Today, our congregational president, Jim and I flew to Denver and then drove to Loveland, CO to take in a conference entitled “The Future of the Church” hosted by Group Publishing. Our goal is to gain learning, understanding and awareness of what is happening around the country so we might be better equipped to take the timeless truth of the Gospel to an ever changing world. What I hope to share is information that was shared with us. I will save a level of personal comment to after the sessions are over on Friday.
Session 1: “The Trajectory of Today’s Church”
Some comments that were shared:
• Most church leaders are now agreeing that the church is in decline in America. From whatever matrix you want to measure it (church attendance, new baptisms, etc.) the numbers show a decline. Five years ago there was still a level of skepticism that this was the case. Now it is real, but there is a sense of not sure what to do about it.
• Some statistics:
• 18% less churches doing Sunday schools this year than five years ago.
• 21% fewer churches doing Vacation Bible Schools than five years ago
• Southern Baptist convention has had 10 years of decline. 1 million less Baptists than 10 years ago; Baptisms declined by 5% (lowest in 70 years); Last year alone attendance declined by 7%.
• Those that would say “I am spiritual but not religious” has increased from 19% in 2012 to 27% in 2017
• Nones (no religious affiliation) make up 23% of population
• Dones (Christian, but done with organized church) make up 31% of population (about the same as those who attend church
• Almost Dones (one step away from leaving the church) is another 7 million people.
The group was challenged to consider two questions:
1. What do you notice in your area in regard to the trajectory of the church?
2. Why do you think some would like to deny this decline?
(PLEASE take a moment to answer these questions in the comments below – would love to hear what others think!)
Also during this session we heard from a gal who grew up Catholic, married a protestant, attended a Lutheran church. They ended up starting a church but currently are in “pausa” as she said – not active in a church, but still attend a small group. Here are some of her reasons:
• The emphasis moved from reaching people to emphasis on building programs;
• Volunteers not treated appropriately
• Church was inner focused and “insider driven”
• Bureaucracy and a seeming waste of time
• Get in a routine of doing things vs. out and doing ministry
She recognized that her busy life doesn’t want to spend time in activities that seem to have little impact on people and leading to spiritual formation and transformation. She commented that her desire was for the church to be a place of learning and growing to be better able to witness her faith in the work place and other aspects of life.
She offered to “do church the way Jesus did and Acts did” – Share and tell; serve and support.
This session also talked a bit about the tension and division in our country as an “era of disdain and scorn for each other.” Unfortunately the church is seen by some as part of this issue. As a result they can become a target of harm. One of the presenters shared the growing need and interest in having “security teams” to assist in ensuring a church is a place of security and ensure people feel safe at church. He talked about the skill of “verbal deescalation” to diffuse potentially harmful situations before they get ugly.
This provides a lot to think about and consider. I would be interested in your comments and questions. Not that I can answer them all, but to hear your reaction to this information.
More to come…