CHURCH ATTENDANCE & Gallup research: Percentage of Americans identifying as Protestant has declined sharply & those professing no religious identity, up to 20% from as little as 2% just over 60 years ago.

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Weekly church attendance has declined among U.S. Catholics in the past decade, while it has remained steady among Protestants.

graph 1

From 2014 to 2017, an average of 39% of Catholics reported attending church in the past seven days. This is down from an average of 45% from 2005 to 2008 and represents a steep decline from 75% in 1955.

By contrast, the 45% of Protestants who reported attending church weekly from 2014 to 2017 is essentially unchanged from a decade ago and is largely consistent with the long-term trend.

… Currently, the rate of weekly church attendance among Protestants and Catholics is similar at most age levels. One exception is among those aged 21 to 29, with Protestants (36%) more likely than Catholics (25%) to say they have attended in the past seven days.

Protestants’ Pie Is Shrinking Faster Than Catholics’

While attracting parishioners to weekly services is vital to the maintenance of the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations alike, so too is maintaining a large base of Americans identifying with each faith group.

Although the rate at which Protestants attend church has held firm over the past six decades, the percentage of Americans identifying as Protestant has declined sharply, from 71% in 1955 to 47% in the mid-2010s. Since 1999, Gallup’s definition of Protestants has included those using the generic term “Christian” as well as those calling themselves Protestant or naming a specific Protestant faith.

By contrast, while the Catholic Church has suffered declining attendance in the U.S., the overall percentage of Catholics has held fairly steady — largely because of the growth of the U.S. Hispanic population. Twenty-two percent of U.S. adults today identify as Catholic, compared with 24% in 1955.

A troubling sign for both religions is that younger adults, particularly those aged 21 to 29, are less likely than older adults to identify as either Protestant or Catholic. This is partly because more young people identify as “other” or with other non-Christian religions, but mostly because of the large proportion — 33% — identifying with no religion.

Bottom Line

…Although weekly attendance among Protestants has been stable, the proportion of adults identifying as Protestants has shrunk considerably over the past half-century. And that trend will continue as older Americans are replaced by a far less Protestant-identifying younger generation.

All of this comes amid a broader trend of more Americans opting out of formal religion or being raised without it altogether. In 2016, Gallup found one in five Americans professing no religious identity, up from as little as 2% just over 60 years ago.

Read more at … http://news.gallup.com/poll/232226/church-attendance-among-catholics-resumes-downward-slide.aspx

ATTENDANCE & How many people go to church each Sunday? They told Gallup 40%. Reality only 20.4%

by the Hartford Institute for Church Research, retrieved from http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/fastfacts/fast_facts.html#sizecong, 11/9/16.

A: For years, the Gallup Research Organization has come up with a consistent figure — 40 percent of all Americans, or roughly 118 million people, who said they attended worship on the previous weekend. Recently, sociologists of religion have questioned that figure, saying Americans tend to exaggerate how often they attend.

By actually counting the number of people who showed up at representative sample of churches, two researchers, Kirk Hadaway and Penny Marler found that only 20.4 percent of the population, or half the Gallup figure, attended church each weekend.

As added proof for the accuracy of this smaller percentage of churchgoers, if 20.4% of Americans (approximately 63 million in 2010) attended the nation’s 350,000 congregations weekly then the average attendance would be 180 people per congregation which is almost exactly the figure that numerous research studies have found.

Want to know more?

MORALITY & Cohabitation and Church Attendance Factor into Likelihood of Divorce #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, 3/21/16.

For couples looking to increase their chances of a lasting marriage, research offers some advice: don’t live together before marriage, but do attend church together.

Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics examined marital history data from the National Survey of Family Growth to determine what factors into the probability of a lasting first marriage.

Couples who live together before getting married have a lower chance of having a long-term marriage than those who don’t live together, according to analysis by researchers at the Pew Research Center.

A woman who refrained from living with her husband prior to their wedding has a 57 percent probability her marriage will last at least two decades. Those who cohabitate decrease their probability to 46 percent.

For men, the more commitment is made prior to living together the more likely their marriages are to last. Those who live with their future spouse before even being engaged have the lowest chance of a long-term marriage at 49 percent. For those who wait until after marriage, they have a 60 percent chance of celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary.

Another factor to help solidify a marriage may be church attendance, as opposed to religious identification, according to sociologist Brad Wright. “Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend church had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38 percent of weekly attendees,” he says…

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/03/21/cohabitation-and-church-attendance-factor-into-likelihood-of-divorce/

ATTENDANCE & Student List of How Leadership Styles Must Change as a Church Grows

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: The following list was put together by my seminary students from experience and research (and to fulfill a leadership exercise you can also use, access it HERE).  I think you will agree with me that it is an eye-opening list.


Fellowship Size (40 or less, relational base)

> Keep at this size by …. Allowing for the congregation members to “run” the church the way they prefer, sitting back without setting a clear vision (Northouse, 2012), letting the environment determine behavior and decision-making. (Lindsey G.)

> Grow out of this size by …. Set goals, develop problem-solving skills (Northouse, 2012), challenge the congregation by setting a clear and realistic vision. (Lindsey G.)

>Keep at this size by ….Growing inward with no focus on outreach. (Kim K.)

> Grow out of this size by ….focusing outward (while still focusing inward and upward) and creating/promoting small groups (Kim K.)

> Keep at this size by ….by focusing exclusively inward and not reaching into the surrounding community with evangelistic efforts. (Kelly H.)

> Grow out of this size by ….Establishing a firm relational foundation with the members first then setting up a home group ministry that encourages members to invite neighbors friends and coworkers to attend. (Kelly H.)

 Small Size (41-100, one big family)

> Keep at this size by ….Pastor doing all of the work, relationships within the church are the focus rather than forming new relationships outside the church. (Kim K.)

> Grow out of this size by ….partnering with God to take the gospel out of the church to the ends of the earth (Kim K.)

> Keep at this size by ….Focusing exclusively on congregational care. (Kelly H.)

>Grow out of this size by ….Adding to the home group ministry community outreach activities like soup suppers, musical events and children’s activities like vacation bible school. (Kelly H.)

> Keep at this size by …. Our senior pastor will be the only decision maker in our church.  He will follow up behind his leaders and make changes that he does not approve of based on his way of doing things even if the result is the same. (Melody C.)

> Grow out of this size by …. The Senior Pastor will allow the associate pastors to help oversee and develop the ministries.  He will verbally back up the decisions of the associates and will allow for delegation to lay leaders to assist and help do the work of the ministry.  Multiplication will be a part of the focus with outreach and evangelism as a larger part of the goal. (Melody C.)

Middle Size (101-175, maintains adequate ministries)

> Keep at this size by ….no new growth/maturity of Pastor or members. (Kim K.)

> Grow out of this size by …Moving out of your comfort zone and making new disciples. (Kim K.)

Awkward (176-225, doesn’t recognize it is a “congregation of congregations”)

> Keep at this size by ….  Continuing to place all responsibility on the two pastors on staff.  They will fill the roles of senior, youth, visitation, and outreach. (Bobby P.)

> Grow out of this size by …. Hiring part time staff as visitation and outreach coordinators.  These could be current pastors looking for more work, retired pastors, or even skilled lay people. (Bobby P.)

> Keep at this size by …. “treating the group as one large congregation with no varying cultures or perceptions.” (C.J. W.)

> Grow out of this size by …. “Accepting and celebrating the differences in the congregation and identifying and empowering leaders that can facilitate growth.” (C.J. W.)

Large (226-450, functions as a congregation of congregations)

> Keep at this size by …. keeping the resources stretched so thin that people are starting to sneak out the back door. (Bobby P.)

> Grow out of this size by …. Establishing roles within the church so the attenders feel needed and valued.  They will have a reason to continue attending this particular church week after week. (Bobby P.)

 Huge (451-700, administration consumes most time)

> Keep at this size by …. “micromanage. Not allow staff to lead to their fullest potential.” (C.J. W.)

> Grow out of this size by …. “Developing a staff culture of leading leaders.” (C.J. W.)

Mini-denominational (701+, a network of congregations, each which its own identity)

> Keep at this size by …. Maintaining what is already “good,” coasting along on old vision, setting values that reflect being “mediocre” is good enough (Northouse, 2012).

> Grow out of this size by …. Be intentional about strategic planning, which “requires developing careful plans of action based on the available resources and personnel to achieve a goal” (Northouse, 2012, p. 95), challenge and cast vision, equip people to lead and grow. (Lindsey G.)

CHURCH SIZE & An Exercise That Shows How Leadership Styles Must Change as a Church Grows

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/18/15.

Here is an exercise I conduct with my students, which makes a good exercise for judicatory leaders and pastors’ meetings.  It helps leaders see how leadership styles must change as the organization grows.

Remember, if you don’t change your leadership style, your style will usually stunt the growth of the organization (and decline it back to the smaller size that matches your leadership style).

First, let’s look at some popular size designations for churches (CLICK TO ENLARGE the attached comparison from Whitesel, 2000, p. 29).  I like to use Lyle Schaller’s designations (1981, pp. 17-63).  But, I also appreciate Gary McIntosh’s emphasis various designations for church size (1999, pp. 17-19).

CHART Cong. Size Differences HD Fig 1.7 p.29This exercise only requires four to eight sentences.

Each person adds a few lines about effective leadership traits, abilities and/or skills (Northouse, 2009, pp. 1-3) for one or two size ranges.  For the size(s) you choose, participants will give us a couple lines about leadership characteristics that will keep the church at this size, and a few lines about leadership characteristics that can grow it out of this size.

The following are the size ranges of Sunday morning attendance.  Just cut and paste the ranges (in your postings if you are a student) and add your insights.

Fellowship size (40 or less, relational base):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Small size: (41-100, one big family):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Middle size (101-175, maintains adequate ministries):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Awkward (176-225, doesn’t recognize it is a “congregation of congregations,” Hunter 1979, p. 63):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Large (226-450, functions as a congregation of congregations):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Huge (451- 700, administration consumes most time):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

Mini-denominational (701+, a network of congregations, each with its own identity):
> Keep at this size by ….
> Grow out of this size by ….

That’s it.  Take a couple of these sizes and add a couple lines about leadership characteristics that will keep it in this size range, and then a few lines about leadership characteristics that will grow it out of this size.

Here is an example:

Small size: (41-100, one big family):
> Keep at this size by ….  Pastor makes all major decisions her or himself, creating a bottleneck of decision making.
> Grow out of this size by …. Pastor apprentices gifted laypeople in ministry, supports publically their decision making, but may offer confidential critique.
References

Hunter, G. G. III (1979). The contagious congregation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Northouse, P. G. (2009). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
McIntosh, G. L., (1999). One size doesn’t fit all: Brining out the best in any size church. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revel.
Whitesel, B., & Hunter, K. R. (2000). A house divided: Bridging the generational gaps in your church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

MEGACHURCHES & Research Shows Draw They Twice as Many Under 45

megachurch_1_infographicb

by Warren Bird, Leadership Network, 7/6/15.

“As the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964) passes on, megachurches are also dying off.” I see statements like that often in the public media, but all the evidence says they’re just plain wrong, based on a major research project I did with Scott Thumma.

Instead, the larger the church the greater the percentage of young adults go there on average. We found and wrote in Not Who You Think They Are (free download) that the average age of megachurch respondents is 40 years old, similar to the U.S. Census average. Yet the average age of an attender in a typical “non-megachurch” congregation is nearly 53 years old. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of megachurch attenders are under 45 years old, while only a third are that young in other size churches (35%).

… In addition, nearly half the singles in megachurches have been at the churches 2 years or less, but 20% of them have attended six years or more. Interestingly, these single attenders were twice as likely to be living with other singles when compared to churches of other sizes (16% vs. 8%) but equal in percentage for those living alone (16% vs. 15%). This suggests that perhaps a large percentage of the megachurch singles are students, a perception confirmed in our visits to the megachurches. The visitors and newer people at the megachurches were even more likely to be youthful and single than were those to the average church. Almost 60% of single, never-married megachurch attenders are visitors or have been at the church 2 years or less, whereas for all churches 40% of never married people are visitors or are recent church attenders.

For other blogs in this series see here and here (scroll down to “FAQs about North American Churches”).

Read more at … http://leadnet.org/not-a-boomer-phenomenon-megachurches-draw-twice-as-many-under-45/

INTERNAL CHURCH PLANTING & As Autonomous Church Plants Grow, Southern Baptists Disappear #ChristianityToday

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “I’ve been saying it for years. Planting independent and autonomous church plants creates competitive environments and a neophyte ministry with customarily poor oversight.

Instead I have argued for equally planting ‘internal sub-congregations’ such as venues, campuses and different styles of worship. This usually creates a healthier organization because among many things, they share assets and there is better oversight of the ministers. As a former church planter myself, who helped coordinate a megachurch’s network of planted churches, I believe this understanding is critical.

It is also important to distinguish two types of church plants.

I have suggested (The Healthy Church, 2014) that an independent plant is ‘external’ to the parent congregation and thus should be called an ‘external plant.’

A venue, campus or another worship service would remain organizationally ‘internal to the church’ and thus is best described as an ‘internal church plant.’ George Hunter of Asbury Seminary has described this saying, ‘every church is a congregation of congregations’ (A House Divided, 2001).

Therefore, understanding how to multiply ‘internal congregations’ as well as ‘external congregations’ is critical for turning around the decline that we see in even organizations like the Southern Baptist Church.Because I speak at many Southern Baptist events I know that their emphasis on church planting dwarfs their emphasis upon church revitalization. If they (and we) don’t start planting ‘equally both internally and externally’ we may be only creating a competitive environment of poorly trained church leaders who are exchanging Christians between our congregations.

Read this article to understand why I am alarmed.

As Church Plants Grow, Southern Baptists Disappear

Nation’s largest Protestant group lost 200,000 members last year, biggest decline since 1881.

Bob Smietana

As Church Plants Grow, Southern Baptists Disappear

Courtesy of Baptist Press

There are now more Southern Baptist churches than ever before: 46,449 as of last year.

And more than 200,000 extra spaces in the pews.

As the nation’s largest Protestant group prepares to meet in Columbus next week, it reported its largest annual decline in more than 130 years—a loss of 236,467 members.

With just under 15.5 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) remains the largest Protestant group in the United States. But it has lost about 800,000 members since 2003, when membership peaked at about 16.3 million.

This past year, however, the number of SBC churches grew by 1 percent to 46,449. That’s in part due to church planting efforts, aimed at starting new churches. Southern Baptists started 985 new churches in 2014, up 5 percent from the previous year.

Still, challenges remain.

A new major survey from the Pew Research Center shows a similar decline for the SBC. In 2007, Pew found that about 6.7 percent of Americans claimed to be Southern Baptists. In 2014, 5.3 percent of Americans were Southern Baptists.

Pew also found that Southern Baptists are aging, with the median age rising from 49 in 2007 to 54 in 2014. That makes them older than Nazarenes, “nones,” and nondenominational Christians, but younger than Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists.

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/june/southern-baptist-decline-baptism-church-plant-sbc.html