ResearchProposal: Business Research for Increasing Church Membership
Thispaper seeks to identify the research types that have been doneconcerning the topic of increasing membership in the churches. Thereview of literature recognized the fact that one reason for thepromotion of church membership was self-gain on the part of thechurch leaders. However, the truthfulness of the self-gain claim canonly be confirmed by further research into the topic. The mega churchphenomenon was clearly brought out in the literature. The megachurches were noted to have grown over the years, and that in the USalone, these churches exceed 2000. A comparison between mega andtraditional churches was done and it was noted that they were moreaccepting of new members. This was linked to some factors which wereattributed to their rapid growth. Modernization and secularization,in summary, expounded more on the mega church phenomenon where music,symbols and church layout were noted to attract new members. The megachurches were noted to offer low commitment environment that was moreaccepting of new members who were dubbed as religious refugees. Thecommitment levels would, however, be increased as the formerreligious refugee found the mega church to be their best fit.
Bythe end of the study, the reasons behind church growth wereattributed to the following topics strategic planning, economicmodels, small groups (secularization), active involvement, marketing,compassion, functional structures, outreach, and vitality. It wasnoted that what seemed to work for one church may not be applicablein another and so, careful analysis must be thought through by theChurch leaders. The two areas that stood out, and which summarizedthe topics presented above, are strategic planning and economicmodels.
Instudiesconducted in the churches, leaders are often concerned about thenumbers of their congregations. Leaders are always on the lookout foridentifying ways of increasing their church members by retaining thenewcomers and maintaining the current members that they already have.This paper will look into the types of research that have beenconducted in the bid to increase membership. The church leaders canreveal the reasons as to why an increase in the number of members iscritical to them and the church as a whole. The informationconcerning the topic of growing number of worshipers as drawn fromthe literature will be presented. Here, different types of researchthat have been applied for the congregation increment purposes willbe provided. The review findings will be further summarized in theconclusion section.
Asubstantial amount of literature concerning the topic of increasingpopulations in the churches exists. Most of the available studieshave been conducted on the business perspectives. Some of theselected literature is presented below.
Accordingto the studies carried out by Voas and Watt (2014), the authors notedthe alarming changes in the numbers recorded in the churches, in thenational, local and individual perspectives. The authors revealedthat the challenge experienced with the congregation numbers in thenational perspectives, is that of failure to replace the oldergeneration of churchgoers (Voas and Watt, 2014). The authors furthermentioned that the other challenge in the national standpoint wasthat, the children of churchgoing parents did not go to church whenthey reached adulthood (Voas and Watt, 2014). In the localperspectives, the authors stated that, high attendance is noted inchurches in the rural areas where growth is limited. High growthrates on the other hand, are observed in urban churches (Voas andWatt, 2014). They also mentioned that its context determines thegrowth path of a church, given that a solution that works well in onechurch may be a poor option in another (Voas and Watt, 2014). In theindividual perspectives, the authors stated that, for there to be agrowth in the church, the congregation that is present would have tobe ready to experience the said change (Voas and Watt, 2014). Theauthors further mentioned on the personal characteristics of theminister where they stated that, a minister ought to have a visionfor the church and at the same time, offer motivation to thecongregation members (Voas and Watt, 2014). In this research,analysis was facilitated by data obtained from two strands. The firststrand constituted of data that was collected over a ten-year periodfrom the returns that were made by parishes. The census data drawnfrom statistics that were descriptive, were utilized as well (Voasand Watt, 2014). The second strand was obtained from the datacollection and analysis drawn from a survey conducted on the growing,stabilized and churches that were declining (Voas and Watt, 2014).
Accordingto an articleby Robertson (2016), the author mentioned a number ofways that have been used in the past to increase churchmembership.The author stressed on the fact that compassion andoutreach played a key role. He mentioned of the following ways as thekeys to increasing the audience. The presence of an explicitstatement is one of the ways of boosting church membership. A missionstatement that is clearly spelled out, as indicated by Robertson(2016), had the ability to promote a new purpose for the currentcongregation and at the same time, win new members.The other methodsincluded engagement in charity activities, active participation incommunity events and the availability of youth programs in the church(Robertson, 2016). Provision of support to those that are in need isalso of importance, for instance, offering support to the singleparents, widows, and orphans. Such like activities will increase theinvolvement in the lives of others, and the outcome is desirable(Robertson, 2016).
Interestingly,there is the element of church marketing defined as “ecclesiasticmarketing," which is noted to be related to church growth aspresented by Appiah and Dwomoh (2014, p. 10) in their research thatwas conducted in Ghana. The authors set out to identify if arelationship existed in the two areas as mentioned above (Appiah &Dwomoh, 2014). In their study, the researchers randomly identified132 study respondents who were drawn from church leaders and theirmembers, from six churches in Ghana that were considered to be verycharismatic (Appiah & Dwomoh, 2014). The method of study that wasemployed took note of the presence of both secondary and primarydata. The key data was obtained from the opinions of the respondentsas mentioned earlier while secondary data was obtained from thereview of literature conducted. The results from the data collectionprocedure wereanalyzed using the Pearson`s correlation studies. Theoutcome indicated that a positive relation, in fact, existed betweena church’s marketing activities and the attendance growth (Appiah &Dwomoh, 2014). The authors identified that Radio PR techniquescompared to word of mouth by the congregation members, as well asadvertising of the church services and products (independentvariables in the study), was the most efficient in promoting the saidgrowth attendance (dependent variable) (Appiah & Dwomoh, 2014).Insummary, strategic thinking was seen to have set its roots in thereligious establishment, and this is proving to be favorable to thereligious organizations that are indulging in the said process(Appiah & Dwomoh, 2014).
Itis evident that marketing strategies are employed to recruit newcustomers, and it is not the recruitment aspect that is critical, theretention of the customers is considered to be imperative. With thatnotion in mind, the question that lingers is whether the youngergeneration can be encouraged to return to the church usingmarket-driven theories. Research conducted by Van der Merwe et al.,(2013), sought to find answers on the topic of launching a comebackof the younger generation. The authors noted a rapid declineinattendance, with a large number of the young adults forming thebigger proportionin the present world (Van der Merwe et al., 2013).In their study, the researchers employed the quantitative approach inthe bid to understand the attributes that played a critical role inattracting youths. The study respondents totaled 200 participants whowere drawn from convenience sampled churches, and they participatedin responding to structured questionnaires (Van der Merwe et al.,2013). The study aim was to identify if marketing theories could beappliedin the hunt to attract youths. The outcome of the studyrevealed that, although marketing elements employed likeservices-cape (music, symbols, and layout) that are deemed to bepositive, personal factors are critical in promoting and thusincreasing church attendance (Van der Merwe et al., 2013). The aboveelements which include the development of relationships between otherChristians and God ought to be studied in the future (Van der Merweet al., 2013). The limitation of this study is that, church attendeeswho were young adults were interviewed and so, the researchersadvised on the need to incorporate young adults who werenon-attendees in future research.
Theconcept of growth is critical, and this phenomenon is quite evidentin the Church of England for instance (Norris, 2011). According toNorris (2011), overall attendance seems to be portraying a downwardtrend which poses a sense of concern. Amid the overall decline, thereis existing evidence that numerical growth is present in someparishes(Norris, 2011). The question that looms in this research isthe complexity presented by statistics where a push and pull existsbetween the numerical growth and decline of attendees. In the questto seek answers for the statistics query given above, the authorbrings in the idea of Growth Research Program (Norris, 2011). Norris(2011) affirmed that, given the operation of churches, it’s hard toidentify a growth strategy that is said to be actual. Norrismentioned that, risks concerning church growth theories may, in fact,be grounded in evidence which authors would want to believe that theyworked. Previous literature on church growth has been summarized intothe following eight factors leadership empowerment, spirituality,inspirational worship, small groups, relationships, gift centered layministry, need-based evangelism and structures that are functional(Norris, 2011). The author identified literature that was done byresearchers like Jackson Bob and Watson Towers (Norris, 2011). Theworks by Jackson, using statistics analysis, revealed that, thedecline in attendance was evident in ministries that were team-basedand that more of his findings could be explored in detail in theChurch Growth Research Program(Norris, 2011). The research by Towers,as indicated by Norris (2011) was aimed at identifying the reasonsbehind vitality driven churches. The vitality, as Towers findingsindicated from carrying out statistical analysis, showed that it wasdrawn from attendance, growth, and engagement (Norris, 2011). Theliterature review by Norris (2011) revealed similarity in the themesconcerning growth where various theories were presented to understandthe decline in attendance. These were culture, secularization,forces in the market and the element of believing without having asense of belonging(Norris, 2011). The study revealed that, strategicplanning, social setting, the young generation, leadership and churchsize was critical for church growth (Norris, 2011). The CGRP would beaimed at identifying the explicit and implicit choices that churchesmake in the quest for understanding growth. Finally, three strandsthat are interrelated will be considered in the CGRP these are dataanalysis, profiling of the church and structural issues. The programwill be aimed at providing tools to church ministers in their searchfor identifying growth mechanisms for their churches (Norris, 2011).
Thetopic of strategic planning has gained popularity in the businesssector, and the phenomenon is slowly taking effect in the churchindustry. A strategic plan is simply a blueprint that is employed byorganizations in the hunt to determine the place that they are inandthus facilitates the visualization of where the organizations areheaded and how they can get to their destination (Shah et al., n.d).According to a research by Shah et al., (n.d),many organizations havebegun seeing the benefits of strategic planning in their operationswith a rising number of churches that are engaging in this trend.This kind of planning promotes formality in the process, and theoutcome is that organizations are in a position to meet their goalsand objectives. The research by Shah et al., (n.d.) was aimed atidentifying the extent to which churches are, in fact, practicingstrategic planning.
Inthe literature review conducted by the authors, they noted thatreluctance existed in the churches when it came to adopting theconcept of strategic planning because of the lack of skills tofacilitate the implementation (Shah et al., n.d.). The method fordata collection in this study was conducted by surveys which weresent to the research respondents via mail (Shah et al., n.d). Thesurveys were completed and were returned either by mail or fax. Thefindings of the study indicated that a relationship existed betweenformal planning and the growth rates of the churches that weresurveyed (Shah et al., n.d). Strategic planning activities in thechurches promoted growth regarding both finances and attendance (Shahet al., n.d.). The implication of the study is that strategicplanning boosted church membership.The authors further advised that,in the event of a decline in finances, an action that involvesstrategic planning have to be embraced (Shah et al., n.d.).
Heard(2015), identified six tools that could be employed in the growth ofchurches. In the article, the author mentioned that certain similarcharacteristics were evident in expanding worship places. The sixtools that are mentioned in the article, regarding boosting churchgrowth, ought to be practiced by churches for them to reap the fruitsof success. One of the methods as mentioned by Heard (2015) is havingthe roadmap that directs to the kingdom. Under this tool, the authorsaid that the leaders of the churches ought to provide a clear visionof why they were in existence and what their cause is, in theministry (Heard, 2015). The other tool as mentioned by Heard (2015)touched on the need of having churches that involve children in theirmissions, that way, the children would grow at a personal level and,at the same time, they would inspire others to be involved in churchwork. The other tool mentioned was the incorporation of Sundayschools which fostered church growth (Heard, 2015). The other toolsthat were noted in the article by the author included adult learningactivities, improvement in the sound, service addition and, finally,the incorporation of hospitality (Heard, 2015). The author, inconclusion, emphasized on the church`s involvement with the tools asmentioned earlier, given that they are evidenced by data and so, themechanisms are bound to work (Heard, 2015).
Thearticle by Simon (2016) introduces a new concept of listening to theopinion of the un-churched when identifying the ways of growingchurches. In his article, the author mentioned that some methods hadbeen noted to have an impact on church growth and they range fromgood church websites, excellent music, inspirational preaching oreven the active young church youths as well as the reputation of thechurch (Simon, 2016). The light was, however, shed by the author whena query was posted concerning the one way that could be employed inunmasking the growth potential of the churches and he noted that,reaching out to the un-churched by extending an invitation to themwas sought after. Accommodating them is essential therefore topromote church growth both by the quantity and by the quality (Simon,2016).
Theliterature on marketing in the religious sector, particularly thechurches, continues to be a subject of controversy. In the studyconducted by Newman and Benchener (2011), the authors expounded moreon the application of business tools and models in the churchsetting. The authors identified that, in the quest for churches toboost their members through attendance, business models in the fieldsof marketing and planning are seeing the accomplishment of theirorganization’s goals (Newman, and Benchener, 2011). The aim of thestudy conducted by the researchers as mentioned earlier was toidentify, in the quantitative perspectives, how marketing tools areutilized by the Protestant churches in the US. The authors, whenintroducing their topic of the study stated that, the use ofmarketing tools may have been applicable since the time of thewriting of the New Testament. However, the usage of the advancedversion of the old marketing concepts, as mentioned by Newman andBenchener (2011) in today’s churches, is marred by debates andcontroversies. This is because secular techniques are being employedin the hunt to amass numbers in the churches. In fact, three pointsare evident in the controversies surrounding the usage of businessmodels in the church sector, and these are arguments for, againstand those that are aimed at acquiring a reconciled view (Benchener,2011).
Theauthors conducted a study where respondents were drawn from theProtestant mega-churches in the US. The selection of thesample was ona random basis where five hundred mega-church leaders were selectedout of the over a thousand that are present in the US(Newman, andBenchener, 2011). Mega-churches were chosen because they had thepotency of engaging in marketing processes as opposed to the smallchurches (Newman, and Benchener, 2011). Survey questions wereadministered to the study respondents for completion via mail.Follow-up emails were sent to the respondents to promote the rate ofresponse (Newman, and Benchener, 2011). The results of the studyrevealed that marketing concepts were, in fact, applicable to thechurches (Newman, and Benchener, 2011). The authors mentioned thatthe question that arises is whether the churches are aware that theyare utilizing the marketing concepts incorrectly (Newman, andBenchener, 2011). The misunderstanding as well as the misapplicationof the marketing concepts ought to be addressed. The areas forfurther study as proposed by the researchers were the need to lookinto the comparison of the marketing theories to the marketingimplementation in the churches, as well as the impact of marketingand planning utilization in as far as the church goals are concerned(Newman, and Benchener, 2011). Another future study area was the needto gain an understanding of the status of the religious marketing inthe US. The limitations of the survey touched on the sample size,the cross-sectional church size as well as the lack of analysis ofthe effectiveness of the marketing and planning concepts that areemployed (Newman and Benchener, 2011).
Themega church craze seems to have taken effect not just in the US, butalso inthe global platform per se. In Singapore for instance, themega churches have seen a rapid rise owing to certain characteristicsthat were presented by Chong (2015). These included the fact thatthese churches have attracted the growing middle-class group of theSingaporean population who are looking for an opportunity totranscend to the next class level (Chong, 2015). The other reason forthe mega-church popularity in Singapore is because of thecombinations of the logic in the market and spirituality which makesthem accommodating to same-sex relationships, for instance (Chong,2015). Finally, these churches are noted to attend to the lessfortunate and the needy in a manner that is sensitive to the state(Chong, 2015). According to Von Der Ruhr and Daniels (2012), theauthors mentioned that, mega-churches had seen immense growth in theUS since the 1980s. The authors referred to the fact thatmega-churches are employing the strategy of secularization in the bidto promote religious participation which further supports thereligious investment of the congregation members (Von Der Ruhr, andDaniels, 2012). The researchers further stated that this approachpromotes the attraction and retention of new members, as well aspromoting the spiritual capital for an individual, when on the otherhand the traditional churches are losing their members rates (VonDer Ruhr, and Daniels, 2012). They stated that there could be somerelation that existed between the non-traditional nature ofmega-churches and their growth rates (Von Der Ruhr, and Daniels,2012). The researchers noted that mega-churches promoted the groupphenomenon as compared to other churches which promote thesubsidization of an individual’s investment in the religiousperspectives (Von Der Ruhr, and Daniels, 2012). The study was aimedat filling the gap that existed in the understanding of themega-church phenomenon, in as far as growth rates are concerned, andthe mega-church strategy of using small secular groups in theiroperations (Von Der Ruhr, and Daniels, 2012). The authors concludedby mentioning on how mega churches have sparked questions in thereligious sector. The authors noted that the mega churches mode ofoperations is rather different as opposed to the traditional andother denominational churches (Von Der Ruhr, and Daniels, 2012). Theyrevealed that the novel approach applied to the mega churches, whichpromotes their success, is in contrary to the strict approachenforced by the traditional churches (Von Der Ruhr and Daniels,2012). The model of utility maximization in the area of economics,explains the reason behind the success of the mega-churches. Thismodel emphasizes on the spillover of benefits as a result of theparticipation in religious activities, a phenomenon that is said toattract and retain "religious refugees," (Von Der Ruhr, andDaniels, 2012, p. 7). The researchers identified that the fusion ofthe participation of the congregants, in both the secular andnon-secular activities, sparked the transformation of involvement inthe religious perspectives and secular activities into complementaryproducts (Von Der Ruhr, and Daniels, 2012). This, in turn, promotesan individual`s participation levels which enhances commitment to thechurch and thus, an overall membership boost (Von Der Ruhr, andDaniels, 2012).
Findingsrelated to the previous literature by Von Der Ruhr, and Daniels, onthe mega-church phenomena, is presented in their other study dubbedExamining mega-church growth: free riding, fit, and faith, (Von derRuhr and Daniels, 2012). In the study, the authors mentioned thatreligious switching was quite evident and was facilitated by somefactors. In their article, Von der Ruhr and Daniels (2012) noted thatthe mega-churches were often characterized as having low cost andthat, they required very low religious refugees who are seeking tojoin new churches. The authors further mentioned that thesecharacteristics of mega-churches were in contrary to the modelpresented by Iannocconne (Von der Ruhr and Daniels, 2012). TheIannocconne`s model stated that only strict churches, acharacteristic of the traditional churches, had the potential forgrowth because of the high commitment levels that are emphasized.These churches are characterized by emphasizing on thestigma-screening theory where the congregants who are deemed to be“free riders”, are sorted out from the religious and strict group(McBride, 2015, p. 2). The mega-church model, as indicated by Von derRuhr and Daniels (2012), required less commitment and low costs fromthe new congregants. Once the congregant found a connection with thechurch, he/she would be needed to increase the level of commitment.Both studies conducted by Von der Ruhr andDaniels (2012) draw theirevidence from the survey, FACT 2000, where the truthfulness of themega-church model operations is proven to be working. The conclusionpresented by Von der Ruhr and Daniels (2012) was that themega-churches have, and, will continue to grow in the religiousmarket of the US given the shift from the traditional views thatthese churches uphold. The economic model of both quality and pricingas applied to the mega-churches has spruced its growth and thusincreased their memberships.
Theliterature presented above shows the much that churches have done andwhat they can do to boost their membership. Various views have beenpresented in the above publications, and some of the standardfeatures that have been noted include but not limited to thefollowing strategic planning, economic models, small groups(secularization), active involvement, marketing, compassion,functional structures, outreach, and vitality. It is critical to notethat what works for one church may not be working in another and so,careful analysis must be thought through by the Church leaders. Thetwo areas that stand out, and which summarize the topics presentedabove, are strategic planning and economic models. Both phenomena,when looked at critically, contain elements of marketing, promotions,involvement, outreach, vitality, compassion (in the form of charitiesand support groups) and secularization. With the above idea in mind,implementation recommendations are likely to result in increasedmembership in the churches. The question that however lingers iswhether the cause of increasing church membership is an honest one oris one that revolves around self-interest of the church leaders. Thisconcern is crucial to addressgiven that, some of the literaturepresented above revealed that there were instances that some of thetools for church growth were either misapplied or incorrectlyapplied. Identification of the concern as mentioned earlier calls forfurther studies which scholars ought to respond toand thus, rest thecase on the topic of increment of church membership. On a lighternote, the field of business research on the types of boosting churchmembership is critical now more than ever.
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Chong, T. (2015). Megachurches in Singapore: The faith of an emergent middle class. Pacific Affairs, 88(2), 215-235.
Heard, V. (2015). 6 Tools to Grow Your Church. Retrieved October 05, 2016, from http://livingchurch.org/6-tools-grow-your-church
McBride, M. (2015). Why churches need free-riders: Religious capital formation and religious group survival. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 58, 77-87.
Newman, C. M., &Benchener, P. G. (2011). Marketing in America`s large Protestant churches. Journal of Business & Economics Research (JBER), 6(2).
Norris, K. (2011). Resourcing Mission Bulletin: Church Growth Research Programme. Retrieved October 05, 2016, from https://www.churchofengland.org/media/1431713/paper5.pdf
Roberston, B. (2016). How to increase Church Membership: Growing Your Congregation with Outreach and Compassion. Retrieved October 05, 2016, from http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/church-business/increasing_church_membership.html
Shah, A., J, David, F., R, Surawski, III, Zigmont, J. (n.d). Does strategic planning help churches?: An exploratory study. Coast Bus J 2(1):28–35
Simon. (2016). What’s the Best Way to Grow Your Church Membership? Let’s Ask the Unchurched… Retrieved October 05, 2016, from http://growchurch.net/whats-the-best-way-to-grow-your-church-membership
Van der Merwe, M. C., Grobler, A. F., Strasheim, A., & Orton, L. (2013). Getting young adults back to church: A marketing approach. HTS Theological Studies, 69(2), 00-00.
Von der Ruhr, M., & Daniels, J. P. (2012). Examining megachurch growth: free riding, fit, and faith. International Journal of Social Economics, 39(5), 357-372.
Von Der Ruhr, M., & Daniels, J. P. (2012). Subsidizing religious participation through groups: A model of the “megachurch” strategy for growth. Review of religious research, 53(4), 471-491.