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Most U.S. Protestant Churches Small with Declining or Stagnant Attendance

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A majority (61 percent) of U.S. Protestant churches are experiencing decline or stagnation in weekly attendance, according to a LifeWay Research report published March 6.

Among the pastors surveyed, 28 percent reported declines of 6 percent or more in the last three years and 33 percent said attendance had changed less than 5 percent in this time period.

By comparison, 39 percent of respondents reported attendance increases of 6 percent or more over the past 36 months.

Churches with 99 or fewer worshippers on Sunday account for 57 percent of Protestant congregations in the U.S. – 36 percent with 51 to 99 attendees and 21 percent with 50 or fewer.

Among the churches with fewer than 50 worshippers, 80 percent are declining or plateaued, while 67 percent with 50 to 99 worshippers are declining or plateaued.

By comparison, 70 percent of congregations with 100 to 249 in weekly worship attendance and 58 percent of those with 250 or more worshippers had experienced decline or plateaued growth over the last three years.

Conversions are becoming more exceptional, with 54 percent of pastors reporting less than 10 in their congregations during 2018.

“Growth is not absent from American churches,” Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, commented in a press release announcing the report. “But rapid growth through conversions is uncommon.”

The full report is available here.