According to a recent study there are 282,000 churches in the USA with weekly attendance somewhere between 7 and 499 people. That same study concluded that there are approximately 19,210 churches with attendance over 500.
34 million Americans worship in churches with less than 500 people. 20 million worship in congregations with more than 500 in attendance. Approximately 54 million people in the USA gather for worship on a weekly basis.
Here are some thoughts about this:
1) The church in the USA, even though mainline denominations may be on decline overall during this season in history, is still the largest gathering of people on any regular basis!
2) If so many people in the nation are getting their impressions of the church, faith and God’s love for them through the direct action and personal ministry of small congregations, the churches need to be effective.
3) Smaller congregations should be confident in their gifts and God-given ability to become extraordinary in the Kingdom. In effect, small congregations reach more people than large ones do (as a whole).
4) Leadership needs to be strengthened and grown in the ministry. We need leaders on all levels. Smaller congregations have the benefit of inviting more people to experience and participate in hands-on leadership.
5) Congregations under 500 should glean what they can from the effectiveness of larger church ministries, but shouldn’t become consumed by what the larger church is doing – each church needs to do what they are uniquely called to do.
6) People are continually being attracted to and more comfortable with worship in large congregations – with attendance of 500 to over 10,000 on a regular basis. This might be an indicator that smaller churches clustered in close geographical areas might need to look for creative ways to join forces. There is a trend, even with the overall decrease in mainline churches, for the largest churches in each denomination to be seeing growth in numbers.
7) However, the millennial generation is specifically looking for close relationships and a community church making a difference in everyday ways – right there in the home town. Large churches and small churches both need to figure out ways for people to get connected on a personal level.
8) What if all of the approximately 54,000,000 church attendees left worship on Sunday morning committed to really living a Christ centered and Christ focused life for just one week? What would happen?