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by Warren Bird in collaboration with a Canadian research team
On any given weekend, an estimated 300,000 people across Canada participate in the kind of church that draws 1,000 or more in weekly attendance. That’s about 1 of 8 people who went to a Protestant church. Even in cities where sizable portions of the population check “no religion” on their household surveys, these predominantly evangelical congregations are growing, reaching out, and focused on serving children and youth.
These breakthrough discoveries come from a first-ever effort to conduct a national study of the country’s largest-attendance churches, an initiative sponsored by a large coalition of Canadian scholars and evangelical ministries.
The 12-page, illustrated executive summary is available to download free below
Major findings include:
• Canada’s largest Protestant churches range from 1,000 to almost 10,000 in weekly worship attendance.
• The vast majority (79%) report that they have grown over the last 5 years.
• Church leaders say that almost a third (29%) of the growth comes either as new to the Christian faith (16%) or renewed in faith (13%) as they have returned to Christian belief/involvement after dropping away from a childhood or earlier-in-life participation in Christianity.
• Just over half (55%) have birthed or planted another separate congregation in the last 10 years, and another 16% are considering it.
• Four out of 10 (40%) respondents describe their church as multisite, meaning that they are one church but in two or more different geographic locations.
• These congregations are also racially diverse. In terms of ethnicity, if multiethnic is defined as a church with no more than 80% of one race, then 62% of large Canadian churches are multiethnic.
• When asked what they see as the primary advantage of large churches, survey participants selected most the “ability to provide an enhanced quality of ministry.” This choice was followed by “opportunity to minister to a diverse range of people” and “ability to offer diverse forms of ministry.”
• When asked what has led to such growth in these large churches, many (55%) include “children’s and/or youth ministry” as a factor in growth, with just over half (51%) affirming “a strong vision and mission” often personified by “the passion and personality of our senior leader/pastor” (43%). Another commonly noted factor (35%) is an “emphasis on worship/music.”
• A large percent (83%) say they are “somewhat” or “very” effective in carrying out evangelism, as people invite others to consider faith in Jesus Christ.
• The top-named strategies for evangelism begin with “children’s/family/youth ministries that positively impact the parents.” This is followed by “Alpha Course,” a discussion-based approach to core questions about practical topics like faith, the after-life, suffering, and the Holy Spirit.