Top Ten Sunday Schools 40 Years Later


In 1969, Elmer Towns published a book highlighting the Ten Largest Sunday Schools in America (Back then, they measured the size of a congregation by Sunday School attendance.)

Stumbling upon the Towns book a few months ago, I wondered what has happened to these churches over the four decades since this publication. I sent our fine intern, Becky Kavin, on a detective mission to discover how these congregations have fared.

Here's what she found:

1. Akron Baptist Temple, Akron, OH
1968 -- 5762
2008 -- 2000

2. Highland Park Baptist Church, Chatanooga, TN
1968 -- 4821
2008 -- no response

3. First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX
1968 -- 4731
2008 -- 2600

4. First Baptist Church, Hammond, IN
1968 -- 3978
2008 -- 12,000 (did not respond -- this figure comes from Outreach Magazine)

5. Canton Baptist Temple, Canton, OH
1968 -- 3581
2008 -- 1500

6. Landmark Baptist Church, Cincinnati, OH
1968 -- 3540
2008 -- 1200

7. Temple Baptist Church, Detroit, MI (Now Northridge Church)
1968-- 3400
2008 -- 13,865

8. First Baptist Church, Van Nuys, CA (Now Shepherd of the Hills)
1968 -- 2847
2008 -- 8000

9. Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg VA
1968 -- 2640
2008 -- 17,445

10. Calvary Temple, Denver, CO
1968 -- 2453
2008 -- 3500

Interestingly, in 1968, the largest church in America was just under 6000. In Outreach Magazine's recent list of the 100 largest churches in America. the 100th largest congregation was over 6000 people.


Anonymous said…
mark, are those 2008 numbers sunday school or morning worship numbers?

mark o wilson said…
The 2008 numbers are worship. 39 years ago, Sunday School was larger than worship services -- and that's what people counted. Today, worship services are always larger than Sunday School, so they count that instead.
Pastor Al said…

Good post on church trends. Sunday School still drives our morning worship; as Sunday School does our morning worship. We are toying with small groups and definitely have age break outs in the evenings.

The Goldsboro Wesleyan Church is growing at about 10% annually; that is a Praise to God! We have broken the 100 mark three weeks in a row this month. There are real people represented in each statistic. May God help us to provide our best serve.
Blessings, Al
Larry said…
lesson -- nothing stays the same. I wonder what was the difference between the churches that grew and the churches that declined.
phil said…

I can guarantee you that the churches that grew had leaders that practiced what they preached.
Joel Spencer said…
It's too bad that we can't see a "who's really walking with the Lord" tally. Talk about staggeringly low numbers!

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