Many future church planters ask, “where’s the best place to plant a church?” The most brilliant response? “It all depends.”
Are you looking for the places with the fewest number of churches, the fastest growing, the most millennials, the largest retirement villages, the best college towns, the largest Asian population, the densest, walkable communities… or something else?
This entry is first in a series on The Best Place to Plant. My aim is to give direction to your “best place to plant thoughts and prayers.”
This particular blog posts the latest US list of largest cities, and overlays that information with the religious landscape questions, “which of these cities are the least evangelical” and “which have the largest number of people unclaimed by any religion (nones).”
The same list could be transposed with other questions such as, which host the most mainline Protestant churches, in which of these do the most Muslims live, or which of these cities are there the most Buddhists.
The evangelical county data in the below chart was taken from the last Association of Religious Data Archives study in 2010. It relates to the county in which the city is located, which is why, for example, Los Angeles has more unclaimed people than it has overall population. While old information, there is nothing newer, and it is at least a place to begin.How do you decide where to plant a church? This data from @SFWoman will help. Click To Tweet
|City||Population||County||% Evangelical in ARDA||#Unclaimed in County|
|New York||8,580,015||(5 boroughs)||3.26 – 5.25||4,257,983|
|Los Angeles||4,030,668||Los Angeles||8.3||4,604,495|
|San Diego||1,541,456||San Diego||9.77||1,735,936|
|San Jose||1,030,796||Santa Clara||8.34||1,005,614|
|San Francisco||888,653||San Francisco||3.77||520,925|
In 2015, PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute), did an analysis of the top two religious groups in the 31 largest American metropolitan regions. They discovered that of 15 of these, Catholicism is the top religion, and that in 10 others, the religiously unaffiliated were either number one, or tied for first place. In every city area on our list above except for Dallas, Catholicism and the religiously unaffiliated, or “nones”, take both first and second place. (https://www.prri.org/spotlight/the-top-two-religious-traditions-that-dominate-american-cities/#.Vb-2Z-1Viko)
Here is a Pew report of metropolitan regions (not cities) from 2014. (http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study) For various reasons discussed in Part B of this blog claims very different percentages than the ARDA, and has far more information than it is possible to list here. The first chart below includes metro areas from the Pew report that have an ARDA evangelical population of less than 10% in a larger metropolitan region with a Pew evangelical report of less than 20%. Note that in some cases, several cities are combined in one metropolitan region.
I’ll continue this discussion by considering the best places to plant based on city size and need for churches.
We will give special attention to just the seven largest cities with an ARDA evangelical population of less than 10% in a metro with a Pew evangelical report of less than 20%. It is not difficult to search thearda.com for other information on any other US county. Check the ARDA list carefully, however, because some of the largest cities also have both large county evangelical percentages and the largest numbers of nones.