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Statistics are numerical summaries of participation in such aspects of church life as worship, Sunday schools, colleges. On the basis of such data needs and trends in church life are identified. Results are used by church leaders.

Although European Mennonites published lists of preachers, elders, and congregations beginning in 1731 (Naamlijst), the formal collection of data about Mennonites in North America appears to be a 20th-century development. Before 1900 this work was done by interested individuals who worked informally and independently. One early effort was carried out by John F. Funk between 1895 and 1900. Funk gathered a broad range of data from congregations belonging to Mennonite bodies.

In the United States collection of church data was carried out every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau, 1850-90. After that time the census of religious bodies was moved to the middle of the decade with surveys being conducted in 1906, 1916, 1926, and 1936. For the latter census, the data was collected from each congregation directly from lists of congregations supplied to the Bureau by denominational leaders. Included with the census report was a brief historical, doctrinal, organizational, and statistical description of each denominational body included in it. Data gathered included information about membership, church buildings, annual expenditures, church schools, and the pastor. Most Mennonite bodies participated in this census.

When the U.S. Bureau of Census discontinued the gathering of religious data the religious community banded together through ad hoc organizations to gather such information. These studies, which count membership and churches by denomination according to county and state, have been done in 1952, 1971, and 1980. The 1990 study was sponsored by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB). Results of these studies are published in the volume, Churches and church membership in the United States.

Annually the Yearbook of American and Canadian churches collects and publishes membership, church school, ministerial, and financial data of all religious bodies in the United States and Canada. A number of Mennonite bodies are listed in this volume.

Statistics Canada is the federal agency that gathers information about Canadian religious bodies in a census every 10 years, (e.g. 1971, 1981). Mennonite is one category in the census. Under it, all Mennonite and Amish data is collected. Age, sex, and metropolitan area are the data requested. Results are published in the volume, Census of Canada's population.

The formal collection of data among Mennonite bodies in North America developed gradually in the 20th century. In most bodies the information is gathered annually by each group from a central office or designated officer. The information is then compiled and published as part of an annual report or as a separate yearbook which is available to all interested readers. Over the years the degree of detail in the data collected has increased. For example, changes in membership are now analyzed in terms of sources of entrance such as baptism, letter of transfer, and other ways. Reasons for departure from membership are reported through such categories as excommunication, letter of transfer, and other ways.

Lists of ministers, first published in North America in the early part of the 20th century, continue to be created with more detail being added to the later years. In addition to name, address, and office, information now carried often includes telephone number, name of spouse, district conference designation, dates of ordination, degree of responsibility being carried, and name of congregation.

Sociological studies have also been carried out to gather specific information as well as to analyze trends taking place within the membership. One of these was the MCC peace census (1940). In this survey the number of men and women per age levels, e.g. up to 18; 18-30; 31-45; 46-65, in Mennonite congregations was sought in order to develop alternate plans in view of the impending military conscription in World War II. The Mennonite family census was conducted in 1963 by the Historical and Research Committee of the Mennonite Church (MC). The study collected marriage, family, occupational, church membership, educational, and other data about the families surveyed. It was an update of a 1950 study. The 1963 study was later updated in 1982 by Michael L. Yoder's Comparisons to the results of the 1980 census were made in order to gauge developments in relation to the general United States population.

Anabaptists four centuries later (1975) by J. Howard Kauffman and Leland Harder was a 1972 cooperative study of five Mennonite and Brethren in Christ bodies (Mennonite Church, General Conference Mennonite Church, Mennonite Brethren, Brethren in Christ, and Evangelical Mennonite Church). The purpose of the study was to obtain a profile of the beliefs, attitudes, and religious priorities of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches. In 1982, the Mennonite Brethren updated this same study in their congregations. Kauffman and Leo Driedger updated the 1972 research in 1989 (The Mennonite mosaic (1991)).

In 1985, the Evangelical Mennonite Conference conducted a variety of surveys to determine family, Christian education, music, and educational needs of their membership. In 1986 the Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church conducted a survey to determine a future Senior Ministries program for members 50 years and older. The General Conference Mennonite Church has published a Fact book of congregational membership in 1970 and 1980. This was preceded by a census in 1960.

The demand for information about congregations and members is growing. Needs addressed include helping Mennonite employers and potential employees get together, helping members with the same interests or vocations find one another, assisting church boards and agencies contact specific interest groups with their services and products, and supporting church planting efforts. Such varied stimuli are reflected in a proposal made in the mid-1980s by the Council of Mennonite Computer Users to develop a common database containing information on all members of all Mennonite bodies.

Mennonites in The Netherlands and Germany publish annual yearbooks, with the latter including data on Swiss, French, and German-speaking South American congregations and organizations. Other Mennonite groups around the world publish annual directories, often as supplements to denominational periodicals. Limited statistics for Mennonites around the world are compiled by Mennonite World Conference (MWC). These were published in the Mennonite World handbook (1978, supplement in 1984, new edition in 1990) and are updated regularly in the Mennonite World Conference periodical, Courier.


For bibliographical information see Sociological Studies and Yearbooks and Directories, Mennonite.

Additional Information

Mennonite World Conference

Author(s) James E Horsch
Date Published 1989

Cite This Article

MLA style

Horsch, James E. "Statistics." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 6 Oct 2022.

APA style

Horsch, James E. (1989). Statistics. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 6 October 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 855-856. All rights reserved.

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