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Intriguing House Church Data

Nationwide research has yielded more polling numbers for the house church movement and the numbers are, as they say, “all over the page.”

The latest from the Barna Group, as reported by ABC News, is that there are at least 5 million American adults involved in house churches. But less than a year ago, that number was put at 20 million (weekly participants) or 43 million (monthly participants). During an alleged period of “exponential growth” why have the numbers… plummeted?

In January of ’07 it was heralded in the Barna Update: “The rapid growth in house church activity is evident in the fact that half of the people (54%) currently engaged in an independent home fellowship have been participating for less than three months.” If so, based upon the most recent head-count of 5 million, there would have been way less than 2.5 million participants during the time frame when tens of millions were being reported. That is, unless millions have dropped dead.

Most recently, George Barna revealed that house churchers are much “more satisfied than those in conventional churches.” That’s a strange thing in that Barna previously announced that “70 million adults had experimented with house churches.” 70 million tried house churching but only 5 million are now with it on a regular basis? That’s about one in fourteen, is it not? Exactly what kind of satisfaction are we talking about?

Furthermore, why is the failure rate of house churches so high if house churching is so satisfying? According to my observation, their life span is more likely to be measured in months rather than years. According to a book entitled “The House Church Movement” (Seedsowers Publishing, page 65): “House churches collapse and disappear faster than they are born.”

Another head-scratching statistic from the Barna Group to ponder and to factor in: 80% of house churchers “maintain some connection to a conventional church, having one foot in both camps.” Again, I do have to wonder: If 4 out of 5 house churchers still remain connected with the traditional churches they were relatively unsatisfied with, just how satisfied are they or how unsatisfied were they?

(We know that the phrase “maintain some connection to” actually means to “attend” because In June of 2006, it was published at “… one-fifth (of all USA church attenders) ATTEND both a house church and a conventional church” And in December of 2006, the same subset was referred to: “Involvement in a house church is rapidly growing, although the transition is occurring with some trepidation: four out of every five (80%) house church participants MAINTAIN SOME CONNECTION TO a conventional church as well.”)

But wait, the continual theme of Barna’s “Revolution” was that the revolutionaries had left the traditional churches in mass exodus. Their departure was necessary because their intense passion for God rendered them incapable of co-existing with ordinary, less authentic Christians.

It may objected that house churches are practically invisible and that the precise or the approximate numbers cannot be determined. Well, why then does Barna ascribe a tiny margin of “sampling error” and a high “confidence level” to his analysis?

I would be interested in seeing polling data from another source which might corroborate the incredible Barna numbers. This revolution, if it is the real deal, represents an extensive re-draw of the Christian map as never before witnessed on planet earth – it’s existence and magnitude could not possibly be overlooked.

Personally, I have found house churching to be, for the most part, satisfying and highly recommend that every Christian consider the possibility. You, for example.

5 Responses to “Intriguing House Church Data”

  1. John Lunt says:

    I don’t know what the numbers are, but as for me, I started attending a simple church in a house last year, probably around July or August, and I don’t want to to back to a traditional service.

    I have found simple church to be more exciting, lively and participatory than I’ve personally ever found in a traditional church.

    I don’t know about Barna’s stats, but I do believe house churches/simple churches are going to be the place where many will gather in the future.

    It’s such a simple model. I’ve been involved since then in working to plant a simple church (no house or building at all- meeting outside) in downtown Dallas among the homeless.

    It’s an exciting journey for me.

  2. chris mornings says:

    it’s looking more and more like a mini-revolution. that’s a good start.

  3. Philip says:

    Really good comments about Barna here. I remarked elsewhere that people have a high degree of satisfaction when they first join something whether normal church or house church. The issue is how enthusiastic will they be 2 or 3 years on from here. We have been doing house church for three years now, and reality is hitting hard. We are still passionate but also more realistic.

  4. Sarah says:

    I believe house churches are more of an example of the early church, more relational. Those are some interesting statistics, really get you thinking.
    Thank you for taking the time to post them

  5. J.R. Miller says:

    I have had some concerns about the use of statistics in Barna’s recent works… Once a statistician puts forth an agenda, it is often the case that his stats begin to reflect the agenda. Maybe not intentionally, but the results tend to get skewed by perception and desire.

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