(By Jerry Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service). The Presbyterian Church (USA) Research Services office rolled out a new website during the 2017 Big Tent that promises to make access to church statistical information more user-friendly than in the past.
The new website – church-trends.pcusa.org – replaces the old “10-Year Trends” website and Comparative Statistics report. “About three years ago we began asking what information people were seeking,” Research Services Associate Susan Barnett told a July 7 Big Tent workshop heavily populated with presbytery stated clerks and other statistics enthusiasts. “We’ve been working on this new website, which is still under construction, for about a year-and-a-half.”
The website breaks down the denomination’s statistical information by congregations, presbyteries and synods, with sections on the entire denomination, racial ethnic data and ministers. Each section is formatted almost identically for ease of comparison. Data is presented in both averages and in raw numbers.
Each category (congregations, presbyteries, synods) into eight categories:
Information is presented in current year versus previous year statistics and a separate section showing five-year trends.
“Churches that don’t report (via the Annual Statistical Report) are not included in the new format,” said Deborah Coe, Coordinator of Research Services, noting that this is a change from past practice. “Previously, if a church didn’t report, we just carried forward their most recent report numbers.” The change produces a more statistically valid report, Coe said.
She also described some of the benefits of the new website for individual Presbyterians. For instance, Coe said, “Suppose a Presbyterian family moves to a new city and is looking for a church that has kids the same age. The new site enables them to look up churches in their new community and by looking under the “education” tab find churches with church school attendance that matches their kids ages.”
Jerry Van Marter is interim director of communications for the Office of the General Assembly.