Top 25 Fastest Growing Large United Methodist Churches

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.

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).