Seen any new faces at church lately? New research shows growth is hard to come by in most U.S. congregations these days.
In its survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors earlier this year, LifeWay Research found that over the last three years, six in ten Protestant churches (61%) have either plateaued or declined in attendance – and more than half (54%) saw fewer than ten people become new Christians in the past 12 months. Eight percent had zero conversions to faith.
Scott McConnell is LifeWay Research's executive director. "Two-thirds of churches are really not seeing a lot of people coming to Christ in a given year," he summarizes. "So as we start to talk about the reproduction conversation, we're not seeing a lot of new growth."
But seeing some hope in the study, McConnell points out that 32 percent of churches were involved in some form of planting a new church in 2018.
"Definitely kind of the future of the Protestant church in the U.S. is going to be reaching new people for Christ and opening more church doors in places where the gospel is needed," he emphasizes.
According to the study, most Protestant churches in America (57%) have fewer than 100 people attending services each Sunday, including 21 percent who average less than 50. Around one in ten churches (11%) average 250 or more in worship – and most of them (59%) report their attendance is growing.
The study was commissioned by Exponential, an organization specializing in resources for church planting and multiplication.