One of the surprising insights from this data is that the largest ethnic demographic among churches in this megaregion are Hispanic. One would have expected Black/African-American.
About 9% of the membership is found in an ethnic church, which comprises about 15% of the churches.
Only one out of five (21%) ethnic churches have more than 75 in worship attendance, or a sustainable congregation that would be able to pay for space, a senior pastor, and missional endeavors. I do not think this kind of church entity is the goal, necessarily, and if it is not then more organic approaches to church multiplication will need to be considered. This is not just the situation among ethnic churches but across the board among all types of church demographics.
Two-thirds of the ethnically-designated congregations are in the North Carolina, South Carolina,, Tennessee and Mississippi. Opinion alert: I think that the ethnic designation needs to be dropped. I would favor a way for local church pastors to report churches by how many languages are spoken rather than by ethnicity or race.
Large Churches and Missional Centers | Nazarene Presence in the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion (1898-2017)
The significance of these infographs is found in the first first data point:
There is only one church in this megaregion that is over 1,000 in worship attendance. But that's only part of it.
There is an even more startling statistic:
Three people attending worship out of every 100 in this megaregion are attending this particular church: Nashville (TN) First Church of the Nazarene.
Notably, only three churches in the top 20 in worship attendance were started after 1950 in 1977, 1990, and 2016. One of them is a predominantly Hispanic congregation.
There are also only five other churches over 500 in attendance, and three of them are in the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee. The other two are less than 80 miles apart along I-20 in South Carolina. This is important because I consider churches between 500 to 900 as missional centers: hubs of missional activity like leadership and discipleship training, financial anchors, mission support. These churches become a critical mass for new works to be developed. There's only five and in only two locations along a long geographic setting in which Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham, Knoxville, and Memphis, as well as Nashville, need to have missional impact throughout the megaregion.
One of every ten members and worship attendees will be in these six churches on an average Sunday morning in the Piedmont Atlantic megaregion.
There are only 136 churches that average more than 75 in attendance. I consider this number to signify a sustainable congregation that can support missional endeavors, a full-time pastor and some sort of meeting space. I do not believe this kind of church is necessarily the goal but if not then there needs to be openness to more organic forms of ministry or a re-consideration in how the mission is funded.
The geographic center is along I-85 to the northeast of Atlanta in Commerce, Georgia.
There is not much commentary needed here. The numbers are fairly consistent with other megaregions in this study.
The congregation size at the top end is much smaller than it is in other megaregions, but but the median attendance is about the same at 30.
Although about 25 women are serving as senior pastors, it only makes up 6.5% of the total number of pastors. Half of them have been serving since 2012.
There are about six female pastors for every 100 serving in this megaregion.
There are a few datapoints that jump of the chart.
I think it is important to remember that only half of the pastors have been assigned to their present assignment since only 2013. Almost one-third of them for less than three years. One wonders if this is enough time to get to know a some place in-depth.
Half of the assigned pastors are serving churches that typically run less than 54 on a given Sunday.
Here is the most troubling data point, in my opinion: There are 58 churches without an assigned pastor at the time this demographic snapshot was taken. 438 churches are active, so that means about 13% of churches had no pastoral leadership. More than one out of ten churches were without a senior pastor. Questions come to mind: Are there not enough qualified pastors? Is it taking too long to replace vacant pulpits? Who is preaching in these pulpits in the gaps? Who will provide biblical literacy, theological coherency, and missional leadership? Is there a systemic malfunction in producing pastors that needs to be dealt with? So many questions.
Another sobering fact. There are 380 current pastors on this megaregion and 318 in the Texas Triangle even though they have similar membership numbers.
Texas Triangle = 51,107 members with 318 assigned pastors
Piedmont Atlantic = 51,916 members with 380 assigned pastors
If that number does not do it, maybe the following ratios will do it,
the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion has
one senior assigned pastor per 46,315 inhabitants according to 2010 data.
If the Church of the Nazarene in this megaregion maintains this current number of pastors, this ratio will increase to:
1 senior pastor to 57,105 inhabitants by 2025
1 senior pastor to 82,368 inhabitants by 2050
The sobering fact is "if the COTN maintains this current number of pastors . . . ." There is not yet a provision for multiplying this number.
The year 1941 had 32 church closings. One wonders about the impact of World War 2, not only of the many men entering military service but also others moving north to work in the factories to build the war machine.
The next time more than 20 churches were closed did not happen until 2002, and, again in 2004. One wonders again what impact the Global War on Terror had upon moving young men and women into military service and out of their communities.
The 2000s over all were not very good for church longevity. All of the 16 churches with over 75 years of active ministry were closed since 2005. Of these 16 churches, ten were closed in or after 2012. There were 135 churches closed in the 2000s, almost as much as the 1940s (77) and 1950s (68) combined.
Seventy (70) churches closed after 50 years of active ministry.
The percentage of churches closed within two years, seven years, and twelve years remains consistent with the other megaregions, for examples: Arizona Sun Church Closings, Southern California Church Closings, Northeast Church Closings.
28% closed within two years
52% closed within seven years
66% closed within twelve years
The Piedmont Atlantic is named for the swath of people that have been funneling into the foothills of the Appalachians from the Atlantic seaboard to the Mississippi River.
The former boundaries do not work, and might even restrict how a political body, business corporation or church group interacts with the people living around them.
In this attempt to look at the Nazarene presence, it has taken some time to determine the working boundaries of the megaregion as shown below as well as determining which churches on the seven districts would be examined as part of this research and which ones would be left out.
On the seven Nazarene districts, the churches included in the study are in the parentheses. These churches include ones that are active as well as those that have been closed.
Total churches on the seven districts: 1496 churches
Alabama North: two churches not included (Saragossa and Cordova); (181 of 183)
Alabama South: 14 churches not included, separately 36 churches on Gulf Coast megaregion (70 of 120)
East Tennessee: 11 churches not included (195 of 206)
Georgia: 77 churches not included (152 of 230)
MidSouth: 121 churches not included / 31 churches on Gulf Coast megaregion (300 of 452)
North Carolina: 5 churches not included (155 of 160)
South Carolina: 37 churches not included (108 of 145)
335 churches not included in the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion research
1161 churches included in the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion research
NOTE: The MidSouth district stretches from Knoxville, Tennessee to Biloxi, Mississippi.
This map was my first working map of the megaregion. I decided later to stay closer to the actual outline of the megaregion. I draw a line from Greenville, NC to Augusta, GA on the east side, basically following I-95. For the southern edge toward and through Alabama, I follow route 80 from Macon to Montegomery and route 82 north to Birmingham and then straight west to I-55/Batesville in Mississippi. I also include churches north of I-40 between Nashville and Knoxville in Tennessee, particularly between Knoxville and the Appalachian forests since this area has a growing population. I did not include the coastal cities of North Carolina and South Carolina beyond I-95 since these are giong to be areas usually populated by tourists, investors, and speculators.
Of note is the gap between the northern halves of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. There are numerous churches to the north of I-20/I-85 corridor (Montgomery, Meridian, and Jackson), and then a gap until the Gulf Coast along the I-10 corridor.
The infograph speaks for itself but wanted to point out the sheer activity generated during the 1940s and 1950s. There were 356 churches started during these two decades (334 were soon organized). This is, of course, during the height of the Baby Boom in the years following World War II and the first years of the G.I. Bill.
Surprisingly, of the churches started in the 1940s and 1950s, thirty-seven percent (37%) are still active. This matches the percentage of churches overall that are still active (438 out of 1161).
The most churches started in a single year was 1949. All eighteen are still active.
I also want to point out the fact that 35 churches are still active after 100 years of ministry.
I decided to tie these two infographs together since there is not much difference between the two slides.
Key information from each of them:
There is only one church over 1,000 in attendance in the entire megaregion (Bethany OK First).
There three churches over 600 in attendance. For every 100 people in a Nazarene church on a Sunday morning in the Texas Triangle megaregion, thirteen of them are in these four churches. Two of them are in Oklahoma City and one is in Houston. The two in Oklahoma City are over 100 years old.
Let's look at the an expanded view of sizeable congregations. I usually look at churches over 600 but since there are only four that fit this criterion, and I already looked at them in the previous infograph, I opened up the criteria to include the 16 total churches with more than 250 in attendance. That's right, sixteen churches have over 250 on Sunday in the Texas Triangle megaregion.
For every 100 Nazarene attenders in church on Sunday morning in the Texas Triangle, 28 of them are in one of these sixteen congregations. Nine of these churches are in Oklahoma; seven are in Texas.
Of the 331 churches reporting attendance, four out of 10 have less than 45 in attendance on a Sunday morning.
Average attendance is around 80; median attendance is 49 among all churches reporting attendance.
Dallas, Texas is the geographic crossroads of the Texas Triangle megaregion.
Just another straight forward infograph. There are sixteen female pastors, or 5% of the total number fo 318 assigned pastors in the Texas Triangle Megaregion.
Three-fourths of the female pastors have served eight or fewer years. Median attendance at a church with a female pastor is 45; overall, the median average attendance with an assigned pastor regardless of gender is 54.
One key piece of information from this megaregion, though, is that more than half of the female pastors (9 of 16) serve an ethnic church.
Much of this infograph is pretty straightforward. There are a few interesting morsels, however.
Sixteen churches reported zero attendance: eight of them have an assigned pastor.
Add in the 45 churches reporting at least one person in attendance but less than twenty total, and only four churches are dual charges (one pastor for two churches).
38 churches or about 10% do not have an assigned pastor.
Seventy percent (70%) of churches have an assigned pastor and an reported average attendance of less than 75 for worship. Median attendance at a church with an assigned pastor is 54. What does this say about the sustainability over the long term for paying a pastor/family a viable living wage? I've heard some say that 45 in attendance is enough to support a pastor. As a former bivocational pastor of a church that size, I know there was a choice between a full-time pastor or a decent facility. I would put the viability of a full-time ministry at a church around at least 75 in attendance. There are 122 churches that fit this category--that's only one-third of the churches in this megaregion. In one of the fastest growing populations in North America. This. Is. Sobering.
Half of the assigned pastors have been at their churches since 2011. Thirteen of the sixteen female pastors have been in place since 2009.
Thirty percent of pastors have been in place for less than four years.
I will probably say this again, but this megaregion is one of the fasting growing populations in North America. We have 318 pastors in 346 active congregations. To reach 25 million people. The harvest, as Jesus said, is plentiful, but the workers are few. That's one senior pastor per 78,616 people in this megaregion.
NOTE: This research only includes the assigned pastor as the senior pastor, and does not include paid or volunteer staff/associate pastors.
Of the 346 active Nazarene churches in the Texas Triangle megaregion, 110 are ethnic churches ( 32%).
Ten percent of ethnic churches on this megaregion have female pastors, and 17% do not have an assigned pastor.
15.5% of the total Nazarene membership in the Texas Triangle is found in ethnic churches. (7,948 total members at ethnic churches).
Hispanic churches comprise 66% of the ethnic churches on the megaregion (73 out of 110).
Eighty-two of the ethnic churches are located in Texas (75%).
One-fourth of ethic churches have more than 75 attendees on average.