50% attend top 10% largest churches

To gain some perspective about church sizes and people’s preferences, this summary by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research sheds some light — taken from its Q&A section titled, “fast facts about church sizes“:

Q: What’s the size of U.S. churches? A: The median church in the U.S. has 75 regular participants in worship on Sunday mornings, according to theNational Congregations Study. Notice that researchers measured the median church size — the point at which half the churches are smaller and half the churches are larger — rather than the average (186 attenders reported by the USCLS survey), which is larger due to the influence of very large churches. But while the United States has a large number of very small churches, most people attend larger churches. The National Congregations Study estimated that the smaller churches draw only 11 percent of those who attend worship. Meanwhile, 50 percent of churchgoers attended the largest 10% of congregations (350 regular participants and up). [emphasis added]

Doing some quick calculations, these additional observations surfaced:

  • 50% of attenders go to churches under 350 in size
  • or, in other words, half of churchgoers like smaller churches, while another half of churchgoers like larger churches
  • 4.7 million church attenders (8.4%) go to megachurches
  • out of the approximate 300,000 Protestant churches, 1,210 (0.41%) are megachurches (over 2,000 weekly worship attendance)
  • 16% of attenders go to churches under 100 in size

Also see the table titled “Approximate Distribution of U.S. Protestant and Other Christian Churches by size” for estimates of how many people attend churches of different sizes. (Note: the above statistics seem to be based on 2005 research.)