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If Minneapolis were Paris (Spiritually Speaking)

February 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Paul Prins in General


Over the last week we’ve been preparing some materials to help us share about our upcoming move to Paris to start a church with Christian Associates. A key part of any sharing about your ministry is to communicate the need that you will play a part in filling. After brain storming a bit we thought it would be interesting to pretend that Minneapolis were Paris, well at least spiritually speaking.

So how many churches would we need to close, and how many people would need to stop attending church? Lets walk through the numbers.

First we start with our populations for each city proper (no suburbs).
Paris: 2,243,833
Minneapolis: 382,578

For the sake of comparison we felt it best to do all of this to ratios based on their population.

How many Churches would need to close?

Finding a listing of churches for Minneapolis was pretty easy. We simply fired up the yellow pages and were given a number that seemed to be representative in quantity – 670. This process was much more daunting for Paris.

The issue with Paris is that a large number of churches are no longer in use, but will show up on a google maps search. Also searching for a list of churches returns page after page of “Top 10 churches to see while visiting Paris.” Since we personally know of more then 10 churches we had to think of a better way to find our number. The answer came in the way the French religious system is organized (I’m will skip over a lot here, but every church needs to be a part of a union that is recognized by the government or else they are officially a cult).

We took the unions that represented the largest numbers of French (base on research from the World Values Survey) and found their directory listings for Paris. These were Catholic (via Diocese of Paris), Evangelical churches (via CNEF), Lutheran/Reformed churches (via EPUDF), and attempted to locate any charismatic churches but were unable to do so within the city limits.

We ended up with:
Catholic: 75 (who were having mass the week of February 17, 2014)
Evangelical: 71
Lutheran/Reformed: 14
Charismatic: 0

Our total number of churches came to:
Paris: 160
Minneapolis: 670

From here we do some fun math. First step was to get a ratio of churches to Parisians [160/2.2 Million]. We then could use this ratio times the population of Minneapolis to discover how many churches we’d have left.

If Minneapolis were Paris we would only have:
643 churches would need to close their doors.
27 Churches left.  Amazing.

How many attendees would we loose?

So we already know that most of our churches would close up and stand as a reminder of what used to be, but how many people would stop attending church at least once a week. These numbers become much more difficult to find on a local basis, but we can infer quite a bit from self reported national statistics and then break them down a bit to make sense of it.

According to the World Values Survey we see the following self-reported numbers for people attending religious services at least once a week.
France: 7.2%
USA: 36%

Doing some quick math we find out the number of people involved in any religious service in a given week (the percent above times the population of the city):
Paris: 161,556
Minneapolis: 137,728

Now as we are working on the non-Catholic side of things, lets have these numbers reflect that.  In the USA 44.7% of report as protestant, and France has 4.3%. This breaks down to weekly involvement of.
Paris: 6,947
Minneapolis: 61,546

If Minneapolis were Paris we would only have:
60,380 people would need to leave their protestant churches.
1,184 people are left attending church at least weekly.*

One more comparison for fun:

One of the most noticeable differences is how densely populated Paris is verses Minneapolis. While most people may not realize this, the city of Paris only covers 40.7 square miles, it is almost 18 square miles less then Minneapolis that comes in at 58.4! There are nearly 2 million more people living in less space. So this is going to be tight, but how tight?

Running the numbers we end up with the following people per square mile.
Paris: 55,131
Minneapolis: 6,550

If Minneapolis were Paris:
Everyone would move onto just 6.94 square miles.
Just 11% of the surface area of Minneapolis!
This is less space then the 16.6% dedicated to parks.


*Just a quick aside for those of you super geeks looking for flaws in our logic, I know there are many. First of all both Paris and Minneapolis are much younger on average then their macro trends and since church attendance is much lower among young people these numbers will be inflated. Also applying a national religious affiliation trend to a localized population is dangerous. Minneapolis has a strong catholic presence but a rich Lutheran heritage that makes me think that the 44.7% is probably a bit low here. Paris on the other hand I have no real sense for how accurate the 4.3% is. I assume that the 161,566 weekly involvement number is quite high in Paris, since there are only 160 churches there. With almost all of those individuals (83.4%) attending a catholic mass (there are only 100 a week in Paris) it would mean over 1,000 people per mass. I can tell you that this has not been my experience. The 9.4% of Muslims in France will likely raise the number of people attending a religious service at least once a week, but the Muslim youth are likewise falling away from the faith of their parents. So there it is. My thoughts on why the numbers might seem a bit odd, but for the sake of our illustration they are faithful to the research, and we have done our best to make them representative without imposing numerical assumptions.

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