|The U.S. Congregational Life Survey
Myths and Facts about Evangelism and Church Growth
The U.S. Congregational Life Survey provided a unique look at what works in the areas of
evangelism and church growth. Responses from samples of fast-growing churches helped
us debunk common myths. (Get PowerPoint presentation to accompany the myths--in Adobe pdf.)
1. Only congregations in growing areas are adding members.
- Fact: Three strengths are positive predictors of growth -- Caring for Children and Youth, Welcoming New People, and Participating in the Congregation.
- Fact: Other factors dont predict growth -- denomination or faith group, congregational size, income levels of worshipers, average age of worshipers, and population growth around the church.
2. Only new or recently established congregations are growing.
- Fact: Less than half of fast-growing Presbyterian churches were established after 1960. Most are older.
3. Only large churches grow.
- Fact: 39% of fast-growing Presbyterian churches have fewer than 200 in worship. Small congregations grow, too!
4. Most people have been attending their congregation for years and years.
- Fact: One-third of worshipers are new in the last five years; in fast-growing churches one-half are new.
5. Most new people are new to the faith.
- Fact: Most new people attending their congregation for five years or less have changed congregations within the same denomination (transfers: 57%).
Only 7% are first-timers who are new to the faith. A few (18%) are returnees who used to attend worship but recently have not been involved, and
18% are switchers who changed denominations.
6. Denomination is irrelevant to church seekers.
- Fact: Most new people (73%) say denomination is important in their search.
- Fact: Denomination is less important to mainline Protestants (59%) and those under the age of 25 (48%).
7. New people usually learn about the congregation from advertising.
- Fact: Many new people (47%) visit for the first time because someone invited them; only 6% came for the first time due to advertising.
- Fact: Most new people visit between 1 and 3 congregations before choosing their new home.
- Fact: Advertising helps raise awareness of the congregation and can make current members feel proud of their congregation.
8. New people usually come back after the first time because of the coffee hour.
- Fact: People return because of the quality of the sermon (36%), the friendliness of the people (32%), and the overall worship experience (30%).
- Fact: Too many new people (38%) report no follow-up from the congregation after their first visit. In Catholic parishes, 53% of new people report no follow-up.
9. Growing congregations rely exclusively on church signs and big advertising
- Fact: Growing congregations use multiple methods to attract new people.
- Fact: Growing congregations are more likely to hold events to meet new people or to add members, advertise in the newspaper or telephone book, use email, have a church Web site, and send materials to or telephone first-time visitors.
10. All congregations do the same things to integrate new worshipers.
- Fact: Growing congregations use multiple methods to integrate new worshipers.
- Fact: Growing congregations are more likely to have a specific group for newcomers and to invite such people to take part in small groups or service opportunities.
11. New member integration methods are successful.
- Fact: New people are less involved in their congregations than those who have been there for longer.
12. Worship services in growing churches offer only contemporary music.
- Fact: Almost all worship services in growing Presbyterian churches (89%) include traditional hymns.
- Fact: Services in growing congregations are more likely to include contemporary music, laughter,
Learn more about growing congregations:
Beyond the Ordinary: 10 Strengths of U.S. Congregations
Now available! Order from Amazon.
Or order from the publisher online
Westminster John Knox Press or by phone 1-800-227-2872.
Learn more! Listen to radio interviews with the authors.
A Field Guide to Congregations: Who's Going Where and Why
This book presents the first comprehensive portrait of congregational life in the United
States . . . based on the results of
the U.S. Congregational Life Survey of more than 2,000
congregations and over 300,000 worshipers from across many
denominations. The Field Guide seeks to answer questions
like, What are the characteristics of satisfying worship?EHow
involved are worshipers in their communities?Eand How can
congregations both recruit new members and retain existing
members?EIt provides a portrait of congregational life today
in four dimensions: spirituality and faith, activities in the
congregation, community involvement, and worshipersEvision
for the congregations future.
Order online now from the publisher,
Westminster John Knox Press.