A sociological model of church growth is one that incorporates one or more hypotheses from the sociology of religion, organisational theory, or other similar academic disciplines. Examples of such hypotheses are secularisation theory, institutional lifecycles, strictness and market-driven ideas. They often involve “soft” variables for sociological concepts.

Sociological models are a distinct category from the other model types. Whereas the limited enthusiasm models only involve population variables, sociological models add concepts from the sociology of religion that may be harder to quantify. Nevertheless, these “soft” variables are a vital part of the theory and must be included. Religious capital is an example of such a soft variable.

Sociological models are different from congregational models, which are more mechanical in construction and limited in scope. They contrast with limits-to-growth models, whose hypotheses are looser metaphors rather than laws. Sociological church growth models give a dynamic comparison with their statistical and descriptive counterparts in the sociology of religion.

Sociological models are aimed at denominational, regional and national groupings of churches or even religion as a whole.

The Models

Institutional Model

Application of the institutional life-cycle to church denomination growth and decline.

Extended Institutional Model

The institutional model extended to include births, deaths, growing host population, delays and internal pressure to increase institutionalism.