The Attendance Replacement Postulate – ThomRainer.com

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By Thom S. Rainer

Larger churches will have a more difficult time staying larger.

At least, that is my postulate according to our early research.  And to be clear, I am defining a larger church by the size of its largest worship service, not by its total attendance. It looks like churches that are intentional about moving to more services, more venues, and more sites can indeed get larger.

This research is based on the attendance size of an individual service, not on the cumulative size of a church’s combined services. In simple terms, it will become increasingly difficult for a church to replace lost attendees at large worship gatherings.

Here are some of my thoughts: 

  • The large worship service is mostly a factor of the Boomer generation that gravitated toward large attractional services. Until the Millennials came along, Boomers were the largest generation in American history. They are no longer the dominant voice in cultural and religious trends.
  • Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers do not gravitate toward large attractional worship services. The big church event is simply not the preference of these generations. They prefer to attend worship gatherings in a smaller setting. 
  • The attrition rate of the larger worship services will not be easily offset by others coming to these services. When a member or an attendee dies or moves, he or she is more likely to be a Boomer. But the younger generations will not, as a rule, replace this Boomer attrition. If the younger generations attend worship…

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