In my first post on The American Church in Crisis I mentioned the basis of David Olson’s
research and showed the updated statistics of church participation in America. This post describes the two dominant statistical traits of growing churches.
The first dominant statistic for growing churches is that they are young. In biology, the fastest human growth is at the beginning of the life cycle (newborn – toddler – early elementary years). Then we slow down, eventually hit mid-life, and…well you know the rest. While churches struggling with a mid-life crisis or old age can and do experience transformation, the growth of new churches in America’s recent history is much greater. Checkout the graph:
The second dominant statistic of growing churches is that they either small or large. Olson describes a small church as having 49 or less and large church as having 2,000 and above (both of which had the same growth rate). The lack of growth in between (particularly with churches between 100-500 members) is what Olson describes as the “mid-sized challenge” because these congregations are both too large for the intimacy of a small church and too small for the excellence of a larger multi-resource church. While I’m not sure the paradigm of “excellence” in a larger church is contributing to the deep discipleship our consumer culture needs, the research does speak to the human need to be in close community with a few others as well as part of something much bigger. Checkout this second graph:
How might these two traits of growing churches impact both new church development and redevelopment of older congregations?