Recently, the Pew Research Forum released a study concerning the religious landscape in America. The results are sobering for those of us in church work and require much thought and consultation moving forward. I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone but the numbers of Christians, or rather people who consider themselves Christian, has fallen in the time from 2007 to 2014. The numbers are down across the board, and it is not confined to just one denomination.
But it is not just about the numbers!
Since the start of Christianity, people have been coming and going in the Church. People join and then for some reason, perhaps marriage, perhaps they move, perhaps the grow out of their faith, whatever the reason people have and continue to move on from one Church to another. Should we be concerned? Sure, those of doing the work of the Church should always be concerned about how and why people leave our congregations. But the question I have to ask is, are we listening?
Sometimes I feel we spend way too much time on those who wish to not be part of our congregations. I read in one of Rick Warren’s books that if someone leaves follow up with them, but they know where you are and what time your services are, why spend time on people who do not wish to belong? This is a serious question that needs some serious thought and meditation.
All the time we spend on trying to get those back what are we doing for those who remain? I believe that quality is better than quantity. But we do have to listen to why people are leaving the Church. Sometimes we might be able to make some slight changes, I know Church folk don’t really like the “C” word, but sometimes we cannot.
Are we afraid to ask the question why? Are we afraid of the answer?
If the young people are saying that the Church is not relevant to their lives what are we, or can we, do to change that? Are we convening meetings with them to see what their needs are and how we can fill them? Are we focusing on the wrong things? Where is our attention and where is our focus? Are we using Church property for the benefit of the community as a whole or are we merely maintaining great museums.
There was a time in New England when the Church was the center of life in the Town. In many places, the Church also served as the Town Hall. The meetings of the “Sons of Liberty” was held in pubs in Boston but also in Churches. Are we opening our doors to those in need? Are we preaching sermons that move people to action or are our words filled with judgement and condemnation?
It’s not all about the number but we have to listen to what the numbers are saying to us and yes, we have to be willing to change, or the Church will indeed become irrelevant in not only people’s lives but in the world.