NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The
Southeast led the way, but churches from coast to coast are on the 2010 list of
America’s largest and fastest-growing churches, according to Outreach Magazine
based on research from LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
LifeWay Research solicited
information regarding average weekend attendance, not membership, in March and
February 2010, and 8,000 churches from across the nation responded. LifeWay
Research then generated the Largest and Fastest-Growing lists for Outreach
Magazine’s “100 Largest and Fastest-Growing Churches in America” annual report.
This is the third year
LifeWay Research has worked with Outreach to gather and publish the data.
This year’s Largest list
features churches from 31 states across the nation. The highest concentration
of Largest churches is in the Southeast, with 33 of the top 100 spots. Rounding
out the regional representation: Churches in the West captured 22 of the top
spots; churches in the Midwest and Southwest each earned 21 spots; and churches
in the Northeast garnered three placements.
Lakewood Church in Houston
tops the Largest list with an average attendance of 43,500.
The data demonstrates that “the
Bible Belt hasn’t cornered the market on attracting attendees,” said Ed
Stetzer, vice president for research and ministry development at LifeWay. “In
reality, churches in all regions of the country are reaching people. The fact
that two churches in the Northeast placed in the top 50 on the Largest churches
list is evidence of that.”
Churches in the Northeast
also earned representation on the Fastest-Growing list, with four placing in
the top 100. Inclusion on the Fastest-Growing list requires churches to have an
attendance greater than 1,000 and report a numerical gain of 250 or more, and a
percentage gain of at least 3 percent since last year.
Again, churches in the
Southeast earned the most representation with 33 on the Fastest-Growing list.
Churches in the Midwest garnered 25 spots; in the Southwest, 20; and in the
Topping the Fastest-Growing
list is 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., which grew by 2,226 weekly
attendees, representing a 30 percent increase over the previous year.
including ones in Nevada, Illinois and Georgia, among other states, made both
lists, with North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., coming in as the
largest dual-list member (No. 2 on the Largest and No. 68 on the Fastest-Growing).
North Point, like several of
the churches on the lists, has multiple worship sites. For this research, a
multi-site church included those with multiple “physical sites and venues in
the U.S.” In all, there are 384 sites represented by the 100 churches on the
Largest list and 373 sites represented on the Fastest-Growing list.
Stetzer pointed out that
nearly all of the churches on the Largest list and more than half on the
Fastest-Growing list operate more than one site. “While the multi-site model may
not be the best strategy for every church,” he noted, “these lists suggest that
communities respond with attendance when churches come to them via multiple
campuses rather than staying in one location.”
Additionally, the churches
included on the lists report a wide array of denominational affiliations as
well as many that identify themselves as nondenominational. In fact,
self-identified nondenominational churches earned the most spots on both lists,
49 on the Largest and 58 on the Fastest-Growing.
“Churches in America face
huge challenges — I don’t want to underemphasize this — but churches on these
lists give us examples of churches that are reaching their communities,”
Stetzer said. “That can be an encouragement to all different kinds of churches.”
The lists “are about more
than simply seeking out mega-churches and patting them on the back for their
popular appeal,” Stetzer said. “The report is intended to encourage church
leaders and members with the news that churches all over this country are making
an impact in their communities for God’s Kingdom. They are a snapshot of what
God is doing through churches.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lowery is a writer for LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. View the Outreach Magazine/LifeWay Research report.)