10 Most Popular Facts & Trends Stories of 2016


Thank you, readers of Facts & Trends, for making 2016 our best year yet. We are excited to continue bringing you relevant content designed to help leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church.

Later this week, we will share the 10 articles selected as our staff’s favorites. For today, here are our 10 most popular articles from this past year.

10. Despite Worries, Hotel Bibles Remain Almost as Popular as Wi-Fi

Check into a hotel room this holiday season and you’ll likely get a Wi-Fi password along with your room key. You’ll also probably find a copy of Gideon’s Bible.

More than three quarters of hotels (79 percent) say their rooms feature religious material, according to a new survey from research firm STR, which focuses on the hospitality industry.

That’s up slightly from 2015, when 77 percent of hotels had religious material.

Hotel Bibles made headlines this week, after Marriott decided to drop Bibles from the amenities offered at several new high-end hotel brands.

9. Americans Turn to Scripture in Search of Love

As it turns out, many are looking for love in the perfect place — the Bible.

More people searched for “love” at Bible Gateway, an online Bible search site, than any other word in 2015. It remained consistently at the top of the rankings throughout the year.

In addition, “love one another” and “love is patient” were also among Bible Gateway’s 25 most searched words and phrases last year. Both of those became the second and third most searched terms immediately before Valentine’s Day in 2015.

8. American Evangelicals Struggle With Basic Christian Doctrine

When it comes to Christian doctrine and the Bible, many evangelicals seem to have only read the CliffsNotes version. But going to church helps attendees know more of the story.

A new LifeWay Research study explores the theological beliefs of all Americans, including evangelicals.

7. 4 Specific Ways to Pray for Turkey

The Turkish people are dear to our family, and we count many as close friends. So I welcome the prayers of the larger Christian community for this beautiful country and its citizens, especially during such a time of unrest.

Here are four ways to specifically pray for Turkey.

6. Cohabitation and Church Attendance Factor Into Likelihood of Divorce

For couples looking to increase their chances of a lasting marriage, research offers some advice: don’t live together before marriage, but do attend church together.

Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics examined marital history data from the National Survey of Family Growth to determine what factors into the probability of a lasting first marriage.

5. Majority of American Churches Fall Below 100 in Worship Attendance

Small churches are growing—not necessarily in attendance, but in number.

According to a new study from the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, most American churches now have less than 100 in weekend worship attendance.

This marks the first time the majority of churches have fallen below that threshold since the series of studies began in 2000.

4. The Power of Small: Church Size No Barrier to Thinking Big

Your worship leader only knows three chords. If you pay the part-time secretary, you can’t afford to fix the leaky roof. Without more volunteers, the mission trip will be in trouble.

Welcome to the small church, the fast-growing segment that triggers hand-wringing among the “bigger is better” crowd. The median congregation in America has fallen to 80 weekly attendees, according to American Congregations 2015: Thriving and Surviving a sobering report in January from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research that questions the vitality of small congregations.

Those in the trenches, however, say the undeniable struggles of small churches are a source of power that can’t be matched by the megachurch.

3. What Do Pastors Believe About the End Times?

Most Protestant pastors believe Jesus will return in the future. But few agree about the details of the apocalypse.

A third of America’s Protestant pastors expect Christians to be raptured—or taken up in the sky to meet Jesus—as the end times begin. About half think a false messiah known as the Antichrist will appear sometime in the future.

A surprising number think the Antichrist has already been here or isn’t on his way at all.

Those are among the findings of a new telephone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors and their views on end-times theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, sponsored by Charisma House Book Group.

2. 7 Characteristics of Healthy Small Churches

The size of a church is not always an indicator of its health. One might argue if a church were effectively reaching people it would not remain small. But that’s not always the case.

Many smaller churches are in locations with a small population base or areas of transition. But these communities still need churches, and many faithful leaders are serving those communities well.

Some smaller churches are not effective beyond the walls of the church. But neither are some mid-size churches, large churches, or megachurches. Simply stated, effectiveness is not always related to size. No matter the size, it’s important to gauge the health of your church.

Here are seven characteristics of healthy churches that specifically relate to small churches but indicate effectiveness no matter the size.

1. 7 Statistics That Predict Church Growth

Most American churches have 80 or fewer worshippers each week and fewer than 45 percent of churches have grown more than 2 percent in the last five years, according to a study from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

Ultimately, it is God who brings growth to churches, but research shows several factors that are common in growing churches.

Analysis of the American Congregations 2015 study finds seven statistics played a role in which churches experienced significant growth since 2010.

Which article from Facts & Trends resonated most with you in 2016?

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