Source: The Huffington Post
By Steve McSwain: Author, Speaker, Counsel to Faith-Based Organizations and Congregations, and a Spiritual Teacher
That’s the title of a new book written by Joani Schultz and Thom Schultz. And it’s a question those leaving are more than ready to answer. The problem is, few insiders are listening.
And, of course, that IS the problem.
In a recent issue of Christianity Today, for example, Ed Stetzer wrote an article entitled, “The State of the Church in America: Hint: It’s Not Dying.” He states: “The church is not dying… yes… in a transition… but transitioning is not the same as dying.”
Really? What cartoons have you been watching?
Clearly, the Church is dying. Do your research, Mr. Stetzer. According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly. As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church. In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends.
Furthermore, somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 churches close their doors every year. Southern Baptist researcher, Thom Rainer, in a recent article entitled “13 Issues for Churches in 2013” puts the estimate higher. He says between 8,000 and 10,000 churches will likely close this year.
Between the years 2010 and 2012, more than half of all churches in America added not one new member. Each year, nearly 3 million more previous churchgoers enter the ranks of the “religiously unaffiliated.”
Churches aren’t dying?
No, of course not. Churches will always be here. But you can be sure, churches are going through more than a mere “transition.” I study these things carefully. I counsel church leaders within every denomination in America, having crisscrossed this country for nearly two decades counseling congregations as small as two hundred in attendance to churches averaging nearly 20,000 in weekly attendance. As I see it, there are “7” changing trends impacting church-going in America. In this first of two articles, I’ll address the “7” trends impacting church-going. In the second part, I’ll offer several best practices that, as I see it, might reverse the trends contributing to the decline.
Trends Impacting Church Decline:
1. The demographic remapping of America.
Whites are the majority today at 64 percent. In 30 to 40 years, they will be the minority. One in every three people you meet on the street in three to four decades will be of Hispanic origin. In other words, if you are not reaching Hispanics today, your church’s shelf life is already in question.
Furthermore, America is aging. Go into almost any traditional, mainline church in America, observe the attendees and you’ll quickly see a disproportionate number of gray-headed folks in comparison to all the others. According to Pew Research, every day for the next 16 years, 10,000 new baby boomers will enter retirement. If you cannot see where this is headed, my friend, there is not much you can see.
Technology is changing everything we do, including how we “do” church. Yet, there are scores of churches that are still operating in the age of the Industrial Revolution. Instead of embracing the technology and adapting their worship experiences to include the technology, scores of traditional churches, mainline Protestant, and almost all Catholic churches do not utilize the very instruments that, without which, few Millennials would know how to communicate or interact.
However, when I suggest to pastors and priests, as I frequently do, that they should use social media and, even in worship, they should, for example, right smack in the middle of a sermon, ask the youth and young adults to text their questions about the sermon’s topic… that you’ll retrieve them on your smartphone… and, before dismissing, answer the three best questions about today’s sermon, most of the ministers look at me as if I’ve lost my mind. What they should be more concerned about is why the Millennials have little or no interest in what they have to say.