Top 25 Fastest Growing Large United Methodist Churches

Len WilsonChurch19 Comments

Hands reaching up
G  rowing United Methodist churches.

Despite institutional decline, the Wesleyan movement is alive and well and is happening in real congregations in the United Methodist Church. Consider this list of the top 25 fastest growing large United Methodist congregations in the United States. The list looks at the most recent complete four years of average weekly worship attendance data (2006-2009, as 2010 numbers won’t be finalized with the denomination until later this year). Of course, a lot can happen in a year and a half and some of these congregations now average more than what is displayed below.

A congregation must have at least 1000 in weekly worship in 2009 to qualify for the list.

 

Rank Church Location Pastor Year Founded Current Pastor Since 2009 AWA Rank by Size % Growth Since 06
1 Grace Ft Myers FL Jorge Acevedo 1978 1996 2634 16 53%
2 Christ Hickory NC Charles Kyker 1992 1998 2620 17 46%
3 Faithbridge Spring TX Ken Werlein 1999 1999 1787 43 45%
4 Beach Jacksonville FL Jerry Sweat 1937  2001 2069 27 39%
5 Harvest Warner Robbins GA Jim Cowart 2001 2001 1945 32 34%
6 The Woodlands The Woodlands TX Ed Robb 1975 1978 4142 5 30%
7 Van Dyke Lutz FL Matthew Hartsfield 1985 1993 2143 25 29%
8 Christ Fairview Heights IL Shane Bishop 1953 1997 1252 105 28%
9 Morning Star O’Fallon MO Michael Schreiner 1999 1999 1535 65 27%
10 Lee’s Summit Lee’s Summit MO James Preisig 1867  2001 1364 83 27%
11 First Flushing NY Joong Urn Kim  1811  2011 1368 82 25%
12 Covenant Dothan AL Hays McKay, Jr 1979 1998 1235 110 25%
13 New Covenant The Villages FL Harold Hendren 2000 2011 1548 63 24%
14 Granger Community South Bend IN Mark Beeson 1986 1986 5561 3 24%
15 La Croix Cape Girardeau MO Ron Watts 1988 1988 1815 40 22%
16 Harvest Dothan AL Ralph Sigler 1996 1996 1517 66 22%
17 Foundry Houston TX Godfrey Hubert 1978 1984 1714 45 20%
18 Cokesbury Knoxville TN Steven Sallee 1960s 1997 2764 13 18%
19 Riverchase Birmingham AL James Savage 1980 1998 1599 56 18%
20 Christ Jackson MS David Brownlee 1961 2008 1816 39 18%
21 Cornerstone Caledonia MI Bradley Kalajainen 1990  1990 1334 86 17%
22 Highland Park Dallas TX Mark Craig 1916 1995 4075 6 16%
23 First Lakeland FL David McEntire 1884 2007 1634 53 16%
24 Crossroads Concord NC Lowell McNaney 1995 1995 1300 95 16%
25 White’s Chapel Southlake TX John McKellar 1872 1992 3838 7 16%

 

These congregations represent some of the most innovative and effective ministry practices today, and church leaders would do well to study them closely. Here is a quick sample of some information pulled from this impressive list:

  • 10 of the top 25 have multiple campuses. Grace Church and Christ Church, which by no coincidence are numbers 1 and 2 on this list, have the most campuses, with 5 each. As church growth has stretched the limits of what one venue and one site can do, multi-site ministry is the becoming the next wave in growing churches of all denominations. Other churches on the list are in process of adding sites, venues and campuses.
  • 10 of the 25 are entirely “contemporary” or “modern” in worship style. 14 have a mix of traditional and modern services. One, First UMC in Flushing NY, serves the Korean community in its area. None are entirely traditional in worship style.
  • Twelve are products of the church planting era; four date to the 19th century and a fifth, Highland Park, is approaching its centennial. Eight are still led by their founding pastor.
  • Stability is key. The average senior pastor’s tenure is over 14 years. Removing four recent changes in leadership as a result of retirement, the average tenure jumps to 17 years. Every pastor in the top 10 has been led their congregation for at least 10 years.
  • 3 of the top 7 and 5 total are part of the Florida Conference. The Texas and Missouri Conferences have 3 each on the list, and the Western North Carolina and Alabama-West Florida Conferences have 2 each. Most are located in the Bible Belt; the four congregations in the northern United States are Christ Church in Fairview Heights, IL; First UMC in Flushing, NY; Granger in South Bend, IN; and Cornerstone in Grand Rapids, MI.

 

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Len Wilson

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Len WilsonTop 25 Fastest Growing Large United Methodist Churches
  • http://foundationforevangelism.org/ Raymond Hayes

    I work for The Foundation for Evangelism, and we have been highlighting some of the “Vibrant Churches” whose attendance has grown 20% or more in 5 years in a regular series on our website…

    http://foundationforevangelism.org/category/vibrant-churches

    We interview the pastors to gain more insight into what they feel has lead to such growth in their congregations.

    It is important during this time of talk of loss within the church, to know success is only a step away…and there are many resources out there to share and help with those who are struggling.

    Thank you
    Raymond Hayes
    Web and Social Media Development
    The Foundation for Evangelism

  • George

    Didn’t your list forget Church of the Resurrection?

  • http://lenwilson.us Len Wilson

    George,

    Although Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS, is the largest United Methodist church in the United States, it is not one of the top 25 fastest growing in the time frame of the study. From 2006-2009, Resurrection grew 9%, which puts it 45th on the list. As of the end of 2009, it averaged 7,450 in average weekly worship attendance.

    Len

  • Travis Reed

    Is there a difference between “church growth” and “people growth?”

    • http://lenwilson.us Len Wilson

      I’m not sure if you meant this rhetorically or not, Travis, but it’s a good question. I know from personal experience at Ginghamsburg in the 1990s that we grew rapidly but had poor discipleship systems in place, so our backdoor was pretty wide open. Yet at the same time healthy churches grow. I wrote a separate blog post here about the use of metrics in defining ministry effectiveness. A lot of churches in a declining denomination hate numbers because they provide real accountability.

      One way that is helpful for me to think about it is by using a discipleship model built by Dan Glover and Claudia Lavy in Deepening Your Effectiveness. They talk about six stages of spiritual formation. Ideally a church is going to lead people form stage one all the way to stage six, which means that they are both growing numerically and in spirit. In other words, healthy churches are both attractional and missional. They draw people to Christ, move them from self followers to Christ followers, and send them back out to the world.

  • Deb Smith

    This is very interesting data. It made me wonder how this would compare if we looked at the last 3 years of data (2007-2009), and since I had that information easily available I pulled the churches. Here are the results of the top 25 churches in rate of growth from 2007 to 2009 with at least 1000 average worship attendance.

    1) Harvest – Byron, GA- 106% increase, 941 to 1945 (previous ranking #5)
    2) Cornerstone – Auburn, AL – 35.93% increase, 810 to 1101 (not previously ranked)
    3) Chapin – Chapin, SC- 33.67% increase, 784 to 1048 (not previously ranked)
    4) Live Oak – Watson, LA – 33.33% increase, 750 to 1000 (not previously ranked)
    5) Faithbridge- Spring, TX – 31.98% increase, 1354 to 1787 (previous ranking #3)
    6) Christ – Fairview Heights, IL – 28.41% increase, 975 to 1252 (previous ranking #8)
    7) St. Andrews – Omaha, NE- 27.86% increase, 804 to 1028, (not previously ranked)
    8) Covenant – Winterville, NC – 27.7% increase, 1428 to 1825 (not previously ranked)
    9)Morning Star – O’Fallon, MO- 26.55% increase, 1213 to 1535 (previously ranked #9)
    10) Lee’s Summit – Lee’s Summit, MO – 26.53% increase, 1078 to 1364 (previously ranked #10)
    11) Flushing First- Flushing, NY- 25.27% increase, 1092 to 1368 (previously ranked #11)
    12) Christ- Hickory, NC- 24.88% increase, 2098 to 2620 (previously ranked #2)
    13) Covenant- Dothan, AL – 24.87% increase, 989 to 1235 (previously ranked #12)
    14) Beach- Jacksonville, FL- 24.86% increase, 1657 to 2069 (previously ranked #4)
    15) Christ Conway – Myrtle Beach, SC- 23.07% increase, 854 to 1051 (not previously ranked)
    16) Anderson – Jackson, MS – 21.87% increase, 823 to 1003 (not previously ranked)
    17) Hillside- Woodstock, GA – 19.19% increase, 1407 to 1677 (not previously ranked)
    18) Grace – Cape Coral, FL- 17.48% increase, 2242 to 2634 (previously ranked #1)
    19) Cornerstone- Grand Rapids, MI – 17.43% increase, 1136 to 1334 (previously ranked #21)
    20) Crossroads – Concord, NC- 16.18% increase, 1119 to 1300 (previously ranked #24)
    21) Cove – Owens Crossroads, Al – 15.29% increase, 981 to 1131 (not previously ranked)
    22) Riverchase – Birmingham, AL- 15.12% increase, 1389 to 1599 (previously ranked #19)
    23) Woods Chapel- Lee’s Summit, MO- 15.09% increase, 1067 to 1228 (not previously ranked)
    24) First – McKinney, TX- 14.82% increase- 958 to 1100 (not previously ranked)
    25) Foundry- Houston, TX- 14.8% increase – 1493 to 1714 (previously ranked #17)

    It’s interesting to note that in this list of the last three years, 4 churches ranked higher, 7 churches ranked lower, 3 churches ranked the same, and 11 churches fell out of the rankings. I think it is also interesting that only 3 of the fastest growing churches have more than 2,000 in worship.

    • http://lenwilson.us Len Wilson

      Deb,

      thanks for the post. My range is somewhat arbitrary – I chose 06-09, or the growth of three years, rather than 07-09, or the growth of two years, in order to capture churches that are developing more long term effectiveness, but the downside to that is it doesn’t capture the most recent examples of fast growing churches, which your range brings out. Your data in particular highlights what Harvest Church in GA has been doing lately.

  • http://pursueholiness.blogspot.com Kerry Wood

    Why the criterion of 1000+ to make the list?

    Or maybe another, better question: Can we repeat this process with churches from 500-999, 200-499, etc.?

    And if we go back in time far enough, what can we learn about the 25 on this list that pushed them through those other attendance categories?

    • http://lenwilson.us Len Wilson

      Kerry I just didn’t go as far down as Deb is in the data. My curiosity primarily centers on the largest churches, but the data for medium sized churches is certainly interesting too.

  • Deb Smith

    Len,
    Actually Harvest is a bit of a mystery to me. According to your calculations based on four years of data (06, 07, 08, 09) they had an increase of 34%. Since they had an average worship attendance of 1945 in 2009 that would make their 2006 average worship attendance 1451. In 2007 they report an average of 941 in worship and in 2008 they report 1447. If the reported numbers are correct that would represent a 35% decrease from 06 to 07, a 54% increase from 07 to 08, and a 34% increase from 08 to 09. To confuse matters even more, between 06 and 07 they reported a 35% increase in members, between 07 and 08 a 27% increase in members, and between 08 and 09 a 19% increase in members. It makes me wonder if there was an error in reporting the 2007 average worship attendance of 941.

    Blessings,
    Deb

  • Deb Smith

    Kerry,
    Here is a list of the top 25 churches with an average worship attendance of between 500 and 999, between 2007 and 2009. One thing that I noticed was that many of these churches showed a large spike between two years and then not such great growth between the other set of years. For example Metropolitan Community reported an average of 210 in 07, 240 in 08. and 585 in 09. It appears to me that this pattern of a high spike in one year is true for many of the churches in the 1000 and above category also. I actually don’t think we can draw any conclusions by looking at this data, but it does provide places to begin to asking questions to find out what is happening. In the list below, I’ve listed the church name, city, state, average worship attendance in 2007, 2008, 2009, and the percentage of increase from 2007 to 2009.

    1. Metropolitan Community – New York, NY, 210-240-585 — 178.57%
    2. Doyle – Doyle, TN, 198-215-523– 164.14%
    3. New Martinsville – New Martinsville ,WV, 338-348-620 — 83.43%
    4. Dix Hills Bible Korean- Dix Hills, NY, 295-320-536 — 81.69%
    5. St. Pauls – Cedar Rapids, IA, 321-559-579 — 80.37%
    6. First – Winchester, KY, 289-318-510 — 76.47%
    7. Edgewater – Port Charlotte, FL, 331-402-520–57.1%
    8. Travis Park – San Antonio, TX, 358-308-516 — 44.13%
    9. Wesley Chapel – McDonough, GA, 424-606-605–42.69%
    10. The Chapel New Church- Brunswick, GA, 421-506-599 –42.28%
    11. Community Faith – Davenport, FL, 443-447-628 — 41.76%
    12. Frisco – Frisco,TX, 388-442-529 — 36.34%
    13. First – Opelika, AL, 379-422-503 — 32.72%
    14. Epworth- Rehobeth Beach, DE, 416-541-552– 32.69%
    15. Wilshire- Los Angeles, CA, 600-623-794 –32.33%
    16. Georgiana – Merrit Island, FL, 400-473-529 — 32.25%
    17. Argyle- Argyle, TX, 392-452-517 — 31.89%
    18. First – Dunnellon, FL, 598-646-785 — 31.27%
    19. Union County First, Blairsville, GA, 411,417,537 — 30.66%
    20. Desert Spring, Las Vegas, NV, 395, 455, 515 — 30.38%
    21. First – Lewisville, TX, 428, 455, 558 — 30.37%
    22. First – Corbin,KY, 467-543-608 — 30.19%
    23. St. Luke- Pensacola, FL. 416-535-533 — 28.13%
    24. Woodlawn- Panama City, FL, 749-886-949 — 26.7%
    25. Village Chapel – Ashville, OH, 437-481-553 — 26.54%

    While we would need to do more investigation to make any claims about why they are growing, it is interesting that the churches in this “top 25″ group, in general, are growing at a faster rate than the over 1,000 in worship “top 25.”

    I’ll pull the 200 to 499 group a little later.

    Blessings,
    Deb

  • Deb Smith

    Fastest Growing United Methodist Churches with an Average Worship Attendance of 200 to 499
    Based on the 2007, 2008, and 2009 GCFA Data
    Total number of churches: 2700
    1. Faithwalk- Gibsonville, NC, 84-193-243—189.29%
    http://www.faithwalkumc.org
    2. Gateway Community – Pooler, GA, 112-258-309— 175.89%
    http://gatewaysavannah.com/#/about-us
    3. Iglesia Nuevo Nacimiento – Lebanon, PA, 100-255-265 — 165%
    https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=58597773204&v=wall
    4. Crossroads – Phoenix, AZ, 136-139-300—120.59%
    http://www.crossroadsphx.com/
    5. Centenary- Macon, GA, 120-211-263 — 119.17%
    http://centenarymacon.org/
    http://www.candler.emory.edu/real-toolkit/stories/stacey-harwell.cfm
    6. First – Atlanta, GA, 142-188-311—119%
    http://www.atlantafirstumc.org
    7. Homestead Park- Munhall, PA, 134-273-273 — 103.73%
    http://hpumc.com/
    8. Jackson Avenue – Memphis, TN- 150-175-295 — 96.67%
    9. Grace – Warren, PA – 113-207-222 — 96.46%
    http://www.graceumcwarren.net/
    10. St Paul – Lusby, MD- 215-430-420 — 95.35%
    http://www.stpaul-lusby.com
    11. Arch Street – Philadelphia, PA – 152-157-295 — 94.08%
    http://www.archstreetumc.org/
    12. Miami Whitewater – Harrison, OH – 128-161-240— 87.5%
    http://www.miamiwhitewaterumc.org/
    13. The Highlands – Gainesville, GA – 130-205-240—84.62%
    http://www.thehighlandschurch.net
    14. Quest – Augusta, GA – 150-193-275 — 83.33%
    http://www.thequestonline.com/
    15. Wesley – Russellville, AR – 124-125-227 — 83.06%
    http://www.rsvlwesleyumc.org/
    16. Asbury – Owensboro, KY – 110 – 160- 200 – 81.82%
    17. Emmanuel – Evanston, IL – 160 – 275 – 285 — 78.13%
    http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=5487
    18. St. James West – Evansville, IN – 170 – 235- 300 — 76.47%
    http://stjameswest.com
    19. First Korean Falls Church – Herndon, VA – 225-250-395 — 75.56%
    20. Choctaw – Choctaw, OK – 120-140-210 — 75%
    http://choctawumc.com/
    21. Jacksontown – Jacksontown, OH – 143-145- 250 — 74.83%
    http://www.jacksontownunitedmethodistchurch.org
    22. Los Feliz – Los Angeles, CA – 192-230- 332 — 72.92%
    23. McKendree – Nashville, TN – 171-175-295 — 72.51%
    http://www.mckendreetoday.com
    24. Faith – Superior, WS – 158-164-271 — 71.52%
    http://superiorfaithumc.org/
    25. Bexley – Columbus, OH – 192-160-325 — 69.27%
    http://bexleyumc.org

    This is a really interesting group of churches. All jurisdictions are represented. There are churches that are primarily African American, Asian American, Euro American, and Multi-cultural.
    Five of the churches have a clergy woman as senior pastor. Most offer more than one worship service, often one a traditional and the other contemporary or blended.

    • http://lenwilson.us Len Wilson

      Thanks for the additional information Deb. This helps highlight a number of dynamic churches worth watching.

    • John Hill

      Is the raw data available electronically for anyone to use? If so, where? Thanks!

      • http://lenwilson.us Len Wilson

        I got the data by sending a request to the GCFA office.

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  • ExMethodist

    Did anyone notice that only 4 of those churches have had a new pastor in the last 5-7 years. Maybe rotating pastors every few years is not such a great idea.