How Old Is Your Church and Does It Matter?

I absolutely love the discussion and questions that come to and from the Church Answers community. Almost every five minutes during the day, a new question is asked in our community. I could spend hours each day reading the information and interacting with the nearly 2,000 church leaders at Church Answers.

Recently, Matt McCraw, a Florida pastor, posed a simple question to the community: How old is your church? I emulated him and posed the same question on social media. When we tallied all the responses, we learned that the average age of the churches was 92 years old, and the median age was 67 years old.

That led me to recall the thousands of churches we have served through Church Answers. I wondered if I could find any patterns in the churches according to their age. To be clear, we are talking about the number of years since the church was founded, not the ages of the members.

Here are some of our observations.

  • Facilities: Older churches tend to have more deferred maintenance on their buildings. And they tend to use less of the square footage than younger churches.
  • Finances: In the recent past, older churches were more stable financially. I cannot say unequivocally that reality is true today. I see more churches of all ages have struggles. Likewise, I see churches of all ages doing well financially. Anecdotally, there does not seem to be a correlation between the age of the church and the financial health of the church.
  • Decision making: The youngest churches, typically those 15 years and younger, tend to have a nimbler decision-making process. Many older churches can take a long time to make a significant decision.
  • Worship style: As expected, the younger the church, the more likely the worship style moved toward contemporary. Of course, it’s difficult to define precisely the definitions of “contemporary,” “traditional,” and “blended.”
  • Evangelistic outreach. Sadly, I see poor evangelistic health in most churches regardless of age. The Great Commission has become the Great Omission.
  • Denominational loyalty. As a rule, denominational loyalty is greater in older churches compared to younger churches. But we see denominational loyalty waning at churches of all ages. Of course, many churches do not have denominational ties at all.
  • Small groups. There tends to be a higher percentage of members participating in small groups (community groups, home groups, Sunday school classes, life groups, etc.) in older churches. Those churches that have on-campus Sunday school classes that flow to or from a worship service have the highest small group participation.

To be clear, these factors are generalizations. There are obviously exceptions at churches of various ages. I would love to hear from you. How old is your church? Do the generalizations I noted match your church? What are some other categories beyond the seven I wrote above?

Let me hear from you.