The oldest congregation was organized in Providence RI as First Church of the Nazarene on the current New England District. Nine other churches were organized before the 20th century began.
Forty-six churches are over a century old. Longevity is a characteristic of local churches on this megaregion.
These are not congregations struggling to make it, either. They average 90 in worship attendance, and hold 10% of the Nazarene membership in the megaregion (5,942 of 53,520).
Fewer than half of the 1,360 churches started or organized in the Northeast megaregion are still open and active today, about 605 reported attendance in 2016. The ratio of openings to closings will be need to addressed. An equilibrium will not keep up with the huge population influx that will happen in the next thirty years.
The fast and then consistent pace of starting and organizing churches has always been a part of the history of Nazarene presence in this megaregion.
There was a huge influx of organized churches in 1907 (46) when the denomination was in its infancy. It took almost thirty years for one-third of that many churches to be organized in a single year. In 1935, fifteen churches were organized.
Twice it happened in the 1940s (16 in 1941, 19 in 1942), and three times in the 1950s (15 in 1950, 17 in 1953, 18 in 1958). It didn't happen again until the end of the 1980s and early 90s (20 in 1989, 18 in 1992), coming close again in 2000 (13) and 2012 (14).
Of the thirty-eight churches organized in 1989 and 1992, twenty-two are still open and active. Twice as many churches needed to be started and organized to survive into the next two decades. Half as many will not make it. Failure is expected; it's a feature of church multiplication.
Churches were consistently being organized all long the 120-year history of Nazarene presence in this megaregion, just not ten or more per year.
A certain retrenchment included the 23-year gap between 1963 (12 churches) to 1986 (11 churches).
I wonder what accounted for the dip in the 1970s in terms of new church starts or organizations. I know that it was not until the 1970s that church attendance was tracked. Maybe the concern for how many were in the seats and conserving this number made it less likely to share some members for a newer fledgling congregation across town or in the next county? I don't know, but it's something to think about.
One fact hard to face is the 319 churches closed in light of the 352 churches opened since 2000. Thirty-three more churches on the positive balance in seventeen years. Something else to think about.
A couple of observations about church closings.
1) The rate of church closure after two years (one-fifth), seven years (half), and twelve years (70%) is consistent with the numbers from the Southern California and Cascadia megaregions. This is pointing to a trend.
I wonder if a missional strategy has to be built for helping churches survive the first two years of a new church start. And, then another one at the seven year mark, and another one at the twelve year mark. Awareness that these markers exist is a good start for church survival.
Another component of a response might be church leadership training for pastors as well as lay leaders on church boards, ministry programs, and support staff. What kinds of district, field and regional training would help churches survive these milestones? What are some potential obstacles faced by churches at two years, seven years, and twelve years? These are good questions to pursue. Maybe someone looking for a doctoral dissertation topic? I would go to churches nearing these milestones and do some in-depth interviewing and ethnographic study, and cull some themes from the data.
2) The steep "mountain" of church closings in the 2000s has to be addressed, particularly between 2005 to 2008. It was during these four years that 125 churches were closed. It points to a need to burrow further into the data, looking toward which churches, which geographic areas, which circumstances among these people in these places would lead to so many closings all at once. It is economic, spiritual, leadership-related or just people changing?
The entire decade (2000-2009) saw almost one-third of the total church closings that had happened during the 120 years covered in this study. 245 churches were closed out of a total of 746 in only ten years. This issue has to be addressed, especially since closures are on track to reach 148 churches closed during the 2010s.
UPDATE: So, I was too curious not to look more closely at the closings in 2000-2009 after posting last night.
Here's a breakdown of church closings from 2000-2009 by years of active ministry.
The overall data: 215 church closings
Most years with closings: 2007 (40) and 2008 (31)
In parentheses, had the most closings overall, so the number of closings during these years is also listed:
After one and two years:
78 closings (33% during 2007, 2008: 26 closings)
Between three and seven years:
70 closings (28% during 2007, 2008: 20 closings)
Between eight and twelve years:
22 closings (18% during 2007, 2008: 4 closings at 11 and 12 years)
Between 13 to 25 years:
31 closings (21% during 2007, 2008: 7 closings)
Between 25 to 50 years:
22 closings (54% during 2007, 2008: 12 closings)
Between 51 to 101 years:
18 closings (61% during 2007, 2008: 11 closings)
Not sure what I expected to see. Maybe a lot of newer church plants fizzling out. It's not far from reality. One-third (36%) of the closings were within two years of active ministry. Expanding it to seven years, the percentage goes up to 70% of total closings in the decade. Eight out of ten church closures happened within twelve years of active ministry during the decade of the 2000s.
The benchmarks of two, seven, and twelve years again show importance in the lifespan and survival of multiplying churches.
The majority of older church closings in the 2000s happened during 2007 and 2008. These closures included all three century-old churches that were closed (with 46 more still open and active).
I wonder how many of the older local congregations closed due to heavy costs associated with older facilities. I wonder how many of these congregations were able to participate in planting other churches. It's my thought that a church not multiplying is just surviving a slow death, whether it takes two years, twelve years, or one hundred.
A little more than half of the closures were ethnic congregations (56%, 18 churches). The rate of closure is much higher than the current percentage of ethnically identified churches (38%, 230) among all active churches in 2016-2017 (605).
I wonder how many ethnic churches were subsidized into dependent relationships with supporting districts or churches, and closed after the subsidy was removed? Another issue could be lack of leadership development from within the congregation or context of the church. How many congregants testified to a call into ministry and enrolled in the course of study toward ordination on the districts? I'm not sure if these questions are relevant to each case, but it would be an interesting investigation.
The most populous area of north America is found along the northeastern seaboard between Portland, Maine in the north to Virginia Beach, Virginia in the south.
The I-95 corridor is the main artery of people movement through the Northeast megaregion.
According to the i95coalition.org, the full length of I-95 comprises:
The Northeast megaregion is the industrial heart of the I-95 corridor, and its northern half. This interstate connects New York City, the largest urban area in the U.S. for over a century, to Boston in the north to Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the U.S., to the growing suburbs surrounding Washington D.C. and the Chesapeake Bay in the north.
One-sixth of the U.S. population (52.3 million) will multiply by another 35% (18.2 million) to 70.8 million by the middle of the 21st century. If one of the tents of church multiplication is to look for "pockets of people," then this is the place to find them.
The next few posts will take a closer look at the long presence of the Church of the Nazarene in the Northeast megaregion.
This megaregion has the most potential right now of being the epicenter of kingdom life in north America. Even so, I'm a little reluctant to write about the Nazarene presence on the Arizona Sun megaregion.
I am afraid people will not like what the numbers say about Nazarene presence in this geographic area, mainly because of the political and ethnic boundaries that traverse the border between the United States and Mexico. I have heard a story from a local church on this megaregion, in which a good number of parishioners got up and left the sanctuary during a worship service when a Scripture passage was read in Spanish. It was a few years ago, but not too long ago to be easily forgotten by the first language Spanish speakers present on that morning.
Nazarene presence in the Arizona Sun megaregion includes several ethnic identities, regardless of national boundaries. Nazarene churches are found in a landmass that stretches not only from the high deserts and extinct volcanoes surrounding Flagstaff but also crosses the U.S.-Mexico border into the Sonora state of Mexico and its capital of Hermasillo.
Add into this mixture the local churches from the Nazarene districts known as Southwest Latin American and Southwest Native American that contribute a portion of local churches to this megaregion, some of these churches are less than a mile from churches on the Arizona district. Same neighborhood, same denomination, different organizational structure and missional strategy. The boundaries of church polity do not easily make sense any more than the national and political boundaries that dissect this geography.
I do not dismiss the ability or necessity for districts that are ethnically identified to self-regulate without intrusion from dominant cultural expectations. I think gathering in this way can be helpful at times, however . . . Geographically, politically, ethnically, economically, and administratively, this megaregion makes for a major headache in terms of missional strategy in local context. The context needs to be regarded as the same place. All local eyes are necessary to localize fully the church's presence there.
All local eyes are necessary to localize fully
I have already analyzed the Arizona district churches as part of the Southern California megaregion. So, as one reads the data analysis of SoCal it will include numbers from the Arizona Sun analysis. It is still important to take a specific look at the Arizona Sun megaregion as a particular context because of its complexity.
This analysis does not include every church from the Nazarene districts found within the Arizona Sun's general and estimated borders. There are a few churches on the southern and northern edges that are outside of the north-south corridor of U.S. Interstates of I-17, I-10, I-19, and Mexican Federal Highway 15. These highways string together the cities (north to south) of Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, and Hermasillo. There is Nogales, Arizona in the United States as well as a Nogales, Sonora in Mexico.
In this study, I have included some churches as northern boundaries. Along I-40, the northern border of this megaregion includes eastward from Ash Fork to Sun Valley churches (Arizona District) along Interstate-40, including Round Cedar (Native American) as a entrance into the Hopi Reservation.
Show Low traces the eastern border so as to include the several Native American reservations (Fort Apache and San Carlos) in eastern Arizona. The southern churches include Brisbee (Arizona District) and Agua Prieta (Mexico Northwest) along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as Guaymas and Ciudad Obregon to the south of Hermasillo (Mexico Northwest).
In other words, I made a judgment call to not include Yuma, Arizona to the west or the entire collection of local churches in the Hopi Reservation north of I-40, and churches north of Flagstaff, such as Cameron. I needed to be somewhat faithful to the notion that the Arizona Sun corridor unites this megaregion in terms of transportation, commerce, and education.
There is only one church over 1,000 in worship attendance (McMinnville in Oregon Pacific). There are six potential mission centers that run over 500. It could mean more weight and responsibility to equip, send, serve, and support the mission on the megaregion and beyond will be carried by the 27 congregations over 250.
Someone somewhere is going to need to rise up to the challenge.
Right now, the six largest congregations account for one of every four members as well as one of every four attenders in the Cascadia Megaregion.
Only 86 churches run over 75, these are the beginnings of an Oikos network, and 42% are under 45 offer outposts of ministry and presence throughout the megaregion.
The efforts on this megaregion are going to be uphill. There are 3.5 million more people expected in this area by 2050. Just to keep up with the population and its projected growth, using the metric of 1 church for 10,000 people, there will need to 1,190 churches. Right now, the Churches of the Nazarene report attendance in 188 local congregations.
We will need 1,000 more local churches in thirty years.
Welcome to our future.
The road will be long and winding . . .
if there even will be roads.
There are nine female pastors on the Cascadia Megaregion. Seven of them have been assigned since 2010.
The median worship attendance for churches with a female pastor is 16.
The largest congregation with a female pastor runs 43 for worship attendance.
If you're still keeping track, there is one female out of 20 assigned pastors serving on this megaregion. Nine out of 178 assigned pastors.
There are 178 assigned pastors on this megaregion.
They host a median worship attendance of 58, which is fairly consistent with the Great Lakes and Southern California megaregions.
There are 25 churches without an assigned pastor, only six of them are ethnic churches.
Pastoral tenure again creates a stir in the findings. The median tenure is six years, assigned since 2009. There are 36 pastors that have been in place for more than 12 years.
28% reflects the percentage of pastors assigned to the same church for more than ten years or less than three years. Less than half the pastors are in the middle range between four to nine years.
Interestingly enough, the average pastor tenure for churches over 200 in worship attendance is 8.6 years.
The numbers were fairly simple for this slide. There just are not many ethnic churches on this megaregion.
There are 26 church with 20 assigned pastors. Three of the twenty are women.
The ethnic members comprise 4% of the total for this megaregion (1,157 of 28,008).
The vague designation of "Multicultural" makes up the majority of the ethnically identified churches.
Nine are Asian, seven are Hispanic. one is Eritrean.
There were a total of 69 churches with ethnic designations that existed throughout the history of the districts in Cascadia. The two earliest were Swedish congregations on the Oregon Pacific District: Portland Scandinavian (1912-1922) and Killingsworth Street (1914-1915).
The first decade of the 21st century (2000-2009) had the most closings with 48.
2007 was the first year in which church closings were in the double digits. Twenty-three (23) churches closed in 2007. More churches closed in 2007 than entire decades except for the 1980s (32) and the 1990s (24).
The only other year in which more than ten churches closed was 2011 with 13.
The decade with the second most closings was the 1980s with 32. This decade also had the most newstarts and organized churches (72). With risk there is hope.
Like the Church of the Nazarene in the Southern California megaregion, the rate of closure is very similar to Cascadia. The same critical time period for church longevity is between seven to twelve years.
Is there a need for regular checkups at various points in a new church's lifespan, especially at the markers for two years, seven years, and twelve years?
One additional, and perhaps the most important, aspect for Cascadia is that the fact that one-sixth of churches (43) closed after only one year.
There is risk inherent in reproduction. Yet, being able to multiply is also a key sign of healthy maturation.
I chose to work on the Cascadia megaregion next because it is considered one of the least religious areas of the country. This place also offers the greatest missional opportunities on the US/Canada Region.
According to Pew Research Religious Landscape Survey (2014), less than half consider belief in God very important in their lives in the states of Washington (44%) and Oregon (45%). Only three out of ten residents attend religious services per week in Washington (30%) and Oregon (29%). These numbers are only gain significance in light of the projected population growth of this area.
The largest cities on the U.S. part of this megaregion are Seattle (#18 704,352) and Portland (#26 639,799), according to 2016 U.S. Census bureau estimates. If the populations of Tacoma (211,277), Bellingham (87,574), and Olympia (51,202) are added to Seattle, the population around Seattle rounds out at just over one million (1,054,405).
According to the website Statistics Canada, Vancouver has a population of 2,280,695, or more than half of the population of the province of British Columbia, and twice as many as the Seattle area. BUT, this is only two-thirds of the projected population increase by 2050.
Population in the Cascadia megaregion will increase by an estimated 3.5 million people by the year 2050, or three times the current population of the Seattle and vicinity. Using the metric of one church per 10,000 people, there will need to be 350 more churches just to keep up with the population.
Nazarenes have been present in this area for over a century. All of the work in this area is organized into three districts: Oregon Pacific (OP), Washington Pacific (WP), and Canada Pacific (CP).
The earliest organized church still active today is Ashland Gracepoint on the Oregon Pacific District (1905). There are actually 15 active churches in this megaregion that are more than a century old!
Of the sixteen churches over 100 years old, only one has been closed:
Ashland Gracepoint (OP), Portland First (OP), Monroe (WP), Everett First (WP), Seattle First (WP), Bellingham New Beginnings (WP), Marysville (WP), McMinnville (OP), Salem First (OP), Tillamook (OP), Newberg (OP), Portland Moreland (OP-closed), Canby (OP), Countryside (OP), Portland Rose City (OP), Ridgefield (WP)
What happened in the 1960s and 1970s? The troughs are pronounced in these decades.
One of the more interesting statistics is related to churches that were started but not organized.
88% of churches started but not organized were eventually closed (100 out of 125).
This is the first of several blog posts about Church of the Nazarene Presence in the Cascadia megaregion.
I use the term "mission center" in a specific manner. I believe there are some churches that are geared not to stockpile believers in a single building but rather these centers are meant to send believers into the surrounding communities. These churches are going to see many called into equipping ministries, maybe even full time. They will host training seminars, family workshops, and marriage retreats. They will hire multiple pastors, staff and support employees. They will generously give toward global missionary efforts, and maybe even produce resources that smaller congregations can use. Mark Bane, I think, would call these "high impact" churches.
It is also notable that one-third of the churches on the SoCal megaregion are less than 45 in worship attendance, and only ten percent are more than 250 in attendance. There is a heavy burden for these mission centers to be centers of training and support WITHIN the megaregion.
I do not believe it is a missional responsibility to make larger churches of the smaller ones, however. These small churches are outposts, serving communities and neighborhoods where a larger one cannot go. More of these smaller churches means: rapid multiplication will more likely happen, more leaders will be identified, more disciples made, more compassionate ministries will engage and transform communities, more widespread influence will be felt locally through Nazarene presence.
Remember that there will be 15 million more people living in the SoCal megaregion in 2050. Add the seven million from the Arizona Sun megaregion and it's now 22,000,000. Using the Southern Baptist metric of one church presence in a population of 10,000, it will take nearly 2,000 more local congregations, in addition to what is already there, just to be minimally present in this part of the world. In the next thirty years. The mission centers and smaller organic churches will need to work together strategically to make an impact in Southern California.
Just a small side note that Riverside, California is about 160 miles (300 km) from Porterville, CA in the north to Ensenada, Mexico in the south. It is only 60 miles from the coastline. It might be a good place for gathering, training, and sending. If you've been through this area, the new highways and construction projects reveal that there are others that also see the value in this location.
And, here's a personal note. For the past year, I have wondered why Pastor Kevin McDonald left central Kansas for Gateway Church of the Nazarene in Murrieta, California, located just south of Riverside. I first met him at a DCPI training in Joplin, Missouri. I've heard his miraculous story, we've all seen him create Level 5 multiplying churches. I trust that he is led of God, therefore I have also trusted his judgment in making this move. I realized now after this week that Kevin has simply followed God into the geographic center of, and the gateway into, the Southern California megaregion. I cannot imagine a better place for Pastor Kevin to be than right where he is.
In my study of the Great Lakes megaregion, I included a slide on large churches in the Great Lakes megaregion, so I have also added one below. The ratios of membership and worship are quite similar between the Great Lakes and SoCal.
Just imagine for a minute, seriously take 60 second to stop and imagine the the ramifications of the scope of responsibility held by these four large churches for the mission of the church "to make disciples in the nations." Every month more than ten percent of Nazarenes in Southern California attends four churches, hears one of four pastors preach, worships together in one of four ways, gains the ability to think theologically about what it means to be Christian, and enters into the mission of the denomination because of four local churches.
I mean, these things probably happen, and I'm probably overselling the influence to some extent, but the possibility of influence rests in these four gatherings every week. The four churches below show that they are discipling, or potentially discipling, one of every ten Nazarenes in the SoCal megaregion.
These four churches also have a history, and it would be a wonderful thing to hear the stories behind the people that have entered faith and served through these congregations over the years. Between them, these local churches are older congregations with an average of 75 years of active ministry between them. There are lessons to be learned from these places and people.