Churches on this year’s Outreach 100 lists of the Largest and Fastest-Growing Churches in America are pursuing many of the same growth strategies and values, including worship locations at multiple sites, breaking into smaller groups throughout the week, and serving their local communities. The lists appear in Outreach magazine’s 2011 Outreach 100 Special Issue, published Sept. 15, 2011.
To survey churches for this report, Outreach again partnered with LifeWay Research for the fifth consecutive year. Led by LifeWay Research President and Outreach columnist Ed Stetzer, researchers contacted more than 25,000 churches to gather the self-reported data used to compile the lists. The listings are based on February and March weekend attendance averages, not membership.
This year’s research reveals that an overwhelming 75 of the 100 churches on the Largest list reported that they are using a multisite approach to ministry. Of those 75 churches, 19 have two campuses, while the remaining 56 have three or more campuses. Among the 100 Fastest-Growing churches, 59 are multisite, with 38 churches on the list having three or more sites. Four in 10 of the Fastest-Growing churches are meeting in a single location.
“It appears that once churches reach a certain level of growth, they are choosing to expand via satellite campuses,” Stetzer said. “This annual profile is an opportunity to see things that benefit churches of every size, shape and location. It’s also helpful for us to see what these churches have in common, what kinds of strategies God seems to be using across the board in getting the Gospel to unbelievers.”
The common denominators of multisite, small groups and community engagement surface throughout the 2011 Outreach 100 Special Issue, including in-depth profiles of churches on the Fastest-Growing list, a virtual tour of the Top 10 Fastest-Growing churches and articles featuring leaders of churches on both Outreach 100 lists.
“The stories we tell in this issue remind us that the Outreach 100 lists represent transformed lives—people in a local church that shared the Gospel with someone and people once outside a church who heard and believed that Good News and are now part of a shared community,” Outreach Editor Lindy Lowry said.
The issue also focuses on a developing conversation among church leaders related to measuring ministry impact and the technology solutions leaders are implementing to help gauge their success.
“We’re very aware that many churches are looking for new ways to help them measure their church’s ministry effectiveness in addition to attendance and giving,” Lowry said. “In this issue, we’re engaging in the ‘new metrics’ conversation, examining both the benefits and challenges, and posing the question ‘How do you measure ministry impact?’ to the more than 30 leaders we interviewed for articles in this issue.”
Jud Wilhite, senior pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas (No. 7 Largest and No. 48 Fastest-Growing), responds to that question in an in-depth interview centering on the challenges and opportunities of doing ministry in a city hit hard by economic recession. Wilhite shares how his church purposed to meet the community’s practical needs and how his church has grown in attendance and matured spiritually in the midst of suffering.
The 2011 Largest list includes churches with an attendance of more than 5,994, while this year’s Fastest-Growing list includes churches with attendance greater than 1,000; a numerical gain of 249 or more; and a percentage gain of at least 6.5 percent. Rankings for Fastest-Growing Churches are determined by factoring both percentage growth and numerical gain.
Fastest-Growing Churches Fast Facts
● Some 638,693 people are represented by the combined attendance of the Outreach 100 Fastest-Growing Churches in America. These churches added 97,168 people over their combined previous year’s attendance, an average of more than 970 per church.
● The state with the most churches on the Fastest-Growing list (11) is Texas. California has nine, followed by Florida (eight), Arizona (seven) and Georgia (six).
● Combined, the 100 Fastest-Growing churches represent 246 worship sites.
● The youngest church on the Fastest-Growing list is Transformation Church, Fort Mill, S.C. (No. 14), founded in 2010. The oldest church is Huntsville First United Methodist Church, Huntsville, Ala. (No. 74), founded in 1808.
Largest Churches Fast Facts
● Some 1,050,923 people are represented by the combined attendance of the Outreach 100 Largest Churches in America.
● Combined, the 100 Largest churches represent 328 worship sites. Community Christian Church, Naperville, Ill. (No. 78), has the most with 14, followed by Seacoast Church, Mount Pleasant, S.C. (No. 31), with 12.
● Texas has the most Largest churches with 17, followed by California with 15, Georgia (nine), Florida (six), and Illinois and Ohio with five each.
● Almost half (47) of the Largest churches identify themselves as “nondenominational.”
● The youngest church on the Largest list is Elevation Church, Charlotte, N.C. (No. 51), founded in 2006. The oldest is First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga. (No. 81), founded in 1837.
Top 5 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
(church name, location, pastor, growth by percent, by number)
1. Richmond Outreach Center, Richmond, Va., Geronimo Aguilar (83 percent, +2,530)
2. Elevation Church, Charlotte, N.C., Steven Furtick (48 percent, +2,744)
3. Real Life Church, Valencia, Calif., Rusty George (111 percent, +1,763)
4. The Potter’s House Church of Denver, Denver, Colo., E. Christopher Hill (51 percent, +1,800)
5. Christ’s Church of the Valley, Peoria, Ariz., Donald J. Wilson (29 percent, +4,049)
Top 5 Largest U.S. Churches
(church name, location, pastor, attendance)
1. Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas, Joel Osteen, (43,500)
2. North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Ga., Andy Stanley (27,429)
3. Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Ill., Bill Hybels (24,377)
4. Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Ky., Dave Stone (20,801)
5. Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif., Rick Warren (19,742)
For more information, visit OutreachMagazine.com.
The Outreach 100 lists were compiled by LifeWay Research and include only Protestant churches—as defined by the American Religious Data Archive—that opted to participate in the study. The Outreach 100 is based on a self-reported survey, not an independent investigation. Outreach and LifeWay are not responsible for errors/discrepancies in self-reported data or churches not opting to report. Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.