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U.S. Protestant Congregations Diversify but Slowly

U.S Protestant congregations are diversifying but progress is slow, according to a LifeWay Research report released on March 20.

When asked if their congregation is predominantly comprised of a single racial or ethnic group, 53 percent of Protestant pastors strongly agreed – an 11-point decline from 2013.

By comparison, 27 percent somewhat agree (up from 22 percent), 9 percent strongly disagree (up from 8 percent) and 7 percent somewhat disagree (up from 5 percent).

“Based on denominational affiliation, Lutheran pastors (89 percent) are most likely to say their church is made up of predominantly one ethnic group. Baptist (81 percent), Presbyterian/Reformed (77 percent) and Pentecostal pastors (68 percent) are less likely,” the report noted.

In response to the statement, “Every church should strive to achieve diversity,” 80 percent of respondents said they strongly agree (a 14-point increase from 2013).

By comparison, 13 percent somewhat agree (down from 19 percent), 3 percent somewhat disagree (down from 9 percent) and 2 percent strongly disagree (down from 3 percent).

“Pastors in the South (96 percent) are more likely than pastors in other regions to say churches should strive for diversity,” LifeWay said. “White pastors (94 percent) are more likely to agree than pastors from other ethnic backgrounds (86 percent), while 88 percent of African-American pastors agree churches should strive for diversity. Lutheran pastors are least likely (82 percent) to agree compared to pastors in other denominations.”

Preaching on racial reconciliation was fairly common, with 63 percent of Protestant pastors saying they did so “at least several times a year.”

“Protestant churches are still mostly divided by race,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But they’re heading in the right direction.”

The full report is available here.