Downward Denominational Trends

An interesting article from The Christian Century regarding worship attendance trends in mainline denominations.

Entry into this emerging, postmodern world is going to be tough on mainline denoms. If there was one negative thing that resulted from the reformation, it was the disagreement between groups that led to an increasingly splintered Christian landscape. The postmodern reformation has a chance to reverse that as churches pull toward a center of creed-based faith.

But the denoms won’t go down without a fight. They are painfully aware of the situation, however I’m not sure they have a solution. Presiding ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson recently told leaders, “it is time for the church to move forward and get over being “timid” about mission and ministry.” C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, recently tweeted “fact: every major denomination is aging and losing members including #Episcopal Church and Diocese of Texas” and “fact: institutional efforts to reverse downward trends & to capture religious imagination of young adults is limited.”

I don’t think any of the mainline denoms are doomed to the point of extinction. Someone will always be there to keep the ship afloat. But a look at the landscape of Europe, particularly England, can give a glimpse of the future in the US. The Church of England still exists, but it’s just a relic. More foot traffic is generated for being a museum than being a place of worship and spirituality.

It’s similar to the Blockbuster – Redbox/Netflix situation. Blockbuster is bankrupt. Redbox and Netflix are the competition. The are a new breed in the movie rental game: innovative, creative, simple, flexible, user-friendly, and adaptable. New expressions of church are the Redbox/Netflix to the denominations Blockbuster.

Contemporary Worship = Higher Attendance?

Article from The Lutheran Staff Blog:

Almost two-thirds -64 percent- of congregations that switched to contemporary worship in the last five years saw an increase in worship attendance of 2 percent or more…

Robert Schaefer responds:

When thinking about worship, first I would propose Lutherans need to start with the center — namely it is the Triune God who acts in the means of grace, the word and sacraments. Second, we have a simple pattern for our worshiping assemblies that shows up in the New Testament church and has been used by generations of Christians ever since: gathering, word, meal and sending. Only third does style capture our attention. Here there is great freedom and flexibility in the song and style a given assembly uses to express what God is doing through this common pattern of gathering around word and sacrament. In this context we would encourage an ever expanding repertoire of contemporary, global, as well as classic music and texts to make the proclamation of the gospel accessible in this time and place, while linking it to every time and place.

Do you have a Christmas Eve service?

From the Lewis Center:

  • On average, Easter attendance is 180 percent of the previous year’s average worship attendance.
  • Christmas Eve attendance is on average 150 percent of the previous year’s average worship attendance.

Churches without Christmas Eve services may be missing a “53rd Sunday” where many churches show attendance rivaling Easter. And churches with low attendance at Christmas Eve services may want to explore how to enhance their offerings to reach more people.