The Dynamics of Church Size

Most congregations in North America are small with weekly attendance of less than 75 people.  On the other hand, most people attend congregations with an average attendance more than 400.

Church size is one of the most defining factors of congregations and how people function and act within them. For several decades churches in North America have been studied on the basis of congregational size. Congregational size is defined as the average attendance at weekend worship services.

One of the most well-known categorizations of church size is that used by the former Alban Institute, which served primarily mainline Protestant churches. Congregations of less than 50 called Family churches; from 50 to 150 are Pastoral churches; from 150 to 350 are Program churches; above 350 are Corporation churches.

Fuller Seminary’s Peter Wagner and Carl George described congregational size in terms of church growth barriers at average attendance sizes of 75, 200, 400 and 800. More recently, Biola University’s Gary McIntosh, another popular church growth author, delineates five sizes of churches: less than 200 is the Relational church, between 200 and 400 is the Managerial church, 400 to 800 is the Organizational church, 800 to 1500 is the Centralized church and above 1500 is the Decentralized church. These authors have studied primarily Evangelical Protestant churches.

Informed by these various descriptions, we are using the following congregational size categories: Single-cell, less than 75; Fellowship-Circle, 75-200; Multi-cell, 200-350; Multi-staff, 350-800; Very Large, 800-1,800; Megachurch, over 1800.

By Rev. Don Eastman, 2009, revised 2017

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