An Assemblies of God youth convention gathers in West Bend, Wisconsin in 2007. Over the past decade, the Pentecostal denomination has posted significant growth. (Photo credit: Paul M. Walsh/AP)
The Assemblies of God (AG) has released statistics for the 2012 year, providing greater detail about the Pentecostal denomination’s growth. While many Protestant denominations, especially churches historically classified as Mainline, continue to shed followers, the overall picture with the AG is a positive one, with steady growth year-over-year.
Growth in the AG runs counter to statements made by several Mainline Protestant officials. In April, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori asserted that her denomination’s decline was consistent with other major American churches.
Topline numbers show the Assemblies of God approaching 3.1 million adherents, eclipsing older denominations such as the Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
It is important to qualify comparisons between denominations: not all churches count members in the same manner (the AG tracks both “adherents” and “members”) and some churches count children as members, while others do not. With that said, the updated AG figures can be confidently compared to previous reporting years in the same denomination, revealing the positive trend.
Digging deeper, the Assemblies is also reporting statistics that could bode well for a future generation: a near-high for water baptisms (131,713 in 2012) up 3.9 percent from the previous year, along with “major worship service” (formerly Sunday morning) attendance up .4 percent to 1,880,269. The AG also reported 127 net new churches in 2012, with a total of 12,722 congregations in the United States. The Pentecostal denomination has aggressively planted new churches, highlighting urban areas and immigrant communities for outreach. The denomination’s two Spanish language regions have posted the most significant growth, although every AG region outside of the Great Lakes has posted growth over the past decade.
A summary provided by the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center notes that much of the numerical growth in the Assemblies of God in recent decades has been among ethnic minorities, with the number of white adherents increasing since 2007 as a total number (up 1.6 percent) but decreasing as a share of the whole (down to 59.2 percent from 59.6 percent). During the same period, the number of non-white adherents increased by 19.2 percent.
“The racial breakdown of AG adherents in 2012 shows significant diversity,” the summary explains, listing Asian/Pacific Islander AG adherents at 4.3 percent; Black 9.8 percent; Hispanic 21.7 percent; Native American 1.4 percent; White 59.2 percent; and Other/Mixed at 3.5 percent.
“These stats suggest that the AG closely mirrors the ethnic makeup of the U.S. population as a whole,” the summary concludes.