By Aaron Earls
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 fewer 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.
Almost 58 percent of U.S. churches don’t reach triple digits on the weekend. In 2005, close to 47 percent of churches were smaller than 100.
That number grew slightly to 49 percent in 2010, but shot up nine points in the last five years to its current rate.
As the percentage of small churches grew since 2005, median weekend worship attendance dropped across the nation.
In 2005, the median attendance was 129. That fell to 105 in 2010 and down to 80 this past year. This means half of all American churches have a weekend attendance of 80 or less.
The 2015 report states the declines had previously been relegated to mainline Protestant churches, but now encompasses all denominations.
This becomes important when considering that the likelihood of a congregation being extremely healthy is almost double for those over 100 in attendance.
Less than 20 percent of churches with 100 or fewer attendees have high spiritual vitality, according to the American Congregations 2015 study. For those with more than 100 in worship on the weekend, the numbers jump to 37 percent.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.