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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.