New data from LifeWay Research’s Exponential arm reveals growth patterns in the landscape of American churches that may be troubling to smaller churches. The research indicates that most US churches – particularly those on the smaller side – are struggling to grow or shrinking.
Meanwhile, the most growth among US churches is seen in congregations that already number over 250.
The study focused on Protestant churches. 6 in 10 reported no growth or a decline in attendance over the past year, and more than half of churches saw fewer than 10 people become new Christians in the past year.
Most Protestant churches have fewer than 100 people attending services (57 percent), and 21 percent average fewer than 50 worshipers. On the other end of the extreme, 11 percent of Protestant churches reported an average weekly attendance of 250 or more.
In terms of growth, 61 percent of pastors reported that their churches faced a decline in attendance or had growth of less than five percent in the past three years. Younger pastors (ages 18-44) were more likely to report growth than older pastors (45 or older), with 55 percent of the younger crowd reporting growth compared to just 33 percent of the elder statesmen.