(pic credit: ©2017 by crisbaj. Used with permission)
“If you don’t know the ‘You Are Here’ on the map, you can’t plot your next move!”
Why have we been looking at the demogs (demographics) of churches and church-goers in the USA? Well, for the purposes of this Blog, we’ve learned a great deal regarding the practices of ‘praise, worship and adoration’ in American churches.
Here are some major take-aways, and some lingering questions:
(Editorial note: we’re going to round the numbers/percentages to the nearest hundred… so won’t always add up to a perfect ‘100%’)
[*] General Take-Aways:
<>Total Protestant churches in America in 2015: 314,000 (approx.)
<>While most of the churches in the United States are small, most of the attenders go to larger churches.
[A] Demog of Churches (the entities)
 Small Churches: 296,800 churches with 499 or less attendees (94% of churches)
 Medium Churches: 15,500 churches with greater than 500 but less than 1,999 attendees (approximately 5%)
 Large Churches: 1,700 Mega-churches (>2,000 attendees)(0.54% of churches)
<>Regarding staff of churches, especially in the area of Adoration and Worship:
Most of the Small churches are led by a few people serving as pastoral team and worship arts ministry. In many churches, the pastor is the ‘worship leader’.
For the Smallest churches (especially the 59% with <99 attendees), many of those pastoral/worship leaders have to be bi-vocational (i.e., pastor the church and hold down a non-church job to pay their bills), and most/all worship-arts people serve as volunteers.
These smaller-church worship-arts ministries work with little to no operational funding for instruments and gear… besides the old, almost-tuned piano in the sanctuary, the ‘music ministry’ people pay out-of-pocket for the gear needed to lead the church in song. Usually, the sound system is shaky and problematic, if there is one.
The ‘Medium’ churches function with larger number of staff, some of whom receive salaries or stipends, some as unpaid volunteers.
The ‘Large’ Mega-churches are well-known for enormous staff numbers… depending on church size, staff directories can have hundreds of persons (pastoral, department leaders, secretarial) on paid staff, with additional thousands of volunteers serving in various departments and activities. Many in this group pay members of the worship arts ministry, especially the ‘play eight services a week + rehearsals’ musicians. These churches are also known for near-state-of-the-art tekk.
[B] Demogs of the Church-Goers (the people)
<>It’s significant that half of American Protestants choose to go to the Larger churches in America: 49% of church-goers attend the largest 10% of churches, 10% of all church-goers attend one of the 1,700 Mega-churches in the USA.
<> Of largest 25 Mega-churches in the US, 14 are non-denominational (56%). Of the 11 with denominational ties, Southern Baptist Convention has strongest showing on list.
<>Over 30% of all Protestants now identify as ‘non-denominational’.
<>Regarding the practices and ‘ethos’ of the 94% ‘Small’ churches: it’s not clear the influencing factors… demographics of churches, denominational histories, church-goer histories, personality/preference, use of liturgy, but… the data indicates that the Small churches embrace more ‘traditional’ practice in worship arts and style. Use of organ/piano/choir/cantors, 3-4 hymns placed throughout the service, ‘special music’ segments…
<>As the size of the church increases, data indicates the worship arts practices and styles predictably shifts towards ‘modern’ styles and practices [a ‘worship and praise’ programmed set, use of guitar/bass/keyboards/percussion-drums, songs with pop-rock-jazz-gospel-folk styles, chosen songs written in the last 3 decades]
<>The Large churches are now clearly places with established pop-rock-jazz-gospel-folk bands and stages and sound-systems, using Mod Worship songs and music.
(For more info…. Mega-churches characteristics discussed:
[+] After looking at the data… Questions that linger…
<>The amount of resources for 314,000 churches to stay open… how are they doing it??
<>The ‘staffing reality’ of the Small church –vs- the Medium-Large church… is there another way?
<>With 314,000 Protestant churches in America, why are most American Protestants choosing to attend larger churches?
<>Is the wild demog spread of church-goers a phenomenon of
rural –vs- large urban areas, or is it
‘mom-and-pop stores –vs- monster big Box-mart’? Is it
geography, culture or church ethos?
What are the characteristics of Larger churches that draw such a big demographic, whereas many Smaller churches are reportedly struggling (flat to negative growth over last 10 yrs) ?
Thanks for hanging thru this exercise… !
written by crisbaj
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