churches closing and pastors leaving

Question >> “do u know a place to get stats on how many churches close a day, month, year etc and the same on pastors and leaders leaving ministry?”

djchuang >> Good question. (And, in case you can’t tell, this question came in via a text message.)

The latest research on church attendance can be found in The American Church in CrisisThe American Church in Crisis by David T. Olson, with research based on data from 200,000+ churches. And, the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, has analysis based on interviews with 35,000+ American adults.

Here’s some other statistics I found (so far):

Excerpted from this Christian Century 2008 article, Church-closing rate only one percent:

A new study finds that only 1 percent of U.S. religious congregations go out of existence each year, “which is among the lowest mortality rates ever observed for any type of organization,” according to an article to be published in the June issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Dave Olson’s research shows that in the 1990s about 3,200 churches closed each year–or 1.1 percent of U.S. Christian congregations. And, Olson added, “In the 2000s, it has been 3,700 a year.” [cf. graph]

American church statistics have reported [via Goodmanson]:

  • In America, 3500 – 4000 churches close their doors each year
  • Half of all churches last year did not add one new member through conversion growth
  • Churches lose an estimated 2,765,000 people each year to nominalism and secularism

The 3,500-4,000 U.S. churches annual closure count is also cited by Ed Stetzer in “Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age.”

Excerpted from The Condition of the Church in America, complied by Andy McAdams [via #mmi, 2005]:

  • 1,400 pastors in America leave the ministry monthly.
  • Only 15% of churches in the United States are growing and just 2.2% of those are growing by conversion growth.
  • 10,000 churches in America disappeared in a five-year period.

Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.” [Source: “Death by Ministry” (slides + audio) by Darrin Patrick @ The Journey. It was re-published on Mark Driscoll’s blog — no longer available.]

One blog post attributed these findings to Shiloh Place Ministries (, which drew its information from Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, and other respected groups:

  • 1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month in America.
  • 7,000 churches close each year in America.

[update] additional statistics & commentary about the challenges of pastoring noted by Ken Sande via desperatepastor

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24 Responses

  1. The fact that only 2.2% of churches are experiencing growth via conversion is the real problem. We are so focused on growth but most of the church growth is actually church cannibalism. People see that and get sickened so they leave the church which is a constant battle for pastors because the congregation wrongly believes that it is the pastor’s job to evangelize the community and pull the strays back in. Thus pastor are leaving en mass too.

  2. Diddy says:

    Maybe if the Christian Life wasn’t a Hypocritical snake hole of an existence, people would be breaking down the Church Doors?

  3. Kyle Reed says:

    Here is what I find interesting about all of this…at least right now. I have had a hard time finding a ministry job mainly because there are none available.
    Interesting to see that the numbers are about the same they were 3 years ago (my junior year of college) when you could throw a rock and hit an open position at a church.

  4. Joshua Teague says:

    Wow that realy blows my mind away. It’s very sad that the deavel deseves so many people that much a year. The church needs to sand strong against the attack of the enamy. We can do it because the Bible says (KJV) I can do all things through Christ wich stranghtens me.