Are Churches Growing?

Numbers tell an interesting story.

The average number of people attending the worship service of a U.S. AG church each weekend has climbed to just over 151 (2010 ACMR). This number marks the seventh consecutive year of increase and the highest average attendance for the U.S. Assemblies of God ever–an 18% increase over the past 20 years. Good news!

Still, more than 81.9% of these churches welcome fewer than 200 people each weekend–a number that is not decreasing at the same rate. Five of every eight churches in the AG engage less than 100 in weekend worship and one in three still host fewer than 50.

While these numbers can be broken down in greater detail and numerous conclusions are possible, one reality seems evident–larger churches seem to be getting larger, while smaller churches…well, aren’t. In 2010, we saw a decrease of both in the number of churches under 200 (-72) and decline in the number of those attending (7,755). That same year, the number of larger churches (200+) increased (+51) and those attending these churches jumped significantly (44,854).

What does this mean? Many conclusions are possible, but while we can celebrate the continued growth of larger churches (and we should), we must also see the need for smaller churches to become more focused on their mission and the loving relationships they can provide. History makes it quite clear that every church won’t become a large church, but we can hope that every church can grow in its effectiveness and reach more people in its community each year.

That can happen when clear vision and outward focus become the priority of the local church. Knowing what we hope to achieve in the lives of others and having a plan for engaging the community around us can fuel any church forward. Honestly, these are the same components that are helping larger churches grow. If you’re pastoring a smaller congregation, you can put these principles to work in your church.

Sometimes numbers tell a frightening or discouraging story, but they will also tell us the truth we need to hear so we can begin to move toward greater action.


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