Several Alabama congregations among top growing, reproducing churches of last few years

By Lanell Downs Smith
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

An Alabama church is among Outreach Magazine’s latest Outreach 100 list of fastest-growing, largest and reproducing churches in the United States. 

For more than a decade, the collaborative efforts of Outreach and LifeWay Research have ranked the fastest-growing and largest churches in America. 

Exponential, a church-multiplication advocacy group, partners with Outreach to identify reproducing churches: congregations that are strategically invested in reproduction and multiplication through church planting. 

Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources director of corporate communications, said LifeWay Research completes all research to discover church size and prior year’s attendance. 

Once the research is complete both LifeWay and Outreach teams interview churches for stories and profiles published in the Outreach 100 Annual Report.

Church multiplication

Churches are invited to participate in the reporting process and can access the information sheet and tracking form at www.lifewayresearch.com/outreach-top-100.

Some 30,000 churches are invited to participate each year, Outreach reports. The churches are contacted via fax, email, letter, phone and certified mail. 

The survey is self-reported with congregations providing information on average attendance, but not membership, through the months of February and March, excluding Easter weekend. 

Reports are compared with the previous year’s averages for the same months with final rankings reflecting average numerical gain and percentage gain.

According to the magazine’s website, the 2019 fastest-growing list includes surveyed churches with attendance greater than 1,025, a numerical gain of 176 or more and a percentage gain of at least 3%. 

Churches ranked on the largest churches list report attendance of 4,328 or more.

Churches of any size may take the Church Multiplication Challenge to declare their intention to multiply. The challenge is designed to help churches shift from good intentions to action and provides foundational priorities and commitments to assist the church on its journey to plant other churches. 

The reproducing list has grown from 25 into the thousands because of the challenge and is now labeled as the Reproducing 100+ list.

One Alabama church, Faith Church, Florence, has ranked among the fastest-growing churches for four consecutive years and is listed as number 61 in 2019. With 2,424 attending, the non-denominational church grew 16% by gaining 332 members this year.

Executive pastor Adam Gooch said the growth began when lead pastor, Steve Huskey, joined the staff in 2012 and the congregation began an intentional path toward growth.

According to Gooch, the church’s first step toward growth was realizing “why” they needed to grow.

“We know that we exist to reach people and connect them to God and others. That’s our vision and that vision informs and inspires everything we do as a church,” Gooch said.

One specific area of focus for Faith leadership was in refining the systems and processes for guest services, worship, preaching, youth groups and children’s ministry. 

The church’s vision dictates the processes, Gooch said, and none of those things happen by accident. 

Faith now has implemented refined systems for first-time guests, second-time guests, first-time givers, membership, volunteering, missions and children’s ministry. 

But as important as the processes are, Gooch added that systems and processes are only tools used to reach God’s people.

“We understand that every person at Faith Church is someone the Lord has sent for us to lead and to love,” Gooch said. “We work hard to make sure our environments are excellent, our teams are trained and our people are prepared. We know every single week we have the opportunity for God to use us to change someone’s eternity and that’s not an opportunity we ever want to waste.”

Gooch attributes Faith’s growth to God’s faithfulness and to the staff who, led by Huskey, passionately pursue the vision for the ministry.

The church launched its Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, campus in September 2018 to meet the needs of the hundreds of guests who drove down from south Tennessee to worship each week. 

With an average attendance of 450 the Lawrenceburg congregation will break ground on a multi-million-dollar facility in 2020.

“God is doing something really special at Faith Church,” Gooch said. “Numbers do matter to us because we know that every number has a name, and every name has a story, and every story matters to God.”

Other Alabama churches 

Other Alabama churches have appeared on the Outreach 100 lists in previous years.

Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, ranked among the fastest-growing and largest churches from 2015 through 2018 but chose not to report in 2019. Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, was among the fastest-growing churches in 2018. Vaughn Forest Church, Montgomery, appeared on the list in 2017 and 3Circle Church, Fairhope, was listed in 2015.

To learn more about America’s Top 100 churches, visit www.outreach100.com.