Maybe you’re tired of the many “sky is falling” predictions for the American church. I know we are, but the Hartford Institute for Religious Research just published some figures that church leaders need to notice. Church attendance averages are dropping across all denominations, but there are some solutions that are within reach.
For the first time since 2000, the average attendance of 58% of American churches has dipped below 100 attendees. That means America is filled with lots of tiny churches that need to rethink their outreach strategies, approach to ministry, and finances. The church has no shortage of ideas for how to remedy this negative trend, but picking the right one and then implementing it effectively is the hard part.
So where do you start as a church leader if your attendance is part of this overall trend?
First, you need to focus on getting more efficient with your time by recalibrating the expectations of your congregation. Thom Rainer writes, for instance, that the monthly church business meeting has been dropped by nearly 70% of churches in an attempt to minimize conflict and to use time more efficiently. There are plenty of ways to communicate business information with your congregation and to gather feedback without gathering people together for a long meeting every month.
Most importantly, leaders need to learn how ministry adapts with the times and with the people in their areas. The old way of “doing business” or doing ministry won’t work forever, and the end of business meetings is a good example of that. Most young adults have no interest in a monthly business meeting at church!
As you consider ways to reach out to new people, to innovate in your ministry, and to plant new ministries or churches, missionaries are often ideal examples to follow. Missionaries are excellent at evaluating the religious background and culture of a people group and then finding ways to communicate the Gospel. The most successful missionaries cultivate an “indigenous” church that worships God with their own language and culture.
How does your church need to adapt in order to share the Gospel in today’s culture? Find out more in this issue of Ministry Briefing.
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