The top 1,000 reasons


Disappearing churches


By Bruce Roberts

Originally posted Nov. 21, 2013, at Aging And The Church. Republished with permission of the author.

It isn’t hard to find books, blogs, magazine stories and newspaper articles that tell us why our churches are disappearing. I searched Google for “The top reasons church is declining,” then I pulled the top reason from each of the first six relevant results from the list of 45,700,000 results.  They are:

Members attend with less frequency than they did just a few years ago.

  • The church body begins to think “this is my church.”
  • They’ve lost their outward focus.
  • Not being connected in the church and/or being revolted by gossip and turned away by conflict and strife.
  • They are so beyond being told that science is evil and suspect and that things like the Genesis account of creation are to be taken, not as a spiritual explanation for the origin of the universe, but as a scientific explanation.
  • Children's sports activities, since both practices and competitions are increasingly "scheduled on Sunday mornings.”

Given the diversity of these top reasons why churches are disappearing, I thought that it might take 1,000 top reasons to cover all the actual possibilities. Truth in advertising — I have not started yet on that list.

As I read a variety of the reasons for our church decline that have been posted and published, I admire each author’s sincerity in drawing from their personal experience, sometimes from many churches, and/or gathering the results of questionnaires from their church. To say that any one offering of reasons for the decline is wrong is simply not true, although a given “reason” from one report is somewhat unlikely to be true for a declining church across the country or perhaps even across town.

So what are we who worry about the decline to do? I am not willing to give up. As an older adult I am aware of the incredible importance of church for so many of us older adults as we face increasing changes in ourselves, our family and friends and the places that we would like to frequent. To lose our church is to lose our way.

With all due respect to those who want to argue “Who is the purist of them all?”, it seems less important to me that we dialog about the nuances of belief, then that we have conversations together about what is truly needed to stop our congregational bleeding.

Who out there has the resources to address this issue churchwide?  Who has the skills to develop a national/regional online system plus local face-to-face conversation — so that together we can make a difference? Can we get started before there are only a handful of us left?

You might also want to read:
Membership decline in the ELCA
Mustard Seed Ministries
An open invitation

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