8 Reasons Most Churches Are Below 200

church attendance

While social media, and even traditional media, are still preoccupied with megachurches and multisite churches, the reality is that most churches in North America & Britain are quite small. The Barna group pegs the average Protestant church size in America at 89 adults, in the UK average attendance is 84 (inc children see chart at bottom of post). Sixty percent of protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. Only 2 percent have over 1000 adults attending.

Please understand, there’s nothing wrong with being a small church. I just know that almost every small church leader I speak to wants his or her church to  grow.

So why is it that most churches never break the 200 attendance mark?

They organise, behave, lead and manage like a small organisation.

There’s a world of difference between how you organise a corner store and how you organise a larger supermarket. In a corner store, Mom and Pop run everything. Want to talk to the CEO? She’s stocking shelves. Want to see the Director of Marketing? He’s at the cash register. Mom and Pop do everything, and they organise their business to stay small. Which is fine if you’re Mom and Pop and you don’t want to grow.

But you can’t run a supermarket that way. You organise differently. You govern differently. There’s a produce manager, and people who only stock shelves. There’s a floor manager, shift manager, general manager and so much more. So what’s the translation to church world?

Here are eight reasons why churches who want to grow end up staying small:

1. The Pastor is the Primary Caregiver.

Honestly, if you just push past this one issue, you will have made a ton of progress. When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding and  funeral, and make regular house calls, he or she becomes incapable of doing other things. That model just doesn’t scale. If you’re good at it, you’ll grow the church to 200 people and then disappoint people when you can’t get to every event any more. Or you’ll just burn out. It creates false expectations and so many people get hurt in the process.

The answer, by the way, is to teach people to care for each other in groups.

2. The Leaders Lack a Strategy. 

Many churches today are clear on mission and vision. What many lack is a widely shared and agreed upon strategy. Your vision and mission answers the why and what of your organisation. Your strategy answers how. And how is critical. Spend time working through your strategy. Be clear on how you will accomplish your mission and don’t rest until the mission, vision and strategy reside in every single volunteer and leader.

At Christian Life Church our Mission is Clear:

Building relevant contemporary churches
Reaching people with the message of Jesus
Equipping them to live successful Christian lives

3. True Leaders aren’t Leading. 

In every church, there are people who hold the position of leadership and then there are people who are truly leaders (who may not hold any position in your church). Release people who hold titles, but aren’t advancing the mission, and hand the job over to real leaders. Look for people who have a track record of handling responsibility in other areas of life and give them the job of leading the church into the future with you.

When you actually have leaders leading, it will make a huge difference.

4. Volunteers are Unempowered

Sure, small churches may not have the budget to hire other staff, but you have people. Once you have identified true leaders, and once you’re clear on your mission, vision and strategy, you need to release people to accomplish them. Try to do it all yourself and you will burn out, leave or simply be ineffective.  Empower volunteers around an aligned strategy and you will likely begin to see progress.

5. The Management Team Micromanages. 

If you need permission every time you need to buy paper towels or repaint an office, you have a governance issue. Most boards or management teams who micromanage do so because that’s where most people simply default. You need a board who guards the mission and vision and empowers the team to accomplish it and then gets out of the way.

6. Too Many Meetings. 

I know churches with 50 people in attendance. Who have a bunch of elders and the church leadership is in evening meetings two to three times a week. Why on earth would a church that small need to meet that often?

If you’re going to meet, meet on purpose for the future. Use meetings for vision and reorganisation. Free up your time so you and your team can accomplish something significant.

7. Too Many Events and Programmes that Lead Nowhere. 

Activity does not equal accomplishment. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re being effective. If you check into most small churches, there are a lot of programs that accomplish little and lead nowhere. Stop them. Yes, people will be mad. Even have the courage to cut some good programs. Good is the enemy of great. Then go out and do a few great things.

8. The Pastor Suffers from a Desire to Please Everybody.

Many pastors I know are people-pleasers by nature. Go see a counselor. Get on your knees. Do whatever you need to do to get over the fear of disappointing people. Courageous leadership is like courageous parenting. Don’t do what your kids want you to do; do what you believe is best for them in the end. Eventually, many of them will thank you.

UK Church Attendance:

The number of churches by denomination with the average size of their congregation are as follows:

    • There are 16,247 Anglican churches in England, with an average congregation size of 54.
    • 5,999 Methodist churches with an average congregation size of 48.
    • 3,656 R. Catholic churches – average congregation 244
    • 2,386 Baptist churches – average congregation 107
    • 2,281 independent churches – average congregation 84
    • 2,227 Pentecostal churches – average congregation 129
    • 1,470 URC churches – average congregation 48
    • 1,307 ‘new’ churches – average congregation 140
    • 317 Orthodox churches – average congregation 81
    • and 1,611 churches of other descriptions with an average congregation of 63.

Adapted from a post on careynieuwhof.com