Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Annual Report

Describing congregations' connections with God, each other and the world

Each year, every congregation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is asked to complete an annual report. That report requests information about the congregation including the number of people who attend and financial information. This year the report added 15 questions that asked the respondent to rate their congregation on describing the congregation's connections with God, each other and the world. As of June 30, 2016, 7069 congregations had answered those questions (75% of all ELCA congregations). (The overall return rate for the report was 77%, so 2% declined to answer these particular questions.)

At the bottom of this page are links to a graphic report showing the average of all ELCA congregations on each of the 15 items. It also shows the distribution of ELCA congregations within each item.

Overall, ELCA congregations described their connections with God, each other and the world as 3.8 on a scale from 1 (poor) to 3 (okay or well) to 5 (great). The graph at the top of this report shows the distribution of ELCA congregations. As a whole this rating suggests that most ELCA congregations do many things well but have room for improvement.

A closer look at the data show that, on average, congregations feel most confident about worship which is described by most congregations as nurturing faith. Ninety-three percent rated this 4 or 5. Congregations also see themselves as a positive force in the community who help those in need and interact well with the local community (68% and 74% rating 4 or 5 respectively).

Equipping people to share their faith is the area with the most room for improvement in ELCA congregations. This was rated as a 3 by 45% of the congregations. An additional 20% rated it below three and only 7% said they were great at it. A willingness to try new things and working for social justice were other areas that showed more room for improvement.

For each question, there were some congregations for which these things are challenges and others for which they are strengths. That pattern is also present within each synod. Is it possible that the resources we need to address our challenges are already among us? How can the church, in all its expressions, better connect the wealth of knowledge, understanding, imagination and know-how where it is needed?

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