Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where are the Churches?

David Dockery stated, "Most churches are found in rural areas while most people live in urban and suburban areas" (see session 12 of the "Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and teh future of Denominationalism" conference). I have obvserved this statement to be true quite often, though there are exceptions.

The national average in America is that there is one house of worship (church, synogogue, mosque, cult, etc.) for every 1,000 people. But for some reason, churches tend to be more densly clustered in places where the population is quite sparce. For example, I have two friends who pastor churches in northern Minnisota in a town of about 800 people. There are 6 churches in that community- or one church for every 133 people. On the other hand, I live in Old Bridge, NJ. Our township website lists 21 houses of worship (and I could only recommend about 1/3 of them as Christian). But there are over 60,000 people in the township of Old Bridge. That means that we have one church for every 3,000 people. Stated differently, there are 20 times more churches per person in a rural community in MN than there are in a suburban community of NJ.

Before coming home to NJ, I lived in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Chambersburg is the county seat of Franklin county. Franklin county is a rural area. It has over 400 churches serving about 129,000 people. This means that there is one church in Franklin county for every 325 people in that county. This county has approximately three times more churches per person than the national average.

You may be wondering why we should care where the churches in America are as long as we have plenty of good ones. But the sad fact is that there are heavily populated sections of our country that do not have as significant of a gospel witness as they should have. Many people recognize the need for more churches to be started. I would encourage us to be strategic in seeking to start more churches in areas that are "under-churched." I trust that more God will raise up more churches in central NJ and other parts of this country so that He will be glorified as He draws more people in these communitites to Himself.


  1. The question we struggle with and seek to change in our cities is where are the churches that are open 24/7? Where are the "fueling places for the spirit" as it were? We can go get gas for our cars day and night, we can get food for our bellies at any time, but is there a place where we can fill our spirits at any time? There's a statistic that says that the American church has the greatest amount of least used square footage. The average church is open only once or twice a week. We are trying to establish a place of worship and prayer that is open 24/7. Currently, we are open from 6am-6pm and a few nights til midnight... It's a start.

  2. Great stuff Jay. Where are you doing this?

  3. By the way Dave...there are actually 8 churches here...not 6 :-). And I'm with you in praying that we would be more strategic and aggressive about planting churches where people are. That is exactly what we are doing in the Assemblies of God here in MN. We are planting 5-10 new churches per year (appox.) and strategically doing this where there is population and where it is felt that there is not sufficient Gospel witness.

  4. Northern Indiana. We have recently moved to a converted strip mall - we have about 50,000 sq. ft. It's real exciting though and the Lord is moving.

  5. I think the real question is "Where are the people?" It amazes me how far people will travel to find a church with the "right fit." Gone are the days when people went to their local church. It makes it hard for a church that wants to serve the community since the community is much larger now (trying to avoid using the word global). Anyway, I think church growth is more about personal invitation. If 1/2 the people in church were truly passionate about their life in Christ then they would attract others who want that.

    Pat D.