The American Church in Crisis (by David T. Olson) is filled with graphs and charts to support his conclusion that the church does need to keep building and find restoration. For instance, Mr. Olson refutes the church attendance research of both Barna and Gallup. He does not believe between 37% and 43% of Americans go to church each week. His research of nearly 300,000 churches gives evidence that the total attending services is closer to 52 million each week (versus over 100 million) and that instead of 40% attending each week, it is more like 19.5%. Just check out your neighborhood some Sunday.
With regard to the evangelical church, he reports 26.7 million attended church on a given weekend in 2005 — 9.1% of the American churchgoers are connected with the evangelical church.
Where there is church growth, new churches are the leading growth factor. Large churches are the second leading factor.
The churches that declined most were those with a weekly attendance between 100 and 299, and one-half of Protestant church attendance comes from mid-size churches.
In the United States, 57% of church members are women in the evangelical church and 66% are women in the mainline church. Olson’s study showed that, among younger churches and growing churches, the balance between men and women is more even.
A statement made in the book taken from a study in Switzerland — and one that I agree with wholeheartedly — is, “If a father does not go to church, no matter how regular the mother is in her religious practices, only one child in 50 becomes a regular church attendee.” You know the condition of the church in that country.
One last figure that scares me is that each year from 2000 to 2005, an estimated 4,000 new churches were started — but each year, his research showed 3,700 churches closed or a net gain of 300. To keep up with the population growth, 2,900 more churches would need to be started each year, or a total of 6,900.