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Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail, describes the effect of more choice on consumer sales. Anderson explains it this way –

Our culture and economy are increasingly shifting away from a focus on relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of niches in the tail. The Long Tail, pg 52

In other words, the more stuff there is to choose from, the more choices we make. Take books, for instance. The typical Borders retail store carries 100,000 titles. Amazon offers 1,000,000 titles. And, here’s the long tail — 25% of Amazon’s sales come from outside the top 100,000 titles. Again, more choice, more sales.

W hat does this have to do with church? Here it is:

longtail-copy.jpg

  • The red indicates the 10% of the churches that account for 50% of church attendance. Megachurches dominate the church world, like Top 10 hits dominate the music world.
  • But, the other 50% of church attendance (in blue) is spread throughout 90% of churches, and most of these are small by comparison.
  • The median church worship service has 90 people (the black line indicates the approximate median). In other words, half of all churches have more, half have less on a Sunday morning.

Small churches account for about 25% of all church attendance, but provide more diversity, flexibility, and sustainability than megachurches. 

Small churches are part of the long tail of the church world and are filling a niche that megachurches cannot fill.  Plus, small churches “fit” the culture of the 21st century — more choice, more diversity, and more discretion is what people are seeking.

The next time someone mentions “small churches,” just remind them that we’re part of the new economy and make up the Long Tail in the church world.