In 2009, Michael Bell, posted a most interesting article on the average church size in America.
What would you guess is the average size? 300, 500, 750?
Well, Bell says it depends on your approach to this. He shares these thoughts in the article I link to above:
Imagine you are looking down a very, very long street, and all the churches of U.S. are lined up along the left side of the street from smallest to largest. In behind each church are all their Sunday morning attenders.
If you counted the grand total of everyone standing behind each church and then divided this number by the total number of churches that you see on this very long street, you would come up with a “mean” or “average” size of 184. “Mean” is usually what we mean of when we think of “average”. But this number of 184 is a very misleading number.
Lets say you start walking down the street, passing the churches with 5 people on a Sunday morning, 10 people, 15 people, 20 people. You continue walking until you have passed half of all the churches in America. Half of the churches in the U.S. are now behind you, half are still in front. The “average” church that you are standing in front of is called the “median” church. You look to see how many people are lined up behind it, and you see 75 people. That is right, half the churches in the United States have less than 75 people.
I am interested in posting Bell’s thoughts because of an article I recently posted on whether church size matters. I think these numbers above are quite telling.
The average people population (the ‘mean’) of a given local church in North America is that of 184 people. Or, you might come at it from the perspective that says half of the churches in America have 75 people or less (the ‘median’).
That’s what I am understanding from these statistics.
Bell goes on to state:
So, you continue walking, past the churches of 80, 90, 100, 110. You walk until you have passed 90% of all the churches. You look to your left and you see 350 people lined up behind this church.
Wow! 90% of churches have 350 people or less. But, then he goes on to say:
Much to your surprise, although you have passed 90% of all the churches, over half of the churchgoers are still in front of you! This is why the “mean” is so much higher than the “median”. While most of the churches in the United States are small, most of the attenders go to large churches.
So, though half of the churches in the US have 75 people of less, with 90% of the churches having 350 people or less, still, half of the individual church-goers are part of churches that have more than 350 people.
Yes, we like it large-sized, venti-sized.
I personally appreciate churches in the 75 to 184 person range. As I have said a few times, I am convinced that we need more and more to extend outwards, not upwards.