2023–2024 Census

2023–2024 Census

Thank you to all who responded to our 2023–2024 Census! Your input as part of this process has helped us ensure that for the first time in more than a decade we can be confident in the accuracy of our current membership number, which is 3,138.

By the Numbers

Nearly 4,000 responses to the census were received over the past year. Of those responses —

3,138 people actively affirmed their membership at Fourth Church.

Slightly more than 800 respondents indicated they no longer consider this congregation to be their church home. The majority of those noted they had moved during the past decade and subsequently found a church home in their new community.

1,456 members did not respond at any point during the census process. We also have no record of their being engaged or involved with Fourth Church since at least March 2020. Thus at the May 2024 Session meeting, the Session voted unanimously to remove those 1,456 members from our membership rolls due to inactivity and lack of response. This decision was made with the understanding that these members could be easily reinstated if we do indeed hear from them in the future.

The Process

The 2023–2024 Census has been the most ambitious and thorough look at Fourth Church’s membership in decades.

The last time any sort of adjustment had been made to the membership rolls due to inactivity was in 2011, and that process was far more limited in scope.

As part of this census process, we spent a little over a year reaching out to every single one of our members / households via direct mail, email, and (if no response was made to either) phone calls.

We also crosschecked worship attendance (both in person and online), volunteer history, and giving history to confirm whether individuals still considered themselves members of Fourth Church.

What We Learned

Responses to the census process highlighted how many of our membership changes were already occurring well before the pandemic began, though there is no doubt that the pandemic accelerated trends that churches across the country had been seeing for years.

So who are we as a congregation today?

While there is more extensive data analysis be done, the initial demographic data for the 3,138 individuals who affirmed their membership shows that —

• We are slightly younger than the average Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation, with an average age of 57.3 years compared to a national average of 59 years.

• We are continuing to welcome new generations into the church: in the New Member classes we have welcomed over the past two years, the average age of those joining is 46.2 years, which drops to 35.3 years when our Confirmation classes are included.

• Like most PC(USA) churches, the majority of our members are women: 63 percent at Fourth Church compared to a national average of 62 percent.

• Unlike most PC(USA) churches, we are incredibly diverse in our geographic reach, a trend and opportunity we have only just begun to explore as we look to the future.

• 58 percent of our members live in the City of Chicago.

• 22 percent of our members live in the suburbs or other parts of Illinois.

• 20 percent of our members have a primary address out of state, with 38 different states represented.

While the extent of our geographic reach may not be accurate year-round, as we know that we have members who live in Chicago seasonally, it is quite remarkable to see just how far the “Light in the City” extends.

We also know that we remain one of the largest churches in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and, as such, continue to have a great responsibility in serving our church community, city, and wider world.

What This Means

In the words of Tom Are,

“The membership number is less than it has been in decades past, and we should be aware that some will receive this news as a sign that we are not who we have been. Some will lament that our days of being significant are behind us. I encourage you not to embrace that narrative of lament. We don’t celebrate a decline in membership; nor do we fear it.

“How many members we have is important because it impacts our capacity. But we as a church are not defined by our size but by our convictions, and our convictions remain unchanged.

“Our size and our capacity are not the same as our lived faith. Who we are is definitive and unchanged, and that remains both our privilege and our responsibility.

“It is incumbent upon us at this time to lean into the heart of this congregation, which is defined by our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

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126 E. Chestnut Street
(at Michigan Avenue)
Chicago, Illinois 60611.2014
(Across from the Hancock)

For events in the Sanctuary,
enter from Michigan Avenue

Getting to Fourth Church

Receptionist: 312.787.4570

Directory: 312.787.2729



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