Church attendance in decline

02/08/2004 10:00

The proportion of church members has been stable for ten years now but church attendance is dwindling. Particularly among young people church attendance is infrequent.

Religious denomination, 1971–2003

Religious denomination, 1971–2003

Number of church members stable

In 2003 in total 58 percent of the Dutch population aged 18 years or older said they belonged to a religious denomination or philosophical group, the same percentage as a decade ago. Roman Catholics were the largest group with 30 percent, 14 percent were Dutch Reformed and 6 percent belonged to the Calvinist Church. Lastly, 8 percent of the population belonged to other religious denominations, including Islam.

70 percent hardly ever go to church

A small minority of over-18s (11 percent) attend church or mosque services every week. Two in every ten persons go to a church or mosque once to three times a month. Seven in ten hardly ever attend religious services.

Religious denomination by age, 2003

Religious denomination by age, 2003

Older people go to church more often

Church attendance is falling. In 1997 just about one quarter of over-18s at least once a month attended some kind of religious service. In 2003 the share of regular churchgoers had dropped to 20 percent.

Older people more often attend religious services than young people. In the age category 18-45 one in seven church members regularly attended religious services. In the age bracket over 65 this was one in three.

Church attendance by age, 2003

Church attendance by age, 2003

Calvinists most loyal churchgoers

With regard to church attendance there are remarkable differences between Roman Catholics and Dutch Reformed. One in ten Roman Catholics and one in five Protestants go to church at least once a week. Calvinists are the most loyal churchgoers. Almost half of them go to church at least once a week.

Hans Schmeets and Henk Hendriks