The churches can be separated into three tiers based on average weekly worship attendance.

This entry is part 35 of 118 in the series Diagnosis, Dialogue, Decision: A DMin Project

The statistical reports printed in the 2007 Journal-Yearbook include data on 907 separate churches that make up the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. Eight churches reported zero average attendance. Out of 899 churches reporting a non-zero attendance, 56% or 503 have an attendance of fifty-one or below.

            The churches can be separated into three tiers based on average weekly worship attendance. The large church tier has thirty-nine churches with an average attendance of three hundred or more, representing 4.3% of the total number of churches, reporting 611 baptisms and 20,161 worshipers. The mid-size church tier has 171 churches with an average attendance between one hundred and three hundred, representing 19% of the total churches, reporting 941 baptisms and 27,229 worshipers. The small church tier has 689 churches with an average attendance of one hundred or less, representing 76.6% of the total churches, reporting 810 baptisms and 27,041 worshipers.[1] Baptisms occur at a rate of one for every thirty-three attenders in the large church tier, one for every twenty-nine attenders in the mid-size tier, and one for every thirty-three attenders in the small church tier.[2] Research by Herb Miller indicates that mid-size churches in the United States are rapidly disappearing.[3]






[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

[1]Illinois Great Rivers Conference, Official Journal-Yearbook 2007 (Springfield, IL: Illinois Great Rivers Conference, forthcoming). According to the 2000 General Minutes of the United Methodist Church, nearly 73% of churches have one hundred or fewer worshipers on Sunday. Bob Wells, Small Churches Represent Opportunity for Ministry, Pastors Learn, .asp?ptid=2&mid=6898 (accessed May 1, 2007).

[2]Illinois Great Rivers, Official Journal-Yearbook 2007. United Methodists are baptized once and transfers from other churches are not rebaptized, so baptism is a clearer indication of adult converts and potential converts (children) than reported categories such as “Confession of Faith or Restored.”

[3]Herb Miller, “Midsize Church Leadership: Moving Toward God’s Vision When Worship Attendance is Between 100 and 300” (Seminar, Net Results Resource Center, Kansas City, MO, April 20, 1994), 4. My district superintendent indicated in 2002 that research by the Cabinet shows that the loss of average worship attendance in the conference comes primarily from the mid-size church tier.

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