Large churches/Small churches

“Most churches are Small churches”
“Most People attend Large Churches”

Which is true?  Both.  Statistics can give us facts that seem to contradict themselves. Sometimes DSs tell me I need to be preparing graduates to pastor churches under 70 because “almost all churches are small churches.”  They are right—the vast majority of churches in America are under 100. But the second statement is also true: Most people attend the larger churches over 100.

What is most startling in the statistics are the trends over time. Take my own denomination—The Wesleyan Church. We maintain an ongoing list of the largest 25 Wesleyan Churches at our headquarters.  So you can tract the trends in attendance at the top 25 churches. In 1970 one out of twelve Wesleyans attended these largest 25 churches. Ten years later in 1980 one in ten Wesleyans attended the largest 25 churches. By 1990 one in seven Wesleyans attended these 25 local churches. The trend continued so that by 2010 one out of four Wesleyans attended these largest 25 churches.

Wesleyans attending the largest 25 Wesleyan Churches
1970     1 of 12
1980     1 of 10
1990     1 of 7
2010     1 of 4

What I’m thinking about this week is the trend here. Will this trend continue or has it peaked?  Will there be a day when half of all Wesleyans attend 25 mega churches? Or is the era of the mega church over and people in the future will want smaller churches?

So, what do you think?

The discussion of this column is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633
Keith Drury October 4, 2011

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