Again, pretty straight forward information from this infograph.
Tucson is the midway point between Hermasillo and Flagstaff, right around the 400 km mark.
About half of the churches are 75 or more in attendance, and so they could plausibly support a pastor.
A trend is developing among the megaregions studied so far (Northeast, SoCal, Great Lakes, Cascadia) including Arizona Sun. About one quarter of Nazarenes in this megaregion are being discipled by a small segment of the churches. In this case, three-percent of the local churches are making 25% of the disciples called Nazarene in the Arizona Sun megaregion.
Churches that run 600 in worship attendance or more are designated (by me, at least) as missional centers, serving as a base for missional strategy, training, and resourcing. They give missional support beyond finances to the other churches in the megaregion, if they wanted to. This megaregion does not have this luxury. There would need to be a strong contextual, outward orientation. Is there a missional base here? I really do not know.
These blog posts on Nazarene presence in megaregions are meant to be descriptive of a snapshot in time, to give a starting point for further questions, to assist those making prescriptive decisions in the megaregion, to be used by those setting missional strategy. So, the need for missional centers is something to think about.
One element to the missional strategy of the Church of the Nazarene is to go where they church is not yet present. I think it also includes places where the church used to be. I would also add: it is where current churches are not yet oriented. This is a megaregion with four distinct polities of organization within one context. How long will it take to re-orient to such a diverse context? Five to twelve million people (see below) are dying to know if the news will be good for the Arizona Sun megaregion.
How long will it take to re-orient to
One-third of churches in this cultural mosaic are ethnically identified. This is no surprise.
Of the ethnic churches on this megaregion, two of every three is Hispanic. Again, no surprise. (NOTE: Does not include Mexico Northwest Churches).
What is surprising is that one of every five members attend these churches.
And, only about one of every seven churches have more than 75 in worship attendance.
There is a lot of history here with the earliest church organized in 1946.
The challenge for this megaregion in my estimation is to create a shared vision for engaging this context with the gospel. This vision needs to cross many barriers--languages, traditions, histories, prejudices.
The hardest and most difficult task will be to accept the answer to the question: "What is good news for this context?"
t is truly a missionary context for all those in ministry in this place, and grace will be need to make anything worthwhile to last if it may happen at all.
This infograph speaks loudly enough without much commentary.
Interestingly, there are three male & female pastoral teams: two are spouses, and another is an associate along with a retired DS as interim.
The traditional cultures enmeshed within this context may not make it easier to provide routes for women into ministry as a senior pastor. The viability of some of these congregations may make it impossible without multiple charges. Almost all of the female ministers in senior or co-pastoral ministry have been assigned to their current church within the last seven years.
Sticking to the theme of durability on this megaregion, pastors stay for a long time. Notably the five longest tenured pastors are from the Latin American and Native American districts with tenures of 42 years (Latin American - Chandler Primera), 39 years (Native American - Kinlani Church), and three more at 24 to 25 years.
This district also has the fewest churches on a megaregion without an assigned pastor. Interestingly, there is a lay pastor and interim pastor that were not in the data, but had to be identified in the District Journal for Arizona. Still, one of ten churches do not have an assigned pastor in this snapshot of the megaregion.
The intermingling of cultures, and among very traditional and slow-changing ones, will make clergy development an interesting process. I'll leave that here. -- Okay, I'll say one thing--can someone minister in this area without functional capacity in the Spanish language, at a minimum. An awareness of the cultural history of what Colin Woodard calls El Norte would also be helpful.
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.
Aritz ona is a Basque phrase for "good (ona) oaks (aritz)." Word has it that early Spanish explorers and missionaries gave this name to the Sonoran desert when they first saw the grand abundance of this place. Spanish missionary Father Kino first noted the circular migratory routes of the local indigenous peoples. They would move in a circular direction according to seasons for the best hunting grounds and growing cycles, following the footsteps of ancient ancestors. N.B.: Today's U.S.-Mexico border transects this area.
There are many similarities to the missions of southern Texas and along the California coast: same missions, similar history, different contexts. All this to say, this is a context of continual transition.
Father Kino established not only left a trail of missions in present-day Arizona and Sonora, but was the first to begin large scale ranching and skill training in blacksmithing and construction. He opposed enslaving indigenous peoples in nearby silver mines, but it happened. Commerce left a legacy not far removed from the present-day. The Jesuits and later Benedictines were pushed out by the secular Mexican government which was later seceded by Americans as they moved west.
One-third of active churches were started or organized since 2000. And, of those organized, nineteen of twenty-one are still active.
Until the 1980s, the decades with the most churches organized were the 1950s (12) and 1980s (17). Twelve organized in the 1950s are still active, as well as twelve from the 1980s. The importance of organization is not to be underestimated.
Average years of active ministry among all ethnic groups is strong--23 years among Hispanics, 35 among Whites/English speaking, and 50 years among Native Americans. What is amazing is that there are 25 active years in ministry on average among all churches in this megaregion.
Durability is a quality right at home among these churches in the desert locale.
The next point does not have to be belabored, but a trend is developing around church closings.
The trend continues with closing churches on a predictable basis. By the end of the first two years see one-fifth of churches will close (10 - 22%), one-half within seven years (23 - 50%), and six out of ten within twelve years (27 - 58%). By twenty years, seven out of ten churches will have closed on this megaregion. This is true in the Northeast, Cascadia, and Southern California megaregions.
There is a need for training church planters not only at start-up, but for the two-year mark, seven-year mark, and twelve-year mark.
2007 was the year with the most closures with eleven. This year is also consistent with many church closings in the Northeast (40), Cascadia (37), and Southern California (26) megaregions.
There is something that cannot be looked past. Consider the population numbers now (5.7 million in 2010) and later (12.3 million in 2050).
Using the metric of one church per 10,000 people as a way to gauge presence in an area, Nazarenes have 89 churches where there should be 570.
In three decades there will be a need for 1,230 churches. There is a wave of people entering this area, and the church may not be ready to engage this context for its next demographic shift.
This is like Wiley scrambling up a cliff, not quite catching up to the Roadrunner, and in the end being outwitted again. The context will always matter in missional strategy.
This is going to be just a brief reflection on the data below.
Reminder--Missional Centers are churches that are not the largest churches but usually run between 600 to 800 in worship attendance. They have multiple staff, extensive programming, well-established facilities, and experienced pastors. They typically anchor district events and personnel. They have self-educated, lifelong learners, generous, visionary, and engaged lay leadership. These churches are what Rev. Mark Bane calls "high impact" churches.
Nine churches fit this criteria in the Northeast megaregion. But, get this. They claim one out eight members, and one of every six worship attenders!
One-third of the megaregion's churches run 75 or more. This is the bare minimum number for what Alan Hirsch refers to as "oikos" communities. Seventy-five will be a group that has a designated leader, draws several groups of people together on a regular basis, and engages in ministry that seeks to multiply.
Half of the churches are 45 or less in worship attendance. I wonder if a few of these churches could not be gathered into "oikos" communities.
Let me do a little thought experiment. Let's bring together several strategic concepts--Alan Hirsch's Hirsh's oikos communities, Mike Breen's missional communities, and Francis Asbury's circuit rider into one organic network.
What if there are leaders trained as shepherds over the smallest churches, or missional communities (less than 45). These churches are places of prayer where people are cared for and discipled, operate on low-overhead expenses, maybe have a volunteer or bivocational pastor.
Of these leaders, a few leaders could be designated as oikos network leaders of a church or several churches (total attenders of 75 to 90). They will probably be full-time or in a few cases bivocational, but mostly available to nurture and lead several of these churches. Nazarene polity recognizes churches in groups, such as mission areas or zones.
The missional centers will be places of encouragement and education, as well as places from which oikos network leaders and missional community shepherds might be called. A staff member at this church could provide apostolic (strategic and missional) oversight for oikos network leaders.
Just thinking aloud.
Longevity assisted by adaptability
One of the data points about large churches on this megargion that jumped off the page was pastoral tenure. Three of the largest churches have pastoral tenure over two decades.
These churches also average over 60 years of average ministry. Again, the Northeast megaregion exemplifies longevity even in the midst of great diversity. This is a quandary.
One expects great diversity to equal continual change. Maybe longevity is aided by adaptability in the midst of diversity. Therefore, change is possible.
The sheer amount of diversity in the Nazarene presence is astounding when compared to other parts of the country. Over one-third of all churches and members are in an identified minority ethnic group other than White or English-speaking.
Over one-third of these ethnic churches have more than 75 in worship attendance. They can support full-time ministers and a place of meeting.
Not surprisingly, living up to its historical identity as an ethnically diverse context, Metro New York district has by far the most ethnically identified churches. It was surprising to see so many more ethnic churches on the Virginia district than on the Philadelphia district. This is unexpected, except maybe for those living in northern Virginia.
The oldest congregation that identifies as multicultural is in Cambridge MA, organized in 1899, which has a wonderful history on its own. The most recent is an Hispanic congregation in Philadelphia in 2017.
The two largest ethnic identities are Hispanic and Haitian. These groups are not only unique within the majority context but also different from each other. One of the difficulties is leadership development: identifying leaders, mentoring them, and finding places of ministry. This is a monumental task for ethnic churches in the Northeast megaregion, especially as some cultural backgrounds are laden with strict age- and gender-based hierarchies of leadership. And, many new immigrants may not readily identify with Christianity as a significant cultural influence, as might be the case in Hispanic and Haitian communities.
This is encouraging.
On the Northeast megaregion, there are 62 women in senior pastoral leadership, half in place prior to 2011. Until PazNaz called Rev. Tara Beth Leach, the largest church with a female pastor was on this megaregion: Rev. Rebecca Lum at Plattsburgh CotN in Upstate New York.
Twelve percent (12%) of all pastors are women on this megaregion. This is a significantly larger percentage than other parts of the country. And, they have ministry experience in a range of churches and contexts.
Twenty-five of the female pastors are in ethnically-identified churches, so about 40%.
Eight of the churches are over 75 in average worship attendance, and three are over 100.
Still, the median church size for a church with a female pastor is quite low--around 30--while the overall median church size in the Northeast megaregion is 45.
All of this notwithstanding, the Northeast megaregion is a good place to go to find female mentors for ministry.
About one-third of pastors have been in place under three years in other parts of the US/Canada. In the Northeast megaregion, the rate goes up to around 30% in their current assignments within five years. There might be more reluctance to move around, maybe not enough opportunity to move.
Median tenure for pastors is 2009. So, about half of pastors have been in place since 2009.
Median worship attendance also increases to 50. There are also more churches in the +150 range.
Fascinating that the longest tenure for a pastor is 55 years (Bethel Cumberland MD).
It no longer surprises me as it should to see so many churches without an assigned pastor. There are 105 churches without an assigned pastor at this point in time during the reports given in 2016 and 2017. Clergy development is behind the wave.
Remember, as these numbers jump off the page, we are looking at a descriptive snapshot of current ministry activity and Nazarene presence. What will be needed--a prescriptive account--is not being considered yet.
These numbers are intimidating and invigorating all at the same time. What seems like a disastrous tidal wave can be a chance to ride the perfect wave.
The current population in the Northeast megaregion is 52.3 million. At one church for every 10,000 people, this is 5,230 churches. In 2025, there will be a modest bump of six million more people. By 2050, there will be 70.8 million, or a need for 7,080 churches. With pastors. There were, in this snapshot of time, 605 active churches reporting attendance, and only 516 pastors.
These numbers are intimidating and invigorating all at the same time. What seems like a disastrous tidal wave can be a chance to ride the perfect wave.
I cannot help but notice the ethnically diverse makeup of this megaregion's population and wonder how pastors will be prepared to traverse such a diverse context. Intercultural competence will not be optional in the future of Nazarene presence in the the Northeast megaregion.