The Goldilocks Principle and Church Size

The Gospel Coalition | 3/23/2019 | Staff
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The Story: A new study finds that many American churches are plateaued or declining in attendance. But can we understand growth and decline if we don’t know what size a church should be?

The Background: A new study from Exponential by LifeWay Research found 6 in 10 Protestant churches are plateaued or declining in attendance and more than half saw fewer than 10 people become new Christians in the past 12 months.

Study - Congregations - People - Services - Sunday

According to the study, most congregations have fewer than 100 people attending services each Sunday (57 percent), including 21 percent who average fewer than 50. Around 1 in 10 churches (11 percent) average 250 or more for their worship services. Three in 5 (61 percent) pastors say their churches faced a decline in worship attendance or growth of 5 percent or less in the last three years, while almost half (46 percent) say their giving decreased or stayed the same from 2017 to 2018.

More than 2 in 5 churches (44 percent) only have one or fewer full-time staff members. Close to 9 in 10 pastors (87 percent) say their church had the same or fewer number of full-time staff in 2018 as they had in 2017, including 7 percent who cut staff.

Churches - Campuses - Percent - Form - Church

In 2018, few churches added new multi-site campuses (3 percent) or were involved in some form of planting a new church (32 percent). Sixty-eight percent say they had no involvement in church planting. Around 1 in 10 (12 percent) say they were directly or substantially involved in opening a new church in 2018, including 7 percent who were a primary financial sponsor or provided ongoing financial support to a church plant.

What It Means: There is something peculiar about the way we focus on numbers within the church. For instance, if we say a church has “grown” or “declined” the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: The Gospel Coalition
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