December 17, 2017

Michael Bell: What Is An “Average Church?”

pewsWelcome back IM First Officer Michael Bell as the guest blogger today.

You may have heard people say that the “average” sized church in the U.S. or Canada is about 75 people. You also may have heard someone say that the “average” sized church in North America is about 185 people. Who is right? It all depends how you define “average”.

Statisticians use three terms when describing populations. “Mean”, “Median”, and a third term that won’t really enter our discussion today called “Mode”.

I have borrowed, and expanded upon, an analogy from the The National Congregations Study that was released last month, to help us understand the differences in these terms and why they are important to our understanding of churches in North America. What you will read here is U.S. data, but the numbers are very similar for the Canadian situation as well.

churchrowImagine you are looking down a very, very long street, and all the churches of U.S. are lined up along the left side of the street from smallest to largest. In behind each church are all their Sunday morning attenders.

If you counted the grand total of everyone standing behind each church and then divided this number by the total number of churches that you see on this very long street, you would come up with a “mean” or “average” size of 184. “Mean” is usually what we mean of when we think of “average”. But this number of 184 is a very misleading number.

Lets say you start walking down the street, passing the churches with 5 people on a Sunday morning, 10 people, 15 people, 20 people. You continue walking until you have passed half of all the churches in America. Half of the churches in the U.S. are now behind you, half are still in front. The “average” church that you are standing in front of is called the “median” church. You look to see how many people are lined up behind it, and you see 75 people. That is right, half the churches in the United States have less than 75 people.

The average or “mean” church at 184 is 2.45 times the size of the average median church at 75. Why is this so? If you continue walking, you will get a better understanding of how skewed church numbers are within the United States.

So, you continue walking, past the churches of 80, 90, 100, 110. You walk until you have passed 90% of all the churches. You look to your left and you see 350 people lined up behind this church. Much to your surprise, although you have passed 90% of all the churches, over half of the churchgoers are still in front of you! This is why the “mean” is so much higher than the “median”. While most of the churches in the United States are small, most of the attenders go to large churches.

You keep walking, past the churches of 360, 370, 380. It isn’t until you reach a church of size 400 that you will have the same number of people behind you as in front of you. This means that half of church attenders in the U.S. go to churches larger than 400. If we were to use the word “average” again, we would see that the “average” or “median” churchgoer was in a church of 400. Not only that, but this means that half of all those who attend church are in less that 10% of the churches!

So know we know the “median” and “mean” of the average church, along with the “median” of the average churchgoer. What about the “mean” of the average attender? Let me mess with your mind a little bit more now. Imagine that you can interview everyone, standing behind each church, and ask them what size church they go to. You then “average” their responses. The “average” or “mean” response from the perspective of an attender is… drum roll please… 1169! Just to help us understand this number, let me give you an example. If you have 1000 people attending churches of 75 in size, then you would also have 1000 people attending churches whose sizes averaged out to 2263 people each. If you average out their responses you get the average or “mean” number of 1169. ((2263+75)/2=1169)

churchattendanceTo see what this looks like graphically I created a graph of 100 representative churches. If you took a cross section of 100 churches from all the churches across America, the graph of those churches would look something like this. The churches are along the bottom of the graph. Their attendance ranges from 10 for the smallest church to 4000 for the largest. In reality, we do have churches much larger that than 4000, but out of every 100 churches, you might have 1 megachurch of about 4000 in size. As you can see, most church attenders in America (and the same holds true for Canada), attend big churches. Half of them attend churches larger than 400 and many of these are experiencing church many times that size. In fact, out of every 100 churches, the one largest church (in my example 4000 attenders) would have as many attenders as the lowest 70 churches combined!

This has huge implications for denomination structures and for Pastors.

Lets take an extreme example, the case of the Brethren in Christ in Canada (not to be confused with the Christian and Plymouth Brethren). For those not familiar with the Brethren in Christ, their theological heritage and influences are Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan. Right now, as I understand it, they are part of a North American Conference for decision making. What would happen if the Canadian churches, for whatever reasons, needed to go their own way? In Canada, half of the attenders of Brethren in Christ churches are in associated with a single church, The Meeting House, which has experienced significant numerical growth over the past 10 years. Currently it has over 50 staff, spread over 9 locations, with most meeting in movie theaters. If half your denomination goes to one church, what do you do when it comes to denominational decision making? One church, one vote? You are then saying that half your people don’t really have any say. One person, one vote, or one pastor, one vote? Then one church wields an inordinate amount of influence within the denomination. And what happens if that one church doesn’t like the direction that the denomination is headed? If it leaves, you lose half of your denomination, half your support for you national office, half of your support for your missionaries, half your support for your educational institutions. (Note that I am using the B.I.C. as a hypothetical example of a separate Canadian entity which does not currently exist.) Such a disproportionate split between numbers of churches and numbers of attenders that are seen throughout the U.S. and Canada, cannot be healthy for denominations. But what should we do about it, if anything? I am interested in hearing your responses.

There is a potentially a greater problem when it comes to bible college and seminary graduates, most of whom will eventually aspire to become solo or senior pastors. As previously shown, if these students come from churches in the same proportions as church attenders, then 50% of seminary students, come from roughly 8% to 9% of the churches. Their life experience in church is with larger churches. If they are initially placed as an associate, they will be building on their experience in other large churches. Yet, 90 percent of senior pastoral positions are in churches less than 350 people, and 50 percent of senior pastoral positions are in churches less than 75 people.

So they get placed in inappropriate situations: In places where people enjoy their church of 50 and don’t really want it to change. In places where power-point is a dirty word. In places where words like “missional” and “emerging” don’t really compute. In places where three piece suits still rule the day on Sunday morning. In places where you still can hear, “If the King James was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it’s good enough for me.” So the church gets frustrated, and the Pastor gets frustrated, and unless there is some give and take, it is a relationship that doesn’t last long. Some Pastor’s will get so frustrated that they will be out of ministry within a relatively short time frame.

Has this been your experience, either from the perspective of the church or the Pastor? What are the solutions? What can we do to prepare our Pastors and our churches better? I would love to hear some of your ideas?

I have just touched upon one aspect of the The National Congregations Study. I would also encourage you to follow the link to the original report and read some of the other interesting information that they have gathered about American congregations. Compared to most statistical studies that I read, this one is particularly well written.

Comments

  1. Great post. Thanks for the very helpful information. I have always incorrectly assumed that because most churches are small, most people attend small churches. I am really glad to know this.

    One thing I would be interested in is the rate of ministers that come out of small churches versus large churches. As a seminary student, it seems like most of my fellow students come from smaller churches (less than 300) not large churches.

    I believe in continual church planting and small churches planting small churches (resulting in really small churches) for exactly this reason. It forces people to become involved in all aspects of ministry. There are few spectators in a church plant. I learned to preach at a small church and I doubt I would have been given so many opportunities at a large church.

  2. “Such a disproportionate split between numbers of churches and numbers of attenders that are seen throughout the U.S. and Canada, cannot be healthy for denominations. But what should we do about it, if anything? I am interested in hearing your responses.”

    Well, you could go with a form of bicameralism, like the U.S. Congress, one chamber of which represents population, the other chamber represents states, except that, for your denomination, decisions would be made upon approval of one house representing church members, the other house representing institutional churches.

    I seem to recall that the ECUSA has a bicameral (or is a tricameral) form.

    FWIW.

  3. Michael Bell,

    I enjoyed this post. I’m curious if the stereotypes you associate with small churches at the end of the article are born out by statistics as well, or if that was just conjecture on your part.

  4. This was an excellent post. I thoroughly enjoyed it. While I know about mean, median, mode, average, etc., I was still surprised by some of the statistics. You have done an excellent job in explaining the different ways to look at church numbers.

    Theo, after many years of church ministry, I can tell you that what Michael says about them is basically accurate.

    One additional comment about small churches. They, too often, get all heated up about their vote, even if they are a very small percentage of their denomination. Most denominational voting systems are weighted in the same way that the Electoral College is weighted in the USA, so that the small churches have a voting influence larger than their numbers should give them. Small churches do not really believe in a straight representative democracy or a simple denominational congregational vote because they would lose too much influence.

  5. Theo,

    To be honest, I was overgeneralizing when it comes to small churches. I have been involved in many small churches over the years, many of whom would not fit the stereotype that I gave. But then many of these have been church plants. Stereotyping is always dangerous because there are so many exceptions that break the rule. In general though, I think the issue of misplaced pastors is still one that needs to be considered.

  6. Will S.

    “One thing I would be interested in is the rate of ministers that come out of small churches versus large churches. As a seminary student, it seems like most of my fellow students come from smaller churches (less than 300) not large churches.”

    Good point Will. I was wondering that too. It would make for an interesting followup study to see who proportionally produces more Pastors, smaller churches, mid-size churches or larger churches.

  7. gammell says:

    One thing I would be interested in is the rate of ministers that come out of small churches versus large churches. As a seminary student, it seems like most of my fellow students come from smaller churches (less than 300) not large churches.

    One possible interpretation of your observation is that seminaries have a higher proportion of students from smaller churches because smaller churches feel the need to outsource their pastoral training to seminaries whereas larger churches tend to keep their training in-house. If this conjecture is true, it could be due to smaller churches needing to pool resources to provide significant training that larger churches can provide on their own. Or it could be due to cultural differences in the approaches of small and large churches to matters of leadership. (Or a combination, or other factors, or it may just not be a reliable observation to start with.)

    It’s been my observation that the model for training the pastorate is in the beginnings of a significant overhaul and it is certain megachurches that are leading the way. (e.g. Mars Hill and Acts 29) What I wonder is how these changes will play out in the small churches and seminaries. I suspect we will see a greater number of small churches training leaders from within their own ranks using distance education from seminaries as a critical complement to deliberate mentoring system. This is largely my hunch, but it is also something of a hope for me.

  8. Jeremiah Lawson says:

    “I suspect we will see a greater number of small churches training leaders from within their own ranks using distance education from seminaries as a critical complement to deliberate mentoring system. This is largely my hunch, but it is also something of a hope for me.”

    gummell that is actually very close to what I have seen at Mars Hill. Of course it’s not exactly a small church now but the ethos was, as far as practical, to find people with leadership potential within the church and train them rather than attempting to outsource.

    There coule be an Achilles heel or two in that approach, though. If a small church tries to avoid outsourcing that can cause a church to founder along the way if it happens to grow, and if it happens that by not outsourcing a church grows beyond the organizational competence of its leadership, or the leaders lose touch with a congregation that is growing too quickly for their pastoral care capacities.

    The conundrum of a church planter from Acts 29 or Mars Hill having a background in a megachurch and starting a church that may grow to at most seventy to 120 people could fit what Michael Bell has been talking about. Even with places like Acts 29 and Mars Hill the drawbacks of a megachurch approach to church planting might be issues.

    In the new “multi-site” church another angle that has me curious is the financial solvency of the dominant church or campus. What happens if the hub campus in a multi-site church, say, runs a deficit continually while the smaller campuses are more or less financially solvent? Would the main campus just have to shut down? That might be comparable to the effects a large congregation within a denomination might have, wouldn’t it?

  9. Werther says:

    When you refer to membership, are you speaking of average attendance on an ordinary Sunday, all the people on the rolls, or what?

  10. Donalbain says:

    My favourite example of how the mean is not always the most useful statistic:

    Bill Gates visits a homeless shelter. The average person in that shelter is a millionaire.

  11. The Other Michael, (let’s just use Bell!) 🙂

    Superb statistical analysis. If you’re talking math, what’s the standard deviation church? hehehe

    Seriously, this should speak to the expectations of pastors, their salaries, what is expected of pastors, and what it means to be a full time pastor vs. being a tent maker. It would be fascinating to find out the ratios of the numbers of pastors/elders/bishops (depending on how each church views these functions) to the size of each church.

    Do these ratios help shape the size of the churches? Does this speak loudly of our ecclesiologies? Our models? Our relationships?

    I’ve recently experienced a non-denominational church over 14 years where the growth went from 60 to 600 during that time. My family got so lost in the growth that we decided to look elsewhere.

    In my experience, a church of about 60 has worked best, and that is just about in the middle of your graph.

  12. Thanks for an excellent and very understandable sociological description of church size. I will do the same as Fr. Ernesto and use it in my blog. Which church would be the modal average size?

  13. Thank you Mr. Bell. Oh, how different my world would have been if my Research and Statistical Design prof had had your communicative skills! y church may be average, but I assure you, sir, we are never mean!
    Being a big fish in a small pond type of guy the mega church never hit home with me. 500 is a huge church in my part of Pennsyltucky.
    One big problem is how to pay a pastor out of a church of 50 or 60 like mine. Are many of this size church pastored by by-vocs?

  14. One quick comment on the problem of small churches for pastors. Churches of the size of 50 or 60, which are close to half the churches in this country, tend to expect the pastor to be bi-vocational, unless the denomination provides the support. This creates a tremendous pressure on the pastor, who inevitably is also supposed to use vacation days or take extra leave (and risk his job) when someone dies or is in the hospital, etc. This is tremendous pressure on the family, and can lead to some very bitter preacher’s kids.

  15. These numbers are intriguing and provide much food for thought.

    As a small church pastor’s wife, we’ve experienced the frustration of folks who have greater interest in staying the same than changing for the sake of the gospel. We have also come to understand the focus of denominational leaders on church planting over church revitalization. After seeing the challenges of change in an established congregation, I support the church planting path.

    We are making progress where we are and see change happening slowly. It is sad to see once great churches with facilities and wonderful resources that won’t use them effectively. However, if we have to choose between serving in vocational ministry at a church that will not change to BE the church, then we will find another way to support ourselves and build a new community of believers.

  16. I think it was one of the George Barna books that says that an average person in church is capable of knowing (how intimately, probably not very) about 62 people. The smaller churches seem to have the advantage of intimacy as a percentage of their size. However, I attended a church of over 2,000 (attendance) in 2 services for about 5 years. I never thought of the place as a megachurch because, well, there were over 150 small groups to gather in, in addition to service ministries and other demographically-situated groups (singles, divorced care, recovery groups).

    I went to college at a state university of over 25,000. I marched in a band of 330. I was in a fraternity of about 15. Those 15 guys (even though we aren’t close any more) made that big school MUCH smaller to me during my time there.

    Same with the small groups at the church of 2,000.

  17. Fr. Ernesto. Never thought of it that way. Of course, your comment presumes that the preacher has kids at home. 🙂

    How does one determine pay scale of the pastorate? Sr./teaching pastor and youth pastor? And what benefits? Parsonage? Mileage?

    Michael (either one of you), please moderate me out of here if this is too far a digression. I’m casting lots here. 🙂

  18. did I get ousted?

  19. sue kephart says:

    My denomination has guidelines for pastors and staff pay. I don’t know if others do or what an independant church would do. Maybe look at pay guidlelines for other denoms?

  20. Brian, I saw your post earlier. And it seems you did. I don’t remember what you wrote. And I’m not RSS-feeding the comments from this entry, sadly, or I’d go back to them.

  21. Thanks, Sue. I wonder how the pay guidelines pass down to the Governing Board if the denomination doesn’t really determine the pay and benefits as a range.

    The last place I was at had 4 churches in the district/region that were the same Sunday attendance / membership rolls as ours.

    I was told by one of the senior board members that he compared it with teacher pay. Ironically the teachers in my neck of the woods get paid well – they are unionized – and some more than principals!

  22. Not meant in a bad way at all, sorry if it was taken offensively.

  23. I figure you’re just wondering what happened. I don’t see anything you posted before your question. Sorry, Brian.

  24. Gringo Chilango says:

    Having been involved in several different churches in different cities in my life ranging from forty or so to 1,500, I think the key question to ask is, “What is the best size for the member?” My suspicion is that it depends on the person and the particular stage of the Christian journey that he finds himself in. It seems that much of our focus on church structures is based on the worldly notion of bigger being better. But is this the best thing for the people? Much if not almost all of the church growth mindset is cloaked in the rhetoric of evangelism. That’s caused an entire generation of Christians to falsely equate evangelism with inviting people to church. So now everyone is frustrated; the pastor, the people and I strongly suspect God Himself.
    It seems to me that a church’s size is a function its leadership’s ability to govern. If a church reaches eighty members or so and levels off, then that reflects its level of leadership. I’ve observed that although a church’s membership may drop for a season, it will return to its level of core proficiency over time. Conversely, a church may experience some growth, but it will usually return to its level of core proficiency. Of course, significant changes in the leadership can alter this dynamic.
    For the individual church member who is new to a city or in transition, it seems that he needs to identify what stage of the Christian journey he’s presently in and then seek out a body that is appropriate. For pastors and church planters, it seems that when you identify the type of people you’re called to (or once you’re established and can observe who has actually been drawn to your ministry and calling), then the key question is, “What is the best size and structure for the people who make up the flock?” I know that this presupposes an extraordinary level of ministerial altruism, but at some point a generation of leaders will have to arise that thinks and operates this way.

  25. Larry Geiger says:

    I suppose that the pastoral issues are less in the Methodist and Catholic churches where the bishops make all of the decisions? You sign up with the church body and not an individual congregation and then get assigned.

  26. …let me preface what im about to say with this: this is an honest observation on my part and is in no way intended hurtfully……by my own admission i spend too much time on this blog..but by reading the comments day in and day out its possible to assemble a mosaic of the collective consciousness of this “group”..and what i see is disturbing….it seems the “Job” of teaching the world about our God has devolved into nothing more than a twisted ego driven business enterprise where we build the statistically and politicaly correct box and then summons a god of our own design to show up and do his magic act……this “routine” has all the hallmarks of a good Con job..which im calling “Authentic bigger than yours missional prototype for doing better than you successfully competative i’ll show you church plant enterprise model”(TM)….if your laughing right now..then i’ve made myself clear……

  27. I share your concern about where we will find pastors for the vast majority of churches. I serve in a very large church on the east coast. I have served in other churches that were in the first half of that walk down the street. I am mentoring a young man who is preparing for ministry. I keep trying to tell him that he needs to look beyond churches like the one we are in now, but that is a hard vision to catch.

    I think that many people going in to the ministry from large churches would rather plant a church than go serve in a smaller established church.

    I also think (as many do) that the pattern of ministerial preparation will undergo a dramatic over the next 20 to fifty years. In my own church we are rapidly developing programs to equip our own people for ministry and are bringing the seminary to our congregation rather than sending our people off to seminary.

    We are also serving as a training center for many local churches. Our staff are regularly visiting churches to offer training a variety of topics. BY partnering with other churches we hope to be a good neighbor rather than a stealer of sheep.

  28. I’ll be a small church pastor. Happy to do it. My requirements are modest.

    -A package at least as good as the Methodists.
    -Baseball (minor league or college) within driving distance.
    -Coffee and free wifi somewhere.
    -No Sunday p.m. service. Home fellowships and a mid-week are fine.
    -Don’t lie to me.

  29. imonk, I like your requirements.
    I also like small churches, and I am currently the preaching elder at one.
    What I have noticed in the state where I currently live and in all the other states is that this demographic trend for churches follows the societal trend.

    I assume that the majority of the mega churches or large churches are also in large, or larger cities, and most of these cities probably have something about them that draws people to move there (southern climate, job market, tourist industry, colleges/universities, etc.) therefore just as the counrtyside is losing people (younger people)to the cities so are country churches losing people to city/urban churches.

    the people who are staying in the country tend to be those who are more “stuck in their ways” for lack of a better term. Those who move to the cities tend to be young and they go to college therefore they are not as afraid of innovation and dynamic thinking. So the pastor who goes out to a small rural church has come from seminary and therefore also has an undergrad. degree maybe from a secular university from a major city, plus his M.Div. from the seminary. Depending on his education it is possible that he has been exposed to more of the world than his charges. It is also probable that he has a better education than a lot of them.

    This new pastor may find that he is up against three barriers; an education gap, a socio-economic gap and an age gap.

    Once again this does not cover everyone’s experience by any means, but I believe that it is something to think about and consider if you are a would-be pastor about ready to take over a small rural church.

  30. Out of curiosity, what’s the Methodists package?

  31. I have no idea, but I think they have health insurance and retirement, which is more than a lot of small church pastors.

  32. At my old church of 120 or so, we had a doctor who was a member who provided free primary care to the staff of three. Once she left… well, we all cringed when the pastor went skiing praying he wouldn’t get hurt.

  33. …i tend to agree with ***…those country bumpkin types are’nt in our targeted demographic objective…we seek more the sophisticated young urban professional types whom tend to have a more defined guilty conscience and are perhaps therefore more easily “shaped” into productive giving units….

  34. “…church of 50 or 60…”, “…the pastor”, “…pressure”

    I’d like to think that a church of this size would have several pastors/elders. Additionally, the saints are supposed to be trained to do the work of the ministry, right?

    I think the problems raised have as much or more to do with church model as they do with size.

  35. sue kephart says:

    Derek,

    We have a Church Council or Elders who form a budget committee for everything in the Church. The Pastor(s) pay and staff and everything else. Heat, cleaning, Sunday school material and so on and on.

    They committee prepares the bugdet. Then it get voted on by Church Council, then the congregation.

    The guidelines are just that guidelines. Probably made up by the Big Church (our fun name for our heirarchy) in Chicago. But the guidelines give some guidance.

  36. sue kephart says:

    Yes, they get health insurance, retirement, book and car and con’t ed. Some take a housing allowance (instead of more salary) as it is tax free.

  37. I’m a pastor’s kid from a denomination that has regional offices that control appointments and has a defined benefits package, etc. My denomination, in the U.S. at least, is known in large part for it’s social services. In most congregations there is enough social services to almost make the pastor a full-time social worker as well as pastor. A congregation with a Sunday morning attendance of 150 people is considered a large church in my denomination. My parents were assigned to 5 different churches during my childhood (not including a 1.5 year sabbatical for further education). Average size was around 60 people.
    I don’t know a lot of the details benefits wise, but what I can tell you from my childhood experience is that my denomination provides a lot of benefits, some retirement package, good health insurance, house, car, and a pay scale that is adjusted somewhat to family size and years of experience. Those benefits are not, however, negotiable or adjustable. So, because we lived in a decent house and had use of vehicles and all of that was considered “income” for tax purposes and college financial aid my family’s income was estimated to be around $50,000 annually, but there was no way to cut back on bills by, say, opting to live in a smaller house or choosing to put less into a retirement plan. Actual cash income was scarce and went very quickly. Please note, my parents had 25 years of service in this denomination by the time I went to college.
    Also, in my denomination, husband & wife are co-pastors, both responsible for the church and the social services. That eliminates the possibility of a second income for the family from the spouse.
    Please note, this is for churches in the US. We spent years in Germany too where the compensation pales in comparison.

  38. ..” a church of this size would have several pastors/elders. Additionally, the saints are supposed to be trained to do the work of the ministry, right?”
    ..in an attempt to escape moderation i will attempt to answer this question from a secular perspective using subliminal implant techniques i learned in church…now to the question at hand…while i agree(ponzi)that the saints(marks) should minister(pyramid)the gospel as opportunitys(MLM) arise this should done carefully(con)and with the full knowledge of the lead(con artist) pastor….

  39. Some eclectic responses:

    Werther, the numbers are about average attendance not membership.

    Steve Scott, the standard deviation for my sample graph is 431.45. 🙂 Not that standard deviations are that useful with this sort of data.

    Fr. Orthohippo, I have no idea what the modal size would be, but seeing as 50% of churches have less than 75 people, I think it would be safe to assume that it is less than 75.

    Willoh, up in Canada, often two smaller churches will share a Pastor.

    To all discussing finances, I have found that as church of 80 can generally support a full time Pastor.

    Mike Bell

  40. Brendan says:

    I have often thought that Evangelicals had way too many Chiefs and not enough Indians, but I wonder…

    Does this mean in order to better organize the Evangelical Church we would have to eliminate 80% of the Pastors?

  41. I’ve noticed a couple of comments suggesting it may be ‘better’ planting a church than trying to change and/or revitalize an existing one. One of my personal heroes is Eugene Peterson. It appears from comments in his books on his own ministry that he spent years in a small church, and the changes were slow. He talked somewhere of trying ‘shortcuts’ and how they didn’t work. Michael, I believe you wrote recently about the death spiral (my words)of many small churches. Being from a very small church myself this mix of ideas raises some questions:

    – In general, are small churches ‘bad’?
    – Are ‘good’ ones plants that will grow and split again?
    – Are ‘good’ churches only ones that are actively seeking to grow? What about ones that want to grow without selling out to church growth thinking? And maybe aren’t making any headway?
    – We hear of missionaries faithfully working for decades in countries where converts are measured in twos and threes. Is there a place for that kind of work in ‘dead’ churches in this country?

    I wonder if the ‘success in numbers’ mentality has such a grip on American christians that those of us who deplore the concept are still driven by it in many ways.

  42. Dave R.

    I have nothing against small churches in general. In fact, most of my past 10 years have been spent in small churches. I think that one question that needs to be asked of any church, is are your fulfilling Jesus’ command to “make disciples?” I do realize that making disciples may for a season show itself qualitatively rather than quantitatively, but at some point you have to be able to say, “here is how God is working in the lives of the people in this church.”