An Easy Formula to Evaluate Your Church’s Growth (or Decline)


I get it. Numbers are not everything. Indeed, numbers are not the most important thing.

But a balanced use of numbers can be helpful.

For example, I am frequently asked if churches are growing or declining in the United States since the 2020 pandemic. Church leaders have also asked me how they can evaluate their churches’ growth since 2020 as well.

While no numerical formula is perfect, I suggest church leaders look at this simple way of evaluating their churches’ growth or lack thereof.


Before we look at the simple formula, we need to consider some fundamental issues when we evaluate a church’s growth:

    • No two churches are alike. The differences among churches are key factors in their potential to grow.
    • The demographics of a church community are likewise unique. One church might be in a sparsely populated rural area; another could be in a densely populated urban or suburban location. The different demographic growth rates are also crucial in assessing a church’s growth. A church in an area with many new residents has a greater growth potential, all things being equal. Typically, people new to an area are more receptive to joining or visiting a church. We strongly encourage church leaders to do a yearly demographic and psychographic report on their communities (see our Know Your Community report).
    • Another factor to consider is religious receptivity or gospel receptivity. For example, we have typically assigned lower receptivity to states in the Northwest, while Deep South areas have higher receptivity. However, I just finished a case study research project suggesting that the differences aren’t as significant as ten years ago.
The Simple Formula

The formula we use to determine a post-pandemic growth rate is simply the church’s growth rate from 2019 (the last full pre-pandemic year) to the present. For example, if the church had an average worship attendance of 117 in 2019 and 122 today, the post-pandemic growth rate is 4.3% (122 – 117 = 5, then 5 ÷ 117 = 4.3%).

Okay, is 4.3% since 2019 good or bad? The United States population has grown 2.0% in that same period, so 4.3% is more than double the population growth rate. 

Many people, including church leaders, are not aware that the population of our nation is growing so slowly. In most cases, if your church has grown at all since 2019, your church is doing much better than average.

Based on the churches we have surveyed or consulted, over three-fourths of the congregations have declined since 2019. In a comparative sense, therefore, your church is in the top 25% if it has grown at all.

That Post-Pandemic Thing

A lot has been written about church health since the pandemic. Indeed, I am gathering data right now to delve into this matter with greater detail. Though we might think our growth rate is anemic and our churches are weak, your church might be doing better than you thought.

Indeed, if your church has gained average attendance since 2019, your church might be well above average.

I would love to hear from you about your church’s story. How much has your church grown or declined since 2019? 

Let me hear from you.

Posted on March 25, 2024

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Donnie Page says on

    Here are our attendance numbers from 2019 to 2024
    April 7, 2019 133 Overall attendance
    April 7, 2024 222 Overall attendance

    Our church is 141 years old, and has certainly had its ups and downs. (Especially) these past two years, it has felt like an emerging church, with high energy, engaging worship, and great participation. We are excited about what He is doing here!

    God is good. Thank you for great information each week!

    Donnie Page
    Associate Pastor
    FBC Lorena

  • William Bolin says on

    Hello Thom.
    I haven’t posted for a while, but our church has seen phenomenal growth both through the pandemic and following the forced closures. You may not remember our story. We are the small church in Michigan that remained open throughout the shutdown, never shuttering the building from as many people as chose to attend.
    We grew from 120 to 1500 within the period of March through October of 2020. The growth forced us to relocate into a larger building we purchased and remodeled in 2021/22.
    One of the most fascinating things that I have observed is how many tried and true growth principles that relate to church planting still apply to the church, regardless of the growth circumstances.
    For example, many of the first-wave congregators liked finding purpose and meaning in a smaller setting where they stood out, eventually evacuated when the crowd grew and the building size mitigated personal exposure.
    We also saw the 5-year turnover of primary plant leaders even though the church is celebrating its silver anniversary this year.
    The turnover was typical of a church plant in opposition to a 50-year-old fellowship. When the growth curve was at its peak, I made the strategic decision to treat it as a plant and not an established church to accommodate needed personnel to help lead in new and old programmed areas. It’s been interesting to watch the process, to say the least.
    We now have approximately 1200 regular Sunday attendance in a building with a 1500 occupancy permit. Between in-person and online participation, we are serving a community of around 2000 people.
    Cheers my brother, and keep up the good work for Jesus. You are an encouragement to the body of Christ.
    Dr. Bill Bolin

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Bill –

      What an incredible story! I might have one of our team members contact you for more information.

  • WE are still about 17% below our high in 2019 average, but have gained back 11% in the past two years. 2023 was very fruitful with 16 baptisms and 50 people through membership class. I guess that is pretty healthy??

  • Clay Womble says on

    In 2019 the church was already in decline averaging 50 in worship. Our first Sunday was October 2022 and the Sunday before they had 18. Today we are averaging 94 but our high Sunday a few weeks ago was 141 and i expect 160 for Easter. There was a remnant that believed God was not finished with them yet. It clearly is not me because I lack a lot. I am bi-vocational but I am blessed to be part of this congregation that did not give up! Crestline Baptist in Tuscaloosa, AL.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      What an incredible story, Clay! I am grateful for your leadership. And I am grateful for the remnant in your church who truly believe all things are possible iwht God.

  • Thom, I ALWAYS enjoy your stuff. Your team is a source of great help. Prior to the pandemic, we averaged right at 500. Currently, we are reaching anywhere from 375-425. We have two services, one contemporary and one traditional. Last year we baptized 28 and saw another 18 transfer their membership. We aren’t where we were, but we are trending in a positive direction. One side note. I am not counting our online community. We have approximately 100 people actively connected and engaging. I am now leading the largest Wednesday night Bible study in my 30 year career online. Last month I did two funerals for families that engage online and live 100+ miles away.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      David –

      We are honored to serve local church leaders like you. Your church’s story encourages me. I know it will encourage thousands who read about it here. Keep on pressing on!

  • Thank you for the interesting article.
    Our church averaged 345 in 2019, but now averages 306, for a decline of 11%.
    What is the average decline among the 75% of churches that have declined since 2020?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      John –

      I am grateful for leaders like you who are willing to share numbers, even if they aren’t growth numbers. Frankly, I was expecting only the leaders of the relatively few growing churches to respond.

      In response to your specific question, the median (we prefer median instead of average) decline of the non-growing churches is between 15% and 20%. We respond with a range since we have not conducted a study with a statistically-validated sample.

  • Joe Thompson says on

    Using your equation, we’ve seen around a 31% growth rate, however, the vast majority has been transfer growth. Have you seen any significant trends around transfer growth versus new-Christian growth?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Joe –

      First, I thank God that your church is reaching people. Second, your comment about transfer growth is spot-on. Church Answers Research just completed a major project on transfer growth in churches. It will be released in April to Church Answers members. The essence of it reflects your situation. Most of the growing churches (those in the top 25%) are growing largely by transfer growth. Right now, the number of churches with any meaningful conversion growth account for fewer than 5% of all congregations in America.

  • We have pretty much followed the trend you are sharing. We had about 90 pre-pandemic and are now closer to 60. Average age continues to climb &:is now around 58 years old.
    We have 6 young people in a Profession of Faith class now & our Wednesday Tribe which serves a meal each week with bible teaching and monthly family worship is approaching 25 young people.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thank you for sharing, Larry. Your church’s story is indeed common. But the fact that you are aware of your current realities is a very good sign. You also have good signs for your the church’s future.

  • I began serving as pastor at my current church in 2018. It was an older congregation, average age 61. My first Sunday we had 74 people. By 2019 we were averaging 55 people. Through the pandemic we dropped to 45. Today, we’re averaging 85. We’re touching mid-90’s many weeks. The average age is now 38 and only 14 of the original 74 remain. We’ve had 12 and 11 baptisms over the past two years. Age ranges from senior adults all the way down to elementary age children. Giving went from $9,000 per month to $12,500 per month over that time. This month’s tithes and offerings are currently at $15,000 with one Sunday remaining in March. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!