Modelling the Effects of Strictness on Church Growth Using System Dynamics

System dynamics is a deterministic modelling methodology with a successful track record in areas as diverse as Business Studies, Engineering and Sociology. It is also proving useful in modelling the growth and decline of the Christian church whose growth patterns vary widely by culture, country and denominations. The modelling links in with current research in the sociology of religion, as well as concepts from mathematical epidemiology and the diffusion of innovations. One novel proposal of the model is the concept of “enthusiasts”: the subset of people within the church responsible for spreading the beliefs and fuelling the growth of the church.

The specific models are:


  • Limited enthusiasm models, where enthusiasm to recruit fades away
  • Renewal models, where churches are able to generate enthusiasts from within
  • Strictness models, showing that strict churches are organisationally strong and also growing, whereas lenient ones mainly decline, following Kelly’s hypothesis
  • Spiritual capital models, dealing with establishment and neo-secularisation using concepts similar to the social capital proposed by Coleman and others
  • Models of the rapid growth of church planting movements.
  • Models of the discipleship process in churches, done in conjunction with a team of church leaders in Cardiff
  • Applications of the limited enthusiasm model to other religion, such as Islam in the UK.
  • Model of the effect of spiritual life, and the tensions it causes, on church growth

Data on church growth as predicted using system dynamics.

For more information please contact John Hayward or visit the Church Growth Modelling website.