ATTENDANCE & Gen Z is keeping the faith. Just don’t expect to see them at worship. Young people’s trust in religious institutions is low, but trust in relationships with religious people is still extremely high.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I’m delivering Sunday sermons on how to use the #RomansRoad to equip congregants to one-on-one share their faith. The following research indicates that that may be the best way to reach the next generation.

Religion News Service, September 23, 2021 by Josh Packard, Casper ter Kuile

Given the decline in attendance at houses of worship and the so-called rise of nones, it might come as a surprise that the majority of young people say they are spiritual and/or religious. According to those who participated in Springtide Research Institute’s State of Religion and Young People 2020, 78% of people ages 13-25 consider themselves at least slightly spiritual, including 60% of unaffiliated young people (atheists, agnostics and nones). And 71% say they are at least slightly religious, including 38% of the unaffiliated.

The coming generation may be investing more in faith because of stress and loss. After a year navigating the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020-2021), over a third of young people (35%) said their faith became stronger, while only 11% said their faith became weaker (half said their faith remained steady). Even more, 46% started new religious or spiritual practices during this time, far more than the 27% who stopped some religious or practices.

The caveat for anyone hoping to turn Gen Z into the generation that came back to church is that while today’s young people take what they find useful in faith traditions, this group has significant trust issues when it comes to formal religious institutions. Asked to rate their trust of organized religion on a 10-point scale, 63% of young people answered 5 or below, including 52% of those who say they’re affiliated with a religious tradition.

You read that right: Over half of young people who claim a religious affiliation have little trust in the very religious institutions with which they identify.

Where trust in religious institutions is low, however, trust in relationships with people in those institutions is extremely high.

Faith leaders who want to appeal to Gen Z need to focus on gaining trust through relationship rather than relying on their institutional authority — their title, role or accomplishments. To be sure, Gen Z members respect expertise, so long as it is combined with genuine care and concern for their well-being — an approach Springtide calls relational authority.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/09/23/gen-z-is-keeping-the-faith-just-dont-expect-to-see-them-at-worship/?

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & 4 out of 5 churches have returned to in-person services, with attendance levels hovering around 36% of normal capacity.

by Ericka Andersen, USA Today, 3/28/21.

… Attendance at worship in decline

…How eager has the rest of the country been to file back into the pews as churches ticked open nationwide?

Not very. All but 3% of churches in the United States closed their physical doors when the pandemic began last March. As of late 2020,

…Despite the option of in-person attendance, most people still opt out. In large part, that is because of the continued danger of COVID-19, but if habit is any measure, pre-COVID attendance levels may take awhile to resume in a fully vaccinated world.

…Barna, a Christian research firm that has done extensive analysis on church trends amid COVID, found that 79% of practicing Christians went to church weekly before COVID, but that number has dropped to 51% during the pandemic. Another survey found that one in three practicing Christians nationwide had stopped attending church online or in person. When even the “church people” are skipping church, it’s bad.

…Given the data on the comprehensive good that attending religious services brings to society, pre-COVID worshippers must reprioritize faith and urge others to join them if we hope to swiftly revitalize a public oppressed by collective trauma.

As Americans make plans for a post-COVID world, putting church back on the agenda should not be overlooked as a healthy step forward.

Read more at … https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/03/28/how-attending-church-during-holy-week-can-boost-your-mental-health-column/4764317001/

ATTENDANCE & Research shows going to church during Holy Week (and beyond) is good for your mental health.

by Ericka Andersen, USA Today, 3/28/21.

… A recent Gallup survey found that those who have prioritized weekly attendance at worship services throughout the pandemic have emerged — not merely unscathed — but mentally improved. Weekly worshippers reported a 4-percentage point increase in their mental health. Every other sub-group went negative.

Regardless of race, age, political affiliation, gender or income, only those who consistently attended religious services each week (online or in person) are happier today than they were a year ago when COVID-19 began to capsize the globe. 

This lines up with historical research on mental health and church attendance. Broad-based evidence demonstrates that attendance at worship services is indispensable to a happy, generous and flourishing society.

Pew Research found that actively religious adults are more likely to be happy, volunteer time to good causes and be more civically involved than non-religious or non-practicing religious folks.

Other studies, like one from the National Library of Medicine, provide evidence that regular churchgoers live longer, happier lives.

Read more at … https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/03/28/how-attending-church-during-holy-week-can-boost-your-mental-health-column/4764317001/

TRENDS & Among older and younger Americans, men tend to trend more atheist than women. But between the ages of 35 and 45 the genders converge. See the graph.

By , The Conversation, 2/17/21.

Faith in numbers: Behind the gender difference of nonreligious Americans

… According to data from the Nationscape survey, which polled over 6,000 respondents every week for 18 months in the runup to the 2020 election, men are in general more likely than women to describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular. The survey, conducted by the independent Democracy Fund in partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles, was touted as one of the largest such opinion polls ever conducted.

However, tracking the gender gap by age reveals that at one point the gap between men and women narrows. Between the ages of 30 and 45, men are no more likely to be religiously unaffliated than women of the same age. 

But the gap appears again among older Americans. Over the age of 60, men are 5 to 8 percentage points more likely to express no religious affiliation.

Read more at … https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/VjOvW/2/

ATTENDANCE & “Never on Sunny Days.” Researchers confirm what pastors know: people are less likely to attend church when the weather outside is just right.

“Never on Sunny Days: Lessons from Weekly Attendance Counts”

by Laurence R. Iannaccone and Sean F. Everton, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion Vol. 43, No. 2 (Jun., 2004), pp. 191-207 (17 pages) Published By: Wiley https://www.jstor.org/stable/1388122

Abstract

Congregational attendance data are abundant, accessible, and relevant for religious research. Weekly attendance histories provide information about worshippers, congregations, and denominations that surveys cannot capture. The histories yield novel measures of commitment, testable implications of rational choice theory, and compelling evidence that attendance responds strongly to changes in the opportunity cost of time.

Access the article here … https://www.jstor.org/stable/1388122?seq=1

ATTENDANCE FREQUENCY & In 1972, nearly one third (32.8%) of Christians attended church 1+ times a week. In 2018, this dropped in half to 16.8%. #ARDAresearch

By Ryan Burge, American Religious Data Archives, 3/30/20.

Sometimes a simple graph tells the story.

In 1972, nearly one third of the American population (32.8%) were white Christians who attended church nearly once a week or more.

In 2018, their share of the population had dropped in half to 16.8%.

Tweeted by ARDA, The American Religious Data Archive. https://twitter.com/ryanburge/status/1244727413659045888?s=21

ATTENDANCE & Over half of pastors (54%) said their online attendance was higher than their usual in-person attendance … with fully 1 in 4 reporting it was “much higher,” according to #Barna data.

“Higher attendance, lower giving: Survey shows how churches are responding to COVID-19” by Emily MacFarland Miller, Religion News Service, 3/31/20.

…Barna surveyed 434 senior and executive pastors online using its Barna Church Pulse tool, starting one week after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency related to the pandemic; 222 pastors responded between March 20 and 23, and another 212 between March 27 and 30.

… Most have moved those services online. Even churches that hadn’t been online previously are trying it out to reach their congregants at home: While 32% of churches were not offering any digital options in the first week, that number had shrunk to 7% by the second week, Kinnaman pointed out.

Just over half of pastors (54%) said their online attendance was higher than their usual in-person attendance this past Sunday (March 29), with fully 1 in 4 reporting it was “much higher,” according to Barna data.

But nearly 8 in 10 (79%) said financial giving is down, with nearly half (47%) reporting it is down “significantly.”j

Still, almost all of the pastors surveyed (95%) felt confident their churches would survive and said they haven’t made any changes to their staffing (71%).

“The church is adapting to the new normal, and they’re starting to use the language about the indefinite future, about working remotely,” Kinnaman said.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2020/03/30/higher-attendance-lower-giving-new-survey-shows-how-churches-are-responding-to-covid-19/

ATTENDANCE & Understanding the Concept of Attendance Frequency as Explained by #ThomRainer

by Thom Rainer, “One Key Reason Many Churches Are Fighting Attendance Declines,” 12/13/19.

We hear more and more about attendance frequency becoming a pain point for many churches. After over a decade of having this conversation, Thom and Sam discuss the one key reason many churches are still fighting attendance declines.

Highlights:

    • Revisiting the Concept of Attendance Frequency
    • The Priority/Expectations Factor
    • The Weekend Worker Demographic
    • The Focus on Us Instead of Them
    • Groups, groups, groups

Other highlights:

    • For the church to exist it must gather.
    • One of three people in the U.S. workforce is unable to attend a Sunday morning service due to a work conflict.
    • The gig and entrepreneurial economy are having an impact on church attendance.
    • Personal preferences always kill priorities.
    • Group involvement can have a huge impact on church frequency.

Listen to the podcast here: https://thomrainer.com/2019/12/one-key-reason-many-churches-are-fighting-attendance-declines-update/

TRENDS & 73% of American churches are declining & we are seeing a marked decline in fast-growing churches (from 12% to 3%) and a marked increase in churches declining toward death (10% to 19%). #LifeWay

by Thom Rainer, LifeWay, 6/3/19.

Based upon an aggregate of several research projects, I made some notes of growth and decline rates of churches and summarized my estimates into five categories by worship attendance changes over the previous five-year period. I compiled the following numbers ten years ago:

Growth and Decline Categories of North American Congregations 2009

  • Fast-growing (growing greater than 5% annually): 12%
  • Growing (growing nominally to 5% annually): 23%
  • Steadily declining (declining 0% to 3% annually): 34%
  • Rapidly declining (declining 2% to 5% annually): 21%
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually): 10%

This past week I conducted the same exercise based on some of my updated research and the research of others and estimated the following:

Growth and Decline Categories of North American Congregations 2019

  • Fast-growing (growing greater than 5% annually): 3%
  • Growing (growing nominally to 5% annually): 24%
  • Steadily declining (declining 0% to 3% annually): 32%
  • Rapidly declining (declining 2% to 5% annually): 22%
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually): 19%

My numbers admittedly are estimates, but they do have some quantitative basis, such as denominational statistics, research by LifeWay Research, and the data available in the increasing number of consultation and coaching requests we receive.

Obviously, the staggering reality of these numbers is the pronounced change in the two extreme categories. We are seeing a marked decline in fast-growing churches and a marked increase in churches declining toward death.

Read more at … https://thomrainer.com/2019/06/the-faster-pace-of-decline-toward-death-of-many-congregations/

ATTENDANCE & Most Young Adults Drop Out of Church Between Ages 18-22 For These Reasons #LifeWayResearch

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 2/18/19.

… Two-thirds (66 percent) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Thirty-four percent say they continued to attend twice a month or more.

While the 66 percent may be troubling for many church leaders, the numbers may appear more hopeful when compared to a 2007 study from LifeWay Research. Previously, 70 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds left church for at least one year.

“The good news for Christian leaders is that churches don’t seem to be losing more students than they were 10 years ago. However, the difference in the dropout rate now and then is not large enough statistically to say it has actually improved,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“The reality is that Protestant churches continue to see the new generation walk away as young adults. Regardless of any external factors, the Protestant church is slowly shrinking from within.”

When They Drop Out

The dropout rate for young adults accelerates with age, the study found.

While 69 percent say they were attending at age 17, that fell to 58 percent at age 18 and 40 percent at age 19. Once they reach their 20s, around 1 in 3 say they were attending church regularly.

“Overall Protestant churches see many teenagers attending regularly only for a season. Many families just don’t attend that often,” said McConnell.

“As those teenagers reach their late teen years, even those with a history of regular church attendance are pulled away as they get increased independence, a driver’s license, or a job. The question becomes: will they become like older adults who have all those things and still attend or will students choose to stay away longer than a year.”

Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay, said those numbers speak to the issue at hand. “We are seeing teenagers drop out of the church as they make the transition out of high school and student ministry,” he said. “This moment of transition is often too late to act for churches.”

Why They Drop Out

Virtually all of those who dropped out (96 percent) listed a change in their life situation as a reason for their dropping out. Fewer say it was related to the church or pastor (73 percent); religious, ethical or political beliefs (70 percent); or the student ministry (63 percent).

The five most frequently chosen specific reasons for dropping out were: moving to college and no longer attending (34 percent); church members seeming judgmental or hypocritical (32 percent); no longer feeling connected to people in their church (29 percent); disagreeing with the church’s stance on political or social issues (25 percent); and work responsibilities (24 percent).

Almost half (47 percent) of those who dropped out and attended college say moving to college played a role in their no longer attending church for at least a year.

“Most of the reasons young adults leave the church reflect shifting personal priorities and changes in their own habits,” said McConnell. “Even when churches have faithfully communicated their beliefs through words and actions, not every teenager who attends embraces or prioritizes those beliefs.”

Among all those who dropped out, 29 percent say they planned on taking a break from church once they graduated high school. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say their leaving wasn’t an intentional decision.

“For the most part, people aren’t leaving the church out of bitterness, the influence of college atheists, or a renunciation of their faith,” said Trueblood.

“What the research tells us may be even more concerning for Protestant churches: there was nothing about the church experience or faith foundation of those teenagers that caused them to seek out a connection to a local church once they entered a new phase of life. The time they spent with activity in church was simply replaced by something else.”

Read more at … https://lifewayresearch.com/2019/01/15/most-teenagers-drop-out-of-church-as-young-adults/

ATTENDANCE & Why Americans Don’t Go to Religious Services: Many cite practical or personal reasons, rather than lack of belief, for staying home. #PewResearch

by Pew Research, 8/1/18.

Among those who attend no more than a few times a year, about three-in-ten say they do not go to religious services for a simple reason: They are not believers. But a much larger share stay away not because of a lack of faith, but for other reasons. This includes many people who say one very important reason they don’t regularly attend church is that they practice their faith in other ways. Others cite things they dislike about particular congregations or religious services (for example, they haven’t found a church or house of worship they like, or they don’t like the sermons). Still others name logistical reasons, like being in poor health or not having the time to go, as very important reasons for not regularly attending religious services.

…Overall, the single most common answer cited for not attending religious services is “I practice my faith in other ways,” which is offered as a very important reason by 37% of people who rarely or never attend religious services. A similar share mention things they dislike about religious services or particular congregations, including one-in-four who say they have not yet found a house of worship they like, one-in-five who say they dislike the sermons, and 14% who say they do not feel welcome at religious services.

About three-in-ten non-attenders say they are not believers, while 22% cite logistical reasons for not going to religious services, such as not having the time or being in poor health. And fully a quarter of those who infrequently attend religious services say none of these factors is a very important reason why.

Among those who rarely attend religious services, nearly four-in-ten say they don’t go because they practice their faith in other ways

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2018/08/01/why-americans-go-to-religious-services/

WORSHIP & Pew Research finds main reason people regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship is an obvious one: to feel closer to God. Because of the Hebrew word for “worship” I call this a “face to foot encounter.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: The Hebrew word for worship means to come close to a royal personage and kiss their feet in adoration and humility. Such closeness to God that we seek in our worship services I have called a “face to foot encounter.”

Sometimes today churches try to draw in people with entertaining events,. But, Pew Research confirms that people are looking for a personal encounter with God.

Top reasons U.S. adults give for choosing to attend or not attend religious services

“Why Americans Go (and Don’t Go) to Religious Services” Pew Forum, 8/1/18.

In recent years, the percentage of U.S. adults who say they regularly attend religious services has been declining, while the share of Americans who attend only a few times a year, seldom or never has been growing. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that the main reason people regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship is an obvious one: to feel closer to God. But the things that keep people away from religious services are more complicated.

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2018/08/01/why-americans-go-to-religious-services/

#Olathe

 

ATTENDANCE & When Easter and Christmas near, more Americans search online for “church” #PewResearch

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I tell church leaders not to plant a church in the fall or launch a new service or venue at that time. That is because while there is a peak of interest in going to church before Thanksgiving, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the lowest time of the year for people to be interested in attending church.

It is much better to launch new multiplication efforts during Lent in the Spring run up to Easter as depicted in the chart below.

When Easter and Christmas near, more Americans search online for “church”

by Nobel Kuriakose, Pew Research, 5/18/14.

More Americans search for “church” around Easter than at any other time, with the Christmas season usually ranking second, according to Google Trends data between 2004 and 2013. Google’s Trends tool measures the popularity of a search term relative to all searches in the United States. Data are reported on a scale from 0 to 100…

In 2013, the highest share of searches for “church” are on the week of Easter Sunday, followed by the week of Christmas and the week of Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of Lent.

The lowest share of searches occur on the week of Thanksgiving in November each year, and the summer months have consistently low levels of interest in web searches for “church.” Sociologists also have previously reported low levels of church attendance during the summer months. Laurence Iannaccone and Sean Everton analyzed weekly attendance records from churches and argued that people are less likely to attend church when the weather outside is just right in a journal article titled “Never on Sunny Days.”

Read more at … https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/18/when-easter-and-christmas-near-more-americans-search-online-for-church/

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