Decline in construction of new churches

Here is the millions of square feet of new construction and additions for religious buildings (approximated):

  • 28M – ’90 and ‘91
  • 42M – ‘97
  • 52M – ’02, with a rapid decline to
  • 25M – ’09, then falling off a cliff
  • 15M – ’10, with a slower drop to
  • 10M – ’14 est

Those are my estimates from a graph in the Wall Street Journal article, Decline in Church-Building Reflects Changed Tastes and Times.

Article says the estimated 10.3M square feet in 2014 is down 6% for the year and down 80% from the peak in 2002.

Several factors are cited in the article for the drop in construction.

  • Financial pressures won’t allow new construction.
  • Declining attendance, particularly in some denominations.
  • Changing choices in where people spend their time; for many people their local church or synagogue is no longer the center of social life.
  • Megachurches that see expanding attendance aren’t generally adding space. Instead, the article says many are going multi-site.

Not all denominations are seeing drops in attendance.

A follow-on article says Not Everyone Has Stopped Building U.S. Houses of Worship.

The Catholic Church and many Protestant churches are seeing declines. Article cites the following drops in attendance from 2000 to 2010

  • (22%) – The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • (19%) – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • (24%) – United Church of Christ

Over the same decade, check out the following increases:

  • +66.7% – Muslims
  • +45.5% – Mormons

One expected impact:

A mosque-building boom, for example, more than doubled the number of purpose-built U.S. mosques between 2000 and 2011.

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