Statistics show that membership dropped around 2.5% in one year. The EKD says a lack of religious socialisation and “personal irrelevance” are some of the reasons.
According to the recently published statistics of the mainline Protestant Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD), 19,725,000 people belonged to one of its 20 member churches, as of 31 December 2021.
“This is around 2.5% less than in the previous year”, says the EKD, which had around 20.2 million members at the beginning of 2021.
The German mainline church explains that one of the main reasons for the decline is the increase in the number of members who died due (360,000), as well as the high number of people who just left the church last year (280,000).
Meanwhile, “admissions remained roughly at the previous year's level of around 18,000”, adds the EKD.
Furthermore, although the number of baptisms (115,000) increased “significantly”, compared to the first lockdown year 2020 (81,000), it was below the pre-pandemic level (160,000 in 2019).
“Although the charisma of a church does not depend solely on the number of members who formally belong to it, we will not accept declining membership figures and persistently high resignation figures as God-given, but will take decisive countermeasures where possible”, said EKD Council President Annette Kurschus.
In order to increase their numbers, they have decided to promote targeted baptism, among other initiatives. Many regional churches are currently offering special baptism programmes to give families who were unable to celebrate a baptism during the lockdown the opportunity to do so.
“When we baptise a child, we experience directly how the power of the Gospel touches and strengthens people. The blessing accompanies the baptised throughout their lives. This promise is both promising and healing, especially in uncertain times”, pointed out Kurschus.
The the Social Science Institute (SI) of the EKD is also researching what might be the reasons for leaving. They carried out a qualitative partial study and a representative survey, collecting reasons and causes for leaving the church since 2018, which shows that “only a minority of respondents had a specific reason for leaving the church (24%)”.
Sociologist Petra-Angela Ahrens, who conducted the study for the SI, underlines that leaving is a process that often begins with a lack of religious socialisation. Another important factor is “a perceived personal irrelevance” of religion and the church.
Furthermore, 71% said that the savings in church tax associated with leaving the church was also a reason to leave. “This confirms the common figure of a 'cost-benefit consideration for church membership”, says Ahrens.
The EKD and its regional churches have started new processes at all levels with which they want to make the Church more attractive in the future. “We want to reach people's hearts with our message. To give them the opportunity to discover added value for themselves and at the same time to become involved in this community", stresses the President of the EKD Synod, Anna-Nicole Heinrich.
“The results of the study encourage us to continue our reforms and the restructuring of the church all the more undaunted”, she concludes.