Finally, I have been able to produce more descriptive research on Nazarene presence in US megaregions. The megaregion for the Southern California encompasses six Nazarene districts. Almost one out of ten people in the United States inhabit this area, and 15 million more people will be added in the next three decades. It is also the largest concentration of Nazarenes in North America outside of the state of Ohio.
There is almost a century of Nazarene presence in this part of the world due to the First Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles, but long-established churches are also located in Bakersfield in the north to Ensenada in the south.
Note well the inclusion of the Mexico Northwest District as a significant part of this megaregion. Population centers do not always stay neatly within established political or ecclesial boundaries.
The 1950s seemed to the hey-day of expanding Nazarene presence in Southern California. Of the 100 churches organized in the 1950s, eight out of ten are still active in ministry today. Notable is the fact that there were more than twice as many churches organized in the 1950s than all of the 2000s so far.
The next decade to see significant activity in organizing new churches was not until the 1980s. There were seventeen churches organized in 1989, the most in any single year.
There is a risk to organizing churches that do not last. In the 1950s and the 1980s, there were several organized churches that only stayed active for less than five years. The intervening decades were more adverse to this kind of risk, and also realized fewer churches started and organized. I wonder if a church that exists as an active presence for such a short time might be just the time and place for such a congregation. Who knows who will be won to the Lord or called into ministry during such a brief window of time? Maybe it's a kairos moment--the perfect opportunity--that seems insignificant in human terms but means so much more in terms of spiritual impact.
There also seems to be a significant difference for churches in the status of being started versus being organized. Of the 284 churches STARTED BUT NOT ORGANIZED only 189, or 66%, remain active. Organized churches seem to have a better chance at a longer and active presence.
NOTE: Las Vegas is considered part of the Arizona District and is part of this research.
Not to put a damper on the statistics so far, but it is necessary to note the churches that have closed.
The oldest congregation to be closed was the 115 year old Tijuana BC Primera in 2004. It was one of 18 churches closed in 2004 including churches around 50 years old or more: Altadena Compassionate Heart (74 years), Palomar Mountain (58 years), and Fontana First (58 years), and Col Azteca Rc Son (49 years).
The seven to twelve year period is the most critical for a local congregation's lifespan. Half will be shuttered by the seven year mark. Seven of ten that close will do so within this time frame. Only 21% of pastors (59 of 281) have tenures within this seven to twelve year mark.
The first decade of the new century (2000-2009) was difficult with 78 church closings. By comparison there were 80 closings from 1895 to 1940 in this megaregion. Right now, the 2010s have more closings than the 1970s and is on pace to close 94 churches.
There is a stigma for closing churches that is needs to be remedied. In the 1980s, thirty churches were closed but 17 were organized in 1989, the last year of the decade. There is a lifespan for a local church, and there is comfort in that as some churches will close, others will soon be opened, as long as the church is multiplying throughout the megaregion.
More data wlll follow, so stay tuned.
Resources and Links