By Kent E. Fillinger
Numbers evoke an array of emotions. How many readers, for example, regularly step on their bathroom scales with more than a bit of trepidation?
We believe the special report of church statistics published here each year is a great time to recognize the uniqueness of our tribe of churches and to capture and celebrate the historic work God is doing.
A record 347 churches responded to the survey this year, and I hope we double or triple that number next year! The following is a snapshot of some of the wins, challenges, and new ministry initiatives of the 64 megachurches and 70 emerging megachurches who reported their numbers from 2014.
• Local Outreach
Christ’s Church of the Valley, Peoria, Arizona, solved hunger during Christmas break in eight school districts. The church collected 221 tons of food valued at more than $500,000 to serve 7,500 families from 161 schools.
Northeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky, brought 18,000 volunteers together for a day to help the community around one of its church locations. The day included prayer walks, cleaning, repairing, painting, gardening, general labor, handing out food, and sharing God’s love with the community.
Current—A Christian Church, Katy, Texas, told the Christmas story to more than 6,600 guests in its “Journey to Bethlehem” outreach event.
Three churches hosted a Jesus Prom for special needs youth and adults.
More than 50 families from First Christian Church, Champaign, Illinois, committed to regularly host international university students.
Megachurches and emerging megachurches each invested an average of 13 percent of their budgets in ministry beyond the walls of the church.
• Generosity Campaigns
Generosity initiatives and capital campaigns were also a highlight for several churches.
Community Christian Church, Naperville, Illinois, gave away $623,000 in one weekend to various causes through its “Celebration Generosity” event.
Summit Christian Church, Sparks, Nevada, held its second generosity initiative. The church’s giving jumped by more than 30 percent, and in the last three years, the church’s giving has increased more than 80 percent.
Blue Springs (Missouri) Christian Church focused all of its offerings for two weeks on benevolence and community outreach efforts and had its two largest offerings of the year.
When Chandler (Arizona) Christian Church’s “Bridge Builders” campaign to finish its student ministry center exceeded expectations, the church doubled its missions giving, and reduced its debt by $500,000.1
Central Christian Church, Wichita, Kansas, completed its three-year capital campaign with over 100 percent of campaign commitments.
• Growing Facilities
Space is an issue for many of these growing churches. Several churches fixed the problem with new facilities last year.
The Christian Church of Jasper (Indiana) and The Crossing Christian Church, Las Vegas, Nevada, both opened new worship centers.
Central Christian Church, Mount Vernon, Illinois, and Plainfield (Indiana) Christian Church both opened new children’s ministry centers. Plainfield’s attendance grew 10 percent after its new center opened in late October, and the new growth pushed the church into the megachurch category for the first time.
Tomoka Christian Church, Ormond Beach, Florida, relocated to a new facility.
Journey Christian Church, Midlothian, Virginia, purchased an 111,000- square-foot warehouse for a future relocation.
Both First Christian Church Ministries, Kernersville, North Carolina, and First Christian Church, Johnson City, Tennessee, bought additional property.
And finally, Shepherd Church, Porter Ranch, California, and Eastview Christian Church, Normal, Illinois, prepared for new facilities.
Eighteen megachurches and emerging megachurches reported big baptism days and posted record numbers of baptisms as their primary “win” in 2014. While these were reasons to celebrate, the average baptism ratios (the number of baptisms per 100 people in attendance) of the 134 churches were the lowest in three years. The average megachurch baptized 7.7 people per 100 in attendance last year, while the average emerging megachurch baptized 6.5.
This resulted in spending more money per baptism last year. Megachurches spent an average of $20,960 per baptism. This was 21 percent more than in 2013. Emerging megachurches spent 37 percent more per baptism than last year, for an average of $28,174. In total, megachurches and emerging megachurches baptized 30,219 people last year.
• Church Planting and Multisites
Christ’s Church of Oronogo (Missouri) planted a church in Joplin and sent 225 pioneers there for a year. The church averaged 425 in attendance over the first nine months.
Southeast Christian Church, Parker, Colorado, planted a church that’s now almost a year old, and it averaged more than 400 in attendance.
Pantano Christian Church, Tucson, Arizona, launched one of its multisite campuses to become its own stand-alone church.
Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky, opened a campus (its fourth) on the southwest end of Jefferson County. The new site averaged more than 1,500 in attendance and reached many unchurched people.
Two emerging megachurches launched their first multisite campuses last year, while two others started their third campuses in 2013.
The multisite trend continues to grow each year. Almost half of the megachurches surveyed used a multisite model last year. By comparison, only 27 percent of emerging megachurches are multisite. The 31 megachurches with a multisite model operated 114 separate campuses in 2014.
The primary challenge identified by 18 megachurches and 22 emerging megachurches revolved around staffing. Staff changes, turnovers, realignments, seeking new staff, assimilating new staff, moral failure of staff, staff resignations, staff fatigue, and limited staff were all cited. Staff issues hindered the growth rates of both megachurches and emerging megachurches. The negative impact was more evident among the emerging megachurches, where the growth rate of churches with staffing issues was about half of the overall average.
The average megachurch and emerging megachurch spent 48 percent of its budget on staffing last year.
• Facilities and Finances
Overall, seven megachurches and seven emerging megachurches dealt with a lack of building and/or parking space last year. Manchester (New Hampshire) Christian Church said it “ran out of seats.”
Fourteen churches identified challenges related to decreased giving. Comparing last year to 2013, fewer churches saw church giving exceed budgets, but more churches met their budgets last year. On a positive note, the per person weekly giving at both megachurches and emerging megachurches increased last year to $32.79 and $35.25, respectively.
NEW MINISTRY INITIATIVES
• Internet Campuses
Providing an Internet campus or online church is a growing trend. Mount Pleasant Christian Church, Greenwood, Indiana, started a new Internet campus that averaged more than 400 viewers a week in 2014.
New Life Christian Church, Chantilly, Virginia, wants to expand its online campus this year. It currently averages 100 people per week, but New Life wants to see those numbers grow this year.
Among our megachurches, 35 percent currently have an Internet church. By comparison, a Leadership Network survey showed 28 percent of churches with a multisite have an Internet campus.
Eight megachurches and five emerging megachurches, including Compass Christian, Colleyville, Texas, plan to launch an Internet campus soon.
The Crossing, Quincy, Illinois, is promoting www.theCrossing.tv. The church intends for this to be a combination of an online campus and a house church model. The promo video on The Crossing’s website indicates these new “locations” can be national or international.
• Discipleship and Small Groups
Several churches plan to launch new or revamp existing discipleship programs. First Christian Church of Huntington Beach, California, wants to “develop a life development pathway to lead people closer to Jesus.”
Churches like Westerville (Ohio) Christian Church are creating groups to make disciples who make disciples.
Eastside Christian Church, Jeffersonville, Indiana, created a specific process for evangelism and discipleship that they will ask the whole congregation to go through this year.
First Christian Church, Springfield, Ohio, wants to help its congregation discover how they can care for their souls. The church will offer eight spiritual retreat days to lead people through what it means to care for and nurture their soul. The church will also provide resources where individuals can access a prepackaged, half-day personal retreat. A sermon series will also address the topic of soul care. And the church will unveil a discipleship model that will help people discover how to progress through different stages of spiritual growth.
• Leadership Development
A focus on leadership development is prevalent as well.
Okolona Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky, is working on a ministry apprenticeship program.
Madison Park Christian Church, Quincy, Illinois, plans to lead several three-day adventure retreats for young potential leaders. The church set a goal for 30 young men to go through the process this year.
• Strategic Planning
More than a handful of churches are working to develop or finalize multiyear strategic plans or implement new vision and mission statements this year. Some of the elements included in these plans for many churches are additional multisite locations, facility expansions, revamped or new worship venues, and increased participation in community outreach and global initiatives.
Take some time with your church leadership team to explore these numbers. See how your church compares to the averages. Recognize and celebrate the work God is doing in your church. Discuss changes your church can make to be more effective in accomplishing God’s Great Commission.
Always remember, we count people because people count!
Kent E. Fillinger serves as president of 3:STRANDS Consulting and director of partnerships with CMF International, Indianapolis, Indiana.