dynamics of different church sizes


When it comes to churches, there’s a sociology to the number of people and group dynamics. There’s much more going on than a generic spiritual gathering.

On numerous occasions, I’ve been asked for resources about how to manage the changes when a church changes sizes, or how to get a church to grow past a certain size. What I’ve found are a few books that address this topic, and some articles too. The books are:

There are certain church sizes that seem most common, as if a certain group settles into a certain size stability equilibrium. Here’s some estimates of those sizes:

And, the articles are:

This FAQ from HIRR gives perspective on the whole: “The median church in the U.S. has 75 regular participants in worship on Sunday mornings, according to the National Congregations Study. Notice that researchers measured the median church size — the point at which half the churches are smaller and half the churches are larger — rather than the average (186 attenders reported by the USCLS survey), which is larger due to the influence of very large churches.”

Closing thoughts: 2 areas where church size makes a difference is the leadership structure needed and a perceived “growth barrier.” While the term “barrier” may be misleading, it’s a term that’s commonly used in “church growth” circles. Church size is not a reliable indicator of healthy spirituality or lack thereof; it’s often more of a correlation with group dynamics and organizational structure. To say it more simply, church sizes are not good or bad. And, some people have a strong preference for one church size, and may need to migrate when a size transition happen.

[update] “Does a church’s size indicate anything about its spirituality or success?” (excerpt from “What People Ask About The Church” by Dale A. Robbins)

But there is a danger in using largeness as a standard to measure success. Size does not depend as much on spirituality as it may many other factors. … Most large churches claim that their size is a result of the ability to satisfactorily “minister” to the needs of a broad range of people. … While it is true that there are more large churches today than there were in the past, they still only make up a tiny percentage of the body of Christ… 90 percent of American churches have an attendance of somewhere below 200. The majority of churches, 55 percent, have an attendance of somewhere less than 100… only about 1 percent ever attain attendances of more than 700.

Other related articles (added as I find them & have time to add them here):

[photo credit]

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8 Responses

  1. thanks for the great post! this a fantastic list of both books and articles. I recently was asked to compile a similar list for a pastor of a growing church and I am very excited to see resources that I did not list (and did not know about) on yours. I’m also stoked to see that Gary McIntosh has a newer book on the subject that I was not aware of. I am a great fan of Gary’s.

  2. djchuang says:

    Hello Andrew, glad you’ve found this list useful. I’ve added 2 books you had from your blog post, too, thanks for finding and sharing them!

  3. Vern Sanders says:

    Thanks for the mention of my blog post dj!