Research documents Spokane’s changing religious population


Courtesy Therada.com
Courtesy Therada.com

A report released this afternoon shows most Spokanites do not belong to a religious congregation.

The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) reported in the 2010 U.S. Religion Census that nearly 300,000 area residents don’t affiliate with a particular place of worship. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean most residents are non-religious.

“There are many people who consider themselves Catholic that Catholic parishes don’t know about, and there are many who consider themselves Jewish that the synagogues don’t know about,” explained Dale E. Jones, director of research services, Church of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center.

The decennial research project shows Catholics to be the second largest group in Spokane with 61,757 members — a 7.7 percent increase from 2000.

Nationally, however, the Catholic Church is in decline.

“A surprise was the loss in Catholic parish membership,” Jones said. “The Catholic Church has lost 5 percent of its adherents, or 3 million people over the last decade.”

The next largest faith group in the Spokane metro area is Evangelical Protestant with 58,417 adherents. That number includes members of nondenominational and independent churches.

This was the first time nondenominational churches were includes in the U.S. Religion Census. According to the study 4 percent of the U.S. population worships in an independent or nondenominational church. Nondenominational churches are in the top five religious groups in every state except two and in 88 percent of U.S. counties. Of those, more than half have less than 100 people in attendance on Sunday mornings.

In the Spokane area there are 70 nondenominational churches with 20,462 adherents.

“These congregations should be seen as a separate and distinctive religious realty. If we begin to think of them as not just individual isolated congregations, but rather as a unique religious phenomenon — as a distinctive market segment — we can begin to address the question of why they have become so popular in the past few decades,” said Scott Thumma of Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

Others faith groups that are growing in and around Spokane include Baha’is with a 9.7 percent increase since 2000, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which added 10 congregations in 10 years and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, which added 3,622 adherents in the past decade.

Groups that have shown significant declines since 2000 include The United Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, Presbyterian Church U.S.A and Islam.

According to the study the local Muslim population has decreased by 66 percent, while nationally Islam is growing at a faster rate than the general population.

More than 90 percent of all U.S. congregations are represented in the study, making it “the most comprehensive local-level analysis of U.S. religious life in more than 60 years,” according Rich Houseal, data liaison for the study.

Details for every county in the country are available at Association of Religion Data Archives website.

Read about national religious trends from the Religion News Service here.

Check Also

Ask A Mormon: Do Mormons stockpile goods?

Are Mormons Preppers? Why and where and for how long do they stockpile goods? Why is this, is there an eschatological reason?

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Eric Blauer

447,987 population
174,289 church goers 38%
296,932 non churched 65%

Interesting look at the field…the harvest is plentiful indeed.

Tracy Simmons

As the pastor of a nondenominational church, were you surprised to see how many nondenominational churches there are both here and across the country?

Tracy Simmons

Phil on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SpokaneFAVS) says the ‘unchurched’ is a regional phenomenon. Do you agree?

Hanane Neff-Loutf

“According to the study the local Muslim population has decreased by 66 percent, while nationally Islam is growing at a faster rate than the general population.”

I am surprised as we can’t all fit in the Mosque anymore!

Tracy Simmons

Marj on Facebook wrote “Marj wrote: “The Pacific Northwest has been dubbed the “none zone” for at least a decade, so I’m not surprised that current indicators reflect similar findings. This issue has been addressed in “Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest: The None Zone” (Patricia O’Connell Killen and Mark Silk, eds., 2004). Here’s a link to a fairly recent presentation by Dr. O’Connell Killen (GU’s academic vice pres): http://www.seattleu.edu/commons/article.aspx?id=79992&page=all).”

SpokaneFAVS has reported on that too 😉 (that was from me, not Marj…)

And Hanane – I was really surprised by that too!


Does the Spokane area include the CdA area also? The study indicated about 20,000 in non-denominational churches. RLM must have some 8,000 members, and I would think Life Center would have a similar number. That would say most of the non-denominants are in mega churches.

Eric Blauer

As a non-denom dude, I’m not surprised. For the individualist types in the NW I think gravitating towards groups that are not connected to big institutions and hierarchies is to be expected. I also think its a gerational thing too, interconnected community is a reality of this global world. Today soft relational networks trump hard institutional associations. Personally I think the non-denom thing breeds a lot of nuttiness and a splintering of unity. Thenolder i get themore I discover that true freedom is found in commitment and covenant. Loneliness is a hard part of nondenominational life. You can feel like a orphan if you don’t build strong connections to others, especially professionally. The constant stream of spiritual bees flitting from one church flower to another, sucking up all the nectar and then moving on to the next place is chronic and a symptom of this noncommittal malaise.


I’ve read some interesting work from modern philosophers that the freedom of contemporary life also brings alienation. I think that’s the focus of the movie Cosmopolis coming out later this month. The ease and luxury of the life we have only contributes to the problem, since the Bible (and many Middle-Age theologians) will say its our suffering that unites us with God. I’m also fascinated by the work of some of the alternative musicians. Arcade Fire won the top music award a couple years ago (I can’t remember if its the Grammy or another award) for their album “The Suburbs” which is mostly about the alienation and loneliness of modern life. Emily Haines wrote a song called “Our Hell” in which she states “We moderate, we modernize, until our hell is the good life.”

Jim CastroLang

As Marj says….we have been known as the “None Zone” but I understand the New England region is overtaking us. Even in the heartland of Nebraska and moving to the upper Midwest…. there is a breakdown of institutions including the church. We led the way in the Northwest because the combination of our independent culture and our regional youth meant that our institutions including churches were not in as solid of foundations as other regions. Only in the South, are institutional churches consistently growing.
Eric is right in much of what he says. We are at a time where we need nimble movements that can be alive and shape-shift as needed. Someday, some of this will settle into institutional formations of the future but we are years if not decades away from that.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x