Thumbing through an analysis of our community today, it hit me. There are too many churches in our area. Within a 5-mile radius of our church, there are 25 other churches. And, this doesn’t even count churches without telephones, which include at least 8 more that I know of. That’s 33 churches for a population of about 4,000 households, or about 8,000 people.
Take out the 10% of the population that is totally unaffiliated, and you have 7200 people. Divide 7200 people by 33 churches, and you have an average of 218 members per church. Of course some have more and some less, but 68% of all the churches in our area have between 125 and 350 members. Our church fits right in that number.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone attends faithfully, or even comes at all. We have several dozen members who never show up, but so does everyone else. But, it does help us get a realistic handle on the potential of our outreach. When I pastored in suburban areas, if we didn’t add 100 new members each year and baptize at least 25 per year, I was disappointed. Here I’ll be lucky to see 100 new members in 10 years, and we are baptizing about 3-7 people per year.
Those are the reasons we’re focusing on community transformation. We hope to help others become more faithful disciples of Jesus by bridging racial divides, providing tangible help to families in need, and creating gathering places for our community. We hope to be good news to our community, as well as to the individuals within it who might come to our church. What is your experience? Is your community “churched” and if so, what does that mean for your ministry?
The report also noted that our area is highly “churched” (duh), and skews older than the national average. Did I mention that our county population actually declined since the last census? You’re beginning to get the picture.
The great news is our area is higly churched. The downside is that numerical growth of any of our congregations is limited. Our primary strategy is building relationships, and adding new members gradually over the long term.