I absolutely love the discussion and questions that come to and from the Church Answers community. Almost every five minutes during the day, a new question is asked in our community. I could spend hours each day reading the information and interacting with the nearly 2,000 church leaders at Church Answers.
Recently, Matt McCraw, a Florida pastor, posed a simple question to the community: How old is your church? I emulated him and posed the same question on social media. When we tallied all the responses, we learned that the average age of the churches was 92 years old, and the median age was 67 years old.
That led me to recall the thousands of churches we have served through Church Answers. I wondered if I could find any patterns in the churches according to their age. To be clear, we are talking about the number of years since the church was founded, not the ages of the members.
Here are some of our observations.
- Facilities: Older churches tend to have more deferred maintenance on their buildings. And they tend to use less of the square footage than younger churches.
- Finances: In the recent past, older churches were more stable financially. I cannot say unequivocally that reality is true today. I see more churches of all ages have struggles. Likewise, I see churches of all ages doing well financially. Anecdotally, there does not seem to be a correlation between the age of the church and the financial health of the church.
- Decision making: The youngest churches, typically those 15 years and younger, tend to have a nimbler decision-making process. Many older churches can take a long time to make a significant decision.
- Worship style: As expected, the younger the church, the more likely the worship style moved toward contemporary. Of course, it’s difficult to define precisely the definitions of “contemporary,” “traditional,” and “blended.”
- Evangelistic outreach. Sadly, I see poor evangelistic health in most churches regardless of age. The Great Commission has become the Great Omission.
- Denominational loyalty. As a rule, denominational loyalty is greater in older churches compared to younger churches. But we see denominational loyalty waning at churches of all ages. Of course, many churches do not have denominational ties at all.
- Small groups. There tends to be a higher percentage of members participating in small groups (community groups, home groups, Sunday school classes, life groups, etc.) in older churches. Those churches that have on-campus Sunday school classes that flow to or from a worship service have the highest small group participation.
To be clear, these factors are generalizations. There are obviously exceptions at churches of various ages. I would love to hear from you. How old is your church? Do the generalizations I noted match your church? What are some other categories beyond the seven I wrote above?
Let me hear from you.
Posted on June 6, 2022
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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It’s an amazing topic.
The church building we meet is 122 years old. We are a growing charismatic church with a multi ethnic congregation.
Very challenging to maintain. It takes over half of a city block.
Our congregation organized in October 2020. We rent our space for only $35 per week. Our budget is minimal (the first year was less than $12,000 and this year we are projecting about $19,000). Decisions are made by the elders. Due to our shoestring budget we sing only public domain hymns to avoid copyright issues when livestreaming. We utilize community events to offer a Gospel presence. We are an unaffiliated, independent congregation. The majority of our people are active in Sunday School we also have a women’s Bible study on Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night Bible study.
Our church is almost 110 years old, and we have a nearly new(less than 5 years old) building that houses a sanctuary that can seat 160, two offices, a fellowship room that seats 75 people comfortably, a children’s church room that can accommodate 15 or so children(we typically have 5-8 on any given Sunday), and one designated small group or Sunday School room. For additional classes, we must set up/tear down the fellowship room.
We are completely debt-free, and our congregation has let it be known that we will stay that way no matter what. Our congregation is about 85% elderly, or above 60 years of age. Our worship is strictly older hymns and gospel songs. Newer music is definitely frowned upon. Evangelism, according to most of our congregation, is the “job” of the pastor.
We are dying a slow death, but no one wants to hear it. To them, everything is fine just the way it is. If I’m being honest, most days I want to weep at the level of complacency that has enveloped our church. Just today, in fact, my precious wife told me she wants to leave this church and never look back. I am heartbroken over this, yet somehow must still prepare lessons and sermons in an effort to feed the flock.
I guess if it was easy, anyone could do it.
Our church is in Scotland. The building was erected in 1836 but the original congregation dwindled and therefore merged with another church-congregation of the same denomination in the city and thus closed the building.
We bought and reopened the building 2007/2008. We are of evangelical/pentecostal denomination so we have over the past 12 years spent considerable sums renewing and repairing our church building and changing the inner comfort to some degree.
Coming from a much younger denomiation with very modern buildings and campuses, we are regularly confronted with ancient roof problems, heating and so forth. As our building is listed (under historic preservation order) we are not allowed to change many things which is severely limiting as regards maintenance and modernisation.
We were intentional in seeking to acquire an old church building as over 50% of the original church builings in our city have been closed or converted in some way and we feel blessed to be able to reverse that trend in some small way. Altogether we feel blessed to takeover and keep worship flowing in the iconic bulding on our City centre. Many people in our city are greatly excited that the rich history is somehow preserved by our continuing to keep the building as a place of worship.