Our Search for a Church is Over!

In March 2015, my wife, Susan, relocated to Denton, Texas from Naples, Florida.  Six months later I finished an interim ministry position in Southwest Florida and joined her. 70 Weeks of Searching  From late September 2015 through early February 2017 (17 months!) we embarked on a one of a kind journey I termed our "search for a church."  Despite our often conflicting professional travel schedules, we managed to worship 61 times in 36 different Mainline Protestant congregations within a Read More …

Dwindling Membership: The United Church of Christ from 1965-2015

While I consider myself a post-denominational follower of the Way of Jesus, I have spent the most of the last six years involved in the life of congregations affiliated with the United Church of Christ.  This Mainline Protestant denomination has experienced a significant decline in membership over the last 50 years from over 2 million members in 1965 to under 1 million members in 2015. The graph at right shows the denomination's total membership by year in blue and the percent change or Read More …

Search for a Church: The Final Four

The search for a church for my family is nearing completion.  After visiting 30 churches in our geographic area, my wife and I have agreed to consider four as possible communities of faith for intentional and ongoing involvement. For obvious reasons I won't name the congregations.  I will, however, share that they don't all look alike: Memberships range from 120 to around 2000 Average weekly worship attendance ranges from 75 to around 1,000 (in 1 to 4 services) Senior pastor tenure Read More …

Toward Church Renewal

Cameron Trimble, CEO of the Center for Progressive Renewal, recently offered five suggestions to aid in the work of congregational renewal: Stop settling for mediocre worship. Turn members into ministers, not managers. Create environments of innovation. Seminaries are great, but we need more learning partners. Start embracing technology. I agree with Trimble that each of these is an important step toward renewal.  Furthermore, I believe the time for conversation that doesn't lead Read More …

Stop Redecorating & Start Making Real Changes

Tom Ehrich, a writer and Episcopal priest, recently slammed the work of an Episcopal task force. For him, the task force's focus on what can be done at the level of the denomination "seems a bit like redecorating and recalibrating the home office of a company in which the home office plays a minor role." The time for that type of change ended decades ago.  The mainline denominations (a group that includes Episcopalians) are a shell of what they once were, and are now "down more than 42 Read More …

Southern Baptist Decline

2012 was another rough year for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  More specifically, "according to the Annual Church Profile (ACP) compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions, most of the ACP metrics declined in 2012 including membership, average attendance, baptisms . . ."  Expressed as percentages, the declines are membership: 0.7%, average worship attendance: 3.1%, and baptisms: 5.5%. So What? While the SBC still has 6 million Read More …

Future Church – More About Following

Church v.2020 - Ten Changes: #8 More About Following – Less About Membership When compared with the American church of 2012, the future church (v.2020) will focus more on following and less on membership.  This shift places the emphasis on following the way of Jesus rather than being a faithful member of a local church.  Toward this end, likely changes include: An approach to belonging and deepening individual's connection to the faith community that values assimilation into a community Read More …

Why Are You Still in Church?

Much is being written about why people are leaving church, especially those in younger generations.  Emily Case, Associate Pastor at Kennesaw United Methodist Church in Kennesaw, GA, recently wrote about why she has chosen to stay: Why do I stay? Because I believe that just like I am broken, the church is broken, that we all are broken. But, I believe that God can often work best through brokeness. Why do I stay? Because I have seen lives changed because someone held their hand while they Read More …

Why Do You Belong to Your Church?

Christianity is not a Lone Ranger religion; it is experienced in community.  In most cities or towns in American would be church goers have many options, including Protestant or Catholic, contemporary or traditional worship, theologically conservative or progressive, and small or large membership. So What? If you currently belong to a church (whether or not you are a member), think back to your original experiences that helped you discern this was the fellowship for you. Why did you Read More …

Just How Small Are Most Congregations?

Recently the Presbyterian Church (USA) released information about the distribution of its congregations by size.  The chart below provides the data in a manner that clearly displays the prevalence of small congregations. Put differently, 51.9% have 100 or fewer members 83.7% have 300 or fewer members 3.6% have 800 or more members So What? Since completing my education I have served exclusively in mainline congregations with well over 800 members, including a PC (USA) parish. Read More …