Is The Church Declining? It Depends How Far You Look Back

Comparing American church attendance trends to the 1960’s is very different from comparisons with the American Colonial period where fewer than 20% of Americans attended church. Even as far back as 734, church leader Venerable Bede lamented how many people failed to show up at a church on a given Sunday. As it turns out, the unchurched and the half-churched are not new trends, and attendance can be cyclical throughout history.

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When we talk to our staff and congregations about the future of the church, some perspective about the cycles and shifts of the church can add important perspective.

  • A discouraging or encouraging message? Most church members have heard that Christianity is declining in America, but it may help to share that any recent declines still pale in comparison to the declines in America’s past. The church can still have significant influence!
  • The church has recovered from declines in the past: God has faithfully revived and restored the church throughout history. There is no reason to fear that God will abandon the church today either.
  • Easter people are not new! People have been skipping out on church and only showing up for the holy days throughout the history of the church. Don’t let attendance ups and downs discourage you.

What are your greatest challenges with church attendance?

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