Small Church vs. Big Church Faith

Kent Shaffer —  August 10, 2009

The Barna Group released an interesting study this morning exploring how faith varies by church size. Surprisingly, there is a significant difference between the average faith of big churches versus small churches. The only factor that did not vary by church size was whether a church attendee had prayed during the past week.

The tipping point for religious differences seems to be at a church size of 200 adult attendees. However, house churches (roughly 20 adults) have religious beliefs and behaviors more similar to those of large conventional churches of 500 rather than conventional churches of less than 50.

Big Church vs. Small Church Faith

Big Church (1000+) vs. Small Church (1-100) Faith

  • The Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches.
    75% big church
    60% small church
  • I have personal responsibility to tell others my beliefs.
    61% big church
    41% small church
  • My religious faith is very important in my life.
    90% big church
    82% small church
  • Satan/devil is a living being not just a symbol of evil.
    51% big church
    30% small church
  • A good person cannot earn a place in Heaven.
    55% big church
    33% small church
  • On earth Jesus Christ did not commit sins, like other people.
    74% big church
    49% small church
  • God is the omnipotent, omniscient creator who rules all.
    90% big church
    81% small church

In addition the study discovered that adult attendees of large churches are more likely than adult attendees of small churches to read the Bible, volunteer at church, be a college graduate, be affluent, and have kids. For more statistics, read The Barna Group’s article.

Kent Shaffer

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I live in an RV with my wife and 2 kids and work with OpenChurch.com to help Christians collaborate and build a global Church library of free, open content.

17 responses to Small Church vs. Big Church Faith

  1. It seems to me that the questions are more about what kind of faith you have vs. whether or not you have faith. The one question that asked how important is your faith seemed to be pretty high across the board.

  2. I’m skeptical of this survey.
    1. There were only 114 respondents from 1000+ churches!!! How is that supposed to be representative of all megachurch attendees!?!?!?

    2. “Protestant” is a broad term. It includes many denominations that aren’t evangelical by their very nature – dying denominations, that should rightly die (in my opinion, sorry that sounds so harsh) b/c they’ve rejected the truth of the bible – like Methodists, episcopalians, presbyterians.

    Wow – okay, that sounds really harsh. I apologize. But hear me out: I don’t think it’s fair to compare mainline non-evangelical denoms with mega churches (which tend to be more evangelical) and come to the conclusion that mega churches create more evangelical Christians & are therefore better.

    Of course they’ll be more evangelical compared to smaller churches b/c most smaller churches are of the dying, although more established (they have more churches), non-evangelical denominations.

  3. I wonder if it’s as much a matter of “big churches produce better (for lack of a better term, you get what I mean) Christians,” as it is a matter of “churches who raise these kinds of Christians are the ones that grow.”

  4. Whenever I see surveys like this, what surprises me isn’t the gap between the sizes, but that there is a difference at all. Only 49% of small churches believe that Jesus lived a sinless life? Only 74% of big ones believe it? Isn’t this like Basic Christology 101?

  5. I’m guessing Jesse has obviously graduated from the flagship or an approved seminary of the SBC. Good for you. What happens when someone who grew up Baptist and is still evangelical works at a Methodist Church. Are you saying Jesse that where I’ve been called to right now should not longer exist and die. Guess it sucks to be me, guess it’s great to be you….

  6. The referenced study only says that larger churches tend to be more orthodox, more educated (wealthy?) and younger. Whether that’s a cause or an effect is not stated. It also did not state the effect of church size on its community, except that members of larger churches are more active at their churches and in personal devotions. It is instructive in saying that 2/3 of America attends a church of less than 200 (and less than 10% attend a megachurch), and that does not per se indicate a dying out of small churches.

  7. Yeah, the 114 responses from the mega church folks is kind of funny. Let’s see, which people from the megachurch would take the time to respond….? Probably not the ones the ones that contradict the survey. Survey Fail. Mile wide, inch deep.

  8. What in the world are you talking about Brad?

  9. i disagree with the percentage of big church vs small church . i have been saved for 3 yrs now thanks to jesus. but most churches are in it for money or they dont tell you ” you must be born again.” oh by the way i challenge everyone to check out christian fellowship ministries based out of prescott arizona. i belong to victory chapel it averages 40 people every service. i have felt gods presence, seen revival, a church family who loves me, and i meet new people in the fellowship on outreaches.

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