Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why are churches dying?

Ron Sellers of Ellison Research recently released his findings on the changes people make in where they worship and why. There are many reasons why smaller churches die (aging, change in community, apathy, etc.), but some of the things we are told by agents of change are not verified by this research. Sellers said:
"There's sort of an assumption out there that traditional forms of worship are dying out and that smaller churches are really in danger of dying out," he shares. "And while that may be true of individual smaller churches, still the average church in the United States has around a hundred people attending. You've got a lot of smaller churches that are out there, that are very active, that are very involved and people are involved in them -- and there's no evidence that the smaller churches are giving up a lot of congregants to the mega-churches."

"Theologically, 53% of adults who have changed where they worship say their new place of worship is about the same as their old one. Twenty-eight percent moved to a place they feel is more theologically conservative, including 12% who say it is much more conservative, while 19% moved to one that is more theologically liberal (including 7% who feel it is much more liberal). "

Some folks actually prefer to participate in worship rather than be entertained by artists, prefer following Biblical patterns over contemporary fads, and prefer to please God rather than please themselves.

Before one decides that churches must change (to be like the big boys) or die, one should stop and think.

Churches of Christ with 500 and above in attendance only account for 243 of the nearly 13,000 congregations; that's less than two percent and not far off the national average for all religious groups in America. According to the 2006 directory published by 21st Century Christian, the largest 1000 congregations will house 35.4% of the attendance. Only ten percent of the churches will have 200 or more in attendance, but they account for 40.5 percent of the attendees (page 15).

That means that the majority (59.5 percent) of our folks still worship in churches smaller than 200.



dell kimberly said...

Phil, thanks for your love of the gospel. Worship styles do not determine the worth of a church. Size isn't really important. Churches live or die on their ability to make a difference in their communities. Churches that die "usually" do so because they turn inward. Churches that grow do so because they are willing to be involved in peoples lives. It really evolves around our point of emphasis. We usually produce the results that are most important to us. Unfortunately in too many places it those results aren't the salvation of souls. Thanks for your love of the Lord and keep preaching Jesus.

Matthew said...

I believe you are correct, the movement of Christianity is going away from the once popular big band worship to a simplistic expression of devotion found in vocal singing. After a while, people become tired of "getting cheesy for Jesus" that entertainment seems to present.

Ben Wiles said...

Even among the largest churches, it is the ability to "think small" that makes the difference between life and death. I had an elder at one of Nashville's largest churches of Christ tell me that his congregation was "not really one church of 3600, but 60 groups of 60 who all happen to meet at the same place once a week." This was, as he put it, an intentional move on their part to draw on the power of intimate relationshps to cultivate the "one another" aspects of Christian spirituality so often overlooked by the "me-first," whiz-bang mentality typical of megachurches. He is convinced, as am I, that a church's vitality can best be seen in how invested each member is in the spiritual well-being of somebody else.