Number of members EKD below 20 million for the first time in history


Central Europe


Children put together cubes made of plastic that show the artwork 'Martin Luther' by artist Lucas Cranch. Photo EPA, Sebastian Kahnert

The total number of members of regional Evangelical Churches in Germany has fallen under 20 million. That is the lowest amount ever.

The total number of members of regional Evangelical Churches in Germany has fallen under 20 million. That is the lowest amount ever.

A survey of the Protestant Church of Germany (EKD) shows that on December 31, 2021, a total of 19,725 people belonged to one of the EKD churches, Idea reports. At the end of 2020, this number was still well over 20 million. That is a decrease of 2.5 per cent over the last year. In total about 26 percent of the German population is Catholic, and about 24 percent belongs to a Protestant denomination.

The EKD also researched why the number of church goers declined so sharply. One of the reasons mentioned is the number of deaths caused by the Covid pandemic. About 360,000 people died because of an infection. Another reason is that many people left the Church voluntarily over the past year. In total, that number comes down to 280,000.

The trend of declining church attendance is also seen in state churches in the north of the country, Evangelische Zeitung reports. The decline ranges from 1.8 per cent among Reformed Churches to 3 per cent in the State Church in Braunschweig.

Leaving Protestant wants to save money

EKD Council Chairwoman, Annette Kurschus, says that the Church will need to take “decisive countermeasures” to fight the falling membership numbers. As part of this campaign, targeted baptism initiatives should increase the number of children incorporated in the Church. Several baptism initiatives are currently offered in regional churches to give families the chance to baptise their children if they were unable to do so during the lockdowns.

According to sociologist Petra-Angela Ahrens, who conducted the study, scandals in Church contribute to the declining number of members but is not the most important reason. According to her, exiting the Church is a long process that begins with the lack of religious socialisation. Ahrens says that many church members perceive religion and faith as insignificant for their own life, Katholisch.de reports.

According to Idea, the research of the EKD showed that only a minority (24 per cent Protestant and 37 per cent of Catholic) of church leavers have a specific reason for their resignation. The most important reasons mentioned included sexual abuse scandals in the Church, the waste of financial resources, and the rejection of homosexuality in the case of former Catholics.

For Protestants who left the Church, a cost-benefit analysis was the most important reason for their resignation. For 71 per cent, saving on church tax is the top reason for leaving.



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