Close the Back Door with New Churches

Close the Back Door with New Churches

"How can we keep new people from leaving?"

That's a common question for the Research Center at the Global Ministry Center.

We take in a lot of members each year, people who are new to the Church of the Nazarene. Most of these are by profession of faith, with some transferring from other denominations.

During the past 10 years, we have received 1.3 million new Nazarenes globally.

But our total membership only increased by 623,374. Somehow, for every 13 new Nazarenes who came in our front doors, we lost 7 Nazarenes out the back door.

That gives a global retention rate of 46 percent for the decade.

Take a look at these stats for additional insights.

Table 1:

Retention Rates
by Nazarene Regions, 2000-2010

Region New Nazarenes Net Gain Retention Rate
Africa 442,276 301,856 68%
Asia-Pacific 66,369 25,630 39%
Eurasia 164,788 123,304 75%
Mesoamerica 174,466 82,166 47%
South America 181,717 81,330 45%
USA/Canada 329,595 9,088 3%
Global 1,359,211 623,374 46%

This chart indicates that there is a difference in retention rates in different areas of the world. But further research gives us new insights.

The Research Center has known for years that most growth occurs in new churches. When we look at retention rates in new churches, we discover that this is a global truth for the Church of the Nazarene.

Table 2:

Retention Rates in New Churches
by Nazarene Regions, 2000-10: New Nazarenes - Net Gain - Retention Rate

Region New Nazarenes Net Gain Retention Rate
Africa 290,801 216,758 75%
Asia-Pacific 20,593 14,543 71%
Eurasia 143,139 119,894 84%
Mesoamerica 34,134 27,894 82%
South America 50,832 30,287 60%
USA/Canada 34,662 20,728 60%
Global 574,161 430,104 75%

In every world region, the retention rate for new churches is higher than for older churches. Perhaps a greater ratio of new churches would help a region conserve more of its converts. Table 3 suggests that a major factor for growth in world areas is the much higher ratio of new churches begun during the decade.

Table 3:

New Churches as Percent of Existing
Churches by Nazarene Regions, 2000-10: 

Region Churches in 2000 New Churches


Africa 2,834 6,579 232%
Asia-Pacific 1,319 760 58%
Eurasia 841 5,474 651%
Mesoamerica 2,225 887 40%
South America 1,965 909 46%
USA/Canada 5,462 1,065 19%
Global 14,646 15,674 107%

Of course, existing churches need to find ways to conserve converts as well. But for the denomination as a whole, one of the best strategies for retaining new Nazarenes is to incorporate them into new churches. This is true in all areas of the world.

Dale E. Jones is director of Research Services for the Church of the Nazarene.

Holiness Today, May/June 2011

Please note: This article was originally published in 2011. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.