- 17.5% of the population attends church weekly
- An additional 5.5% normally attend (at least 3 out of eight weeks)
- An additional 14% attend occasionally (at least once a month and contribute financially)
- An additional 15% claim membership though they do not attend.
Evangelical churches in the US are growing while mainline and catholic churches are declining. However, population growth in the US is even higher than the growth rate of evangelicals.
Declining denominations are older, made up of older members, have stopped planting new churches, and have been slow to adapt to changing ethnic realities in America. Growing denominations are better at maintaining churches, starting new ones, and attracting people from declining denominations.
Factors that affect church growth include the growth rate of the community, age of the church (churches over forty years old tend to decline), size of the church (churches over 50 and under 500 tend to decline). Other factors include an imbalance of women to men and urban vs. rural. Historically rural churches have had higher attendance rates though this trend has seen a recent reversal.
Like an analogy from the animal world, churches need to be healthy and reproduce or they will become extinct. To insure long-term survival, denominations should be planting new churches at the rate of at least 2% of the total number of churches in the denomination. Denominations focusing on solid support systems for new churches and not on rapidly reproducing ones, tend to have a higher survival and growth rate. Quality over quantity.
The book was an interesting combination of detailed statistics and informed speculation. However, sometimes the book did not clearly distinguish the two. For example, on page 150, we learn that new churches not reaching an attendance of 70 in their first year, tend to have a higher closure rate than churches that surpass 70 people in their first year. On the next page, we read about the five building blocks of church planting systems, but this appears to be the author’s conclusions based on anecdotal observations and not research.
The audiences most likely to benefit from this book are denominational leaders who would profit from the church growth and decline data, as well as local leaders who are considering a church-planting ministry.