noteworthy.

    But as we discussed in February, there does seem to be clear growth in overall UUs in the United States. Much of this turns out to be extra-congregational. But since the questions this week were related to the UUA, and we’d already gone over the non-UUA UUs at length, it seemed worth it to examine how the UUA itself has been doing.

  3. Jeff

    Robin, you’re incorrect about UUism as a shrinking percentage of the overall USA. UUism has in fact been expanding. However, the UUA itself hasn’t always kept pace. The last few years there was a slight loss vs. overall population, for instance, though it’s not clear if that’s really a trend or just the kind of blip you get when you focus microscopically on macroscopic issues. Previously the UUA had been gaining on the overall population, and even in the slight lag in the last years the UUA nonetheless has grown consistently, just at a slower rate than the booming population. Remember, the UUA accounts for less than a quarter of total UUs. Let’s not conflate apples and oranges.

    You may be right about the aging of UUism, at least within the UUA. But I don’t have any figures at hand to say for sure.

  4. Jeff

    Robin, there’s various statistics available at the UUA site, as well as through other channels. One set you might be interested in is the Financial Advisor’s most recent report. Here it is, in pdf format: Financial Advisor’s Report to UU Congregations 2007.

  5. Personally, If someone isn’t willing to put their name down as a UU in the membership rolls, I don’t count them as UUs.

    ~Donald

  6. Jeff

    That’s your right, of course, Donald, but it’s a lot more complicated than not being “willing.” Many people don’t live near a UU church, don’t like the only one nearby, don’t have money to pledge with, move so often they never feel settled in a local community, or have other valid reasons for not being on the rolls. They nonetheless may be UUs by birthright, upbringing, values and beliefs, and/or explicit self-identification. I know lots of people who aren’t members for these and other legitimate reasons, yet are very clearly Unitarian-Universalist, and have often been more involved in UUism over the course of their lives than many converts currently on the rolls.

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