This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Why Church Membership Isn't What It Used to Be.

Once upon a time, we could measure the health of a church by simply counting the active members on the rolls. Or so they tell me.

At some point we realized how inadequate that was.  A church could have lots of members, but not all of them actively participated in the church’s mission.  Plus, churches with fewer members tend to have a higher degree of commitment per member, and so on.

So we decided it would be a more assessment of a church’s health to count the number of regular attendees at worship.  

But that isn’t working any more either.  

Today, it is not unusual for even very active members to attend worship no more than once or twice a month.  

Indeed, someone may be very active in the life of the church, and actually show up at worship only sporadically.

For instance:
  • Someone enthusiastically leads a mission trip in every summer, but barely shows up the rest of the year.  
  • Someone may volunteer regularly and frequently at the Food Bank, but only come to worship every few weeks.  
  • Someone may be very active in a Praise Band, but not attend when the Praise Band is not playing.  
  • Someone may come to Bible Study, send their teenager to Youth Group, and bake for the Bake Sale, but only come to worship a few times a year.  
  • Someone may come to worship every Sunday without fail… but do nothing else in the church except take up 20 inches of pew space.  
  • Someone may have moved away but still send in a generous donation to support the church’s mission.  
  • Someone may attend and even organize a weekly Taize service on Wednesday nights, but go to another church on Sunday mornings.
  • Someone may be very active, but in two or more faith communities depending on what the Spirit moves them towards on any given day.  Sometimes they need a Pentecostal experience; sometimes they sit quietly with Quakers.  
I can think of many, many more examples of this sort of thing.  

These days, 
people’s spiritual life is not always centered exclusively around one congregation.  Increasingly, many express their faith 
in ways that do not include weekly worship attendance at the same church.  

Many active, faithful Christians want to live their faith out in terms of hands-on service projects, and corporate worship is lower on their list of spiritual priorities.

People are finding different kinds of worship experiences in different places.  

The one-size-fits-all church is over! 
What to do?
  1. Relax!  The church’s mission in the world is primary.  If you sent a group of 60 on a mission trip, don’t get depressed that only 20 people are showing up for worship.  Hey, you sent 60 people on a mission trip!  
  2. Tell the hysterical denominational officials who think your church is “dying” because they are looking at your plummeting attendance numbers, to get off your case.  Like Jesus, show them what other good things are happening (Matthew 11:2-6)! 
  3. Find ways of articulating and lifting up the spiritual meaning of the many things people connected to the church are doing in the world.
  4. Appreciate and learn from the other kinds of worship styles that are touching people.
  5. Focus, and do what you do well.  Be the place people will come to who need what you have.


1 comment:

hellotheretracy said...

Great article! Very true and not a bad thing. It is important that we release people to follow Jesus in where ever He calls them to go and to be encouraged to do the things He is calling them to do. With our church or another does not matter. Most important is that they are growing in their faith journey with full encouragement and unconditional love from us. God provides the increase as we humbly are obedient to His Word :)