Thom S. Rainer: Why Smaller Churches Are Set to Make a Comeback in America

Smaller churches are poised to make a comeback.

I’m serious. I see too many signs and indicators to believe otherwise.

For certain, I know the bad news. The median size of a church has declined from around 100 to 70 in worship attendance in a decade. That means one-half of all American congregations have fewer than 70 in worship attendance.

And I am aware that more people are attending larger churches today than they were 20, 15, 10, and 5 years ago. To be clear, I am aware that around 8,000 churches close every year.

Yes, I know those facts. But I feel the winds of change. Before we look at those change factors, let’s look at the size of churches in America. I cannot be absolutely certain about these numbers, but there are a lot of good bodies of research by some good organizations (National Congregations Study, Faith Communities Today 2015, 2014 Religious Landscape Study 2014 by Pew Research, and others).

Smaller Standard

0 to 49 worship attendance

40% of churches in America

Larger Standard

50 to 124 worship attendance

27% of churches in America


125 to 249 worship attendance

18% of churches in America


250 to 499 worship attendance

8% of churches in America

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Thom S. Rainer