Competence center church membership and church tax 

The Competence Center bundles the research work in the field of church membership and church tax, which is initiated and supported by the Association of German Dioceses (VDD) and the Archdiocese of Freiburg. Due to the common interest, there is a close ecumenical cooperation with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the Competence Center Statistics and Data Analysis of the Evangelical Church in Württemberg.

The Competence Center is located at Campus I, in Building 1, in Room 1212.

The Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany have both been experiencing a steady decline in membership since the early 1970s. At the same time, the percentage of the population with no affiliation to either church is increasing. In addition to their original ecclesiastical work, both major Christian denominations have taken over numerous tasks in place of the state – which is in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity provided for in the German constitution. This development is also relevant to society as a whole. For example, the churches operate daycare centers for children, adult education facilities, hospitals and nursing homes. Together with their welfare associations, Caritas and Diakonie, they are Germany's largest employers.

The churches' main source of income is the church tax. It is calculated as a surcharge on income tax. Therefore, the development of church tax revenue is strongly linked to the development of state taxes. Explanations for the different development paths of state income tax and church tax can be found in the membership structure and development, and in the age stratification of taxpaying church members, which differs from that of the population as a whole. Changes in income tax law can also affect income and church taxes differently.

In an ecumenical research project Dr. Fabian Peters and Dr. David Gutmann prepared a coordinated membership and church tax projection for the Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany for the first time in 2019. For each of the 20 Protestant state churches and 27 Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses in Germany, they determine how church membership figures and church tax revenue will develop in the long term. In particular, a distinction is made between natural determinants of membership development, which are linked to demographic change, and church-specific influences, such as baptism, leaving and admission behavior. As part of the research work, Dr. Peters and Dr. Gutmann use also a microsimulation model to quantify how current reform proposals affect church tax revenue.

The scientific basics and detailed results of the long-term projection of church members and church tax revenue have been published in the book #projektion 2060 – Die Freiburger Studie zu Kirchenmitgliedschaft und Kirchensteuer. Analysen – Chancen – Visionen (#projektion 2060 - The Freiburg study on church membership and church tax. Analyzes - Opportunities – Visions). The authors point out possible consequences for church work and church reactions that have been taken so far.

The Competence Center collaborates in this research area - especially in order to establish the connection to pastoral practice - with other church and scientific persons and institutions: 

  • Prof. Dr. Tobias Faix (Practical Theology, YMCA University, Kassel) 
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ilg (Youth work and community pedagogy, Ludwigsburg Protestant University)
  • Prof. Dr. Gerald Kretschmar (Practical Theology, University of Tübingen)
  • Prof. Dr. Jan Loffeld (Practical Theology, Tilburg University)
  • Dr. Fabian Peters (Competence Center Statistics and Data Analysis of the Protestant Church in Württemberg)
  • Prof. Dr. Bernd Raffelhüschen (Financial Science and Social Policy, University of Freiburg)
  • Prof. Dr. Ulrich Riegel (Practical Theology and Religious Education, University of Siegen) 
  • Prof. Dr. Bernhard Spielberg (Pastoral Theology, University of Freiburg) 
Copyright Dr. David Gutmann, Katholische Hochschule Freiburg, Foto: Lisa Farkas
Head of Competence Center Church Membership and Church Tax
Dr. David Gutmann