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Literature on Church Growth

Hover over a book to see the title,
and click on it to view the
literature index


How to Use

To navigate around the book there are a number of ways to travel. You can link to a page from the main index simply by clicking on a link.

To turn to the next page in the book, you can click the right or left edge of the page. You can also use the controls on the bookmarks, or my favourite is to grab a page corner with the mouse and turning.

You can quickly link back to the index from the link in the book listing. When linking back to the index the book only turns a single page to speed the return.

You can save or share the exact book page by simply copying the unique URL from your browser address bar.

Hope you enjoy reading the reviews!

Statistics for evidence-based policy in the Church of England: predicting diocesan performance

  • Author: Francis, L.J., Laycock P. and Village A.
  • Date of Publication: 2010
  • Origin: UK

This study used six measures of church membership or attendance as a way to measure growth or decline during the decade of evangelism (1990 - 2000) (Usual Sunday attendance, Easter and Christmas communicants, Electoral Roll and baptism and confirmation figures). Statistical methods were applied to determine whether these figures changed significantly and similarly during this period. Percentage population change within each diocese and percentage change in population density within each diocese were controlled for. Population change was found to be the most significant indicator of diocesan performance. Other significant factors were the percentage of non-stipendiary and female ministers.  

Gone but not forgotten: church leaving and returning

  • Author: Richter P. and Francis, L. J.
  • Date of Publication: 1998
  • Origin: UK

This book explores issues around church leaving and joining. It considers reasons why people leave and offers suggestions on what the church can do about it. An interesting finding from a survey carried out by the authors was that 92% of recent church leavers reported no contact with anyone from the church when their attendance dropped off during the 6 weeks preceding departure.

Measuring Church trends over time

  • Author: Gill, R.
  • Date of Publication: 2003
  • Origin: UK

This text is primarily a methodological analysis of how to measure church trends. The discussion is largely conducted by recourse to other works, and picking out statistics which demonstrate a long-standing decline (especially occurring in rural settings) in accordance with Gill’s main contentions.

Growing churches through house for duty ministry

  • Author: Hobbs, K.
  • Date of Publication: 2011
  • Origin: UK

This text describes the experience of a church leader turning around a “dead, low church” with conservative values in a sparsely-populated rural area into one which welcomeS children and older people alike regularly through its doors.

This piece suggests that the underlying factors that prepared the ground for success include: connecting with the incumbent’s previous parish to “seed” a new congregation; the fact that the previous incumbents had managed the finance and buildings well; and that there was an established “church-run” nursery toddlers group (and thereby family contacts) which simply didn’t have any connection with Church or Christian context.

Understanding Church Growth

  • Author: McGavran, D. A.
  • Date of Publication: 1990
  • Origin: US / International

Author Donald A. McGavran is considered a founder of the Church Growth Movement in America. In this 3rd edition of his standard work, McGavran analyzes the causes, methods and strategies for successful church growth both in America and abroad.


Congregation: Stories and Structures

  • Author: Hopewell, J.
  • Date of Publication: 1988
  • Origin: UK

This book contains an in-depth study of congregational life. It contains some interesting thoughts on ways of seeking and expressing church growth. For example, he refers to the following nodes of church growth:

  • Contextual - reflecting the interests and concerns of its environment.
  • Mechanistic – more likely to see the church as an organisation, and will have aims, objectives, outcomes, strategies, goals, etc.
  • Organic – sees the church as ‘a gathering of strangers’ in need of salvation from alienation; knits together and grows disparate threads of communities, transforming and empowering neighbourhoods.
  • Symbolic – the church conveys a meaning, saying something about the purposes of God in a wider community; what the symbols signify to outsiders.

The full text of this book is available on the Religion Online website and can be accessed by clicking here.

How many Americans attend worship each week? An alternative approach to measurement

  • Author: Hadaway, C.K., and Marler, P. L.
  • Date of Publication: 2005
  • Origin: USA

This paper was published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44/3, pp. 307-322. Abstract:

'Opinion polls indicate that over 40 percent of Americans attend worship services each week. However, attendance counts in several North American counties and Roman Catholic dioceses suggest that worship attendance may be much lower. In this article a new measurement strategy is used to estimate total weekly worship attendance. First, using a variety of resources we develop an estimate of the total number of religious congregations in the United States by religious family. Contrary to many published sources, the total number of congregations is estimated at just over 330,000. Second, using known population values and sample-based attendance counts we develop estimates of average weekly worship attendance for religious congregations by religious family. The resulting totals suggest that fewer than 22 percent of Americans attend worship services each week. This lower level of attendance provides further evidence that Americans tend to overreport worship participation and are less religiously active than the polls show'.

Religious Decline in Scotland: New Evidence on Timing and Spatial Patterns

  • Author: Voas, D.
  • Date of Publication: 2006
  • Origin: UK

This article was published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 45.1. Abstract:

The 2001 population census in Scotland—the first to include questions on religion—provides important evidence on religious mobility and the effect of local context on religious disaffection. The amount of denominational switching is small both in absolute terms and relative to the incidence of complete defection. The trend toward disaffiliation dates from before World War II, but religious decline has been especially steep since the 1960s. While there are important geographical variations in religious adherence, the absolute size of the swing to no religion has been quite uniform across the country. These approximately constant reductions in affiliation imply, somewhat counterintuitively, the existence of neighborhood differences, with denominational identification being most likely to wane in areas where the denomination is weak. No association was found between the proportion of the local population affiliated with a religious group and the level of participation in that denomination.