The drive to church is too far when compared to what I leave church with. I am to busy with activities that bring me great gratification when measured to success. My wife takes too long to get ready and I am frustrated with the financial strain it places on me trying to keep gasoline. I can go on and on why I sometimes find it hard to be faithful at a church that’s a distance from where I reside or local. This church is too worldly, it resembles a night club. The pastor is a comedian and I need dogma that is teaching holiness and the excuses go on and on……
“What is this one trend? It’s that your most committed people will attend worship services less frequently than ever in 2015. [Emphasis added.]
“What does this mean? Simply that people who use[d] to attend 4 times a month may only attend 3 times a month. Members who used to come twice a month will only come once a month.”
Why are so many Christians choosing to spend less time with a community of believers on Sunday? Mancini suggests that there are many causes, but he specifically cites three:
- Increased involvement in kids activities: parents eschew church to let their kids participate in club sports
- More travel for work: more business “road-warrioring” means less time for church
- Online church: people stay home and watch church on their tablets, Apple TVs, and phones
That doesn’t mean pastors and local churches should just go down without a fight. In particular, Mancini thinks this trend actually presents us with opportunities—if we know how to make an impact. He gives three pointers:
1. Add value not venues.
Instead of just adding more and more activities, find ways to beef up the value of what’s already there. Work with existing small groups to provide better training, for example.
2. Think training over teaching.
Your congregation can get inspirational teaching on the Internet. In fact, online churches often have better follow-up than some small congregations. What they can’t get is solid training that helps them grow in their faith on a personal level.
3. Design for ministry ends not means.
We have lots of programs, but not nearly enough discipleship. Doing more as a church doesn’t necessarily mean that people are growing. The trend toward less attendance may have much to do with us missing the point of what church is supposed to be about: helping people follow Jesus better.
On a recent post on ChurchPastor.com, Pastor Erik Raymond provided 3 keys for church survival that hit on the same notes as Mancini’s article:
“Jesus gave the command that ought to characterize everything the church does. This is her mission. Everything the church does is to promote people coming to know Christ and grow in him. As a result, the church must be intentionally involved in evangelism. This involves the church at large and the individuals within the church. The mood of the church needs to be evangelistic.“The church also must be a training church. People need to grow in their understanding and application of biblical truth. This comes in many shapes and sizes from preaching to classes to community (fellowship); but it must be there.”
Now, it’s your turn. Do you attend less frequently now days than you used to? If so, what made you stop going as much? Are you seeing less involvement? How has your church overcome this?
Here are just five measures of American religion reported annually by Gallup that each show the same thing: religion in America is on the decline.
One of the most important measures is the rise of the so-called “nones.” This is the growing segment of Americans you say “none” when asked what their religion is. Two decades ago, only one-in-twenty Americans said they weren’t part of any religion. Today, it is at least three times that level, with the “nones” becoming one of the largest religious groups in the country.
It’s tough to get Americans to accurately report whether or not they attend church. Regardless, even a measure that may over-report attendance is showing a decline. This graph shows the percentage who report attending more often then “seldom” or “never” (so, once a month or more). The average has moved from the low-60 percentages to nearly 50 percent (a twenty percent drop).
Both the decline in people identifying with religion and attendance is related to membership. Even people who never attend church may be a member of a religious community. Twenty years ago, seven-in-ten Americans said they were members of a church or other religious group. Today, it’s less than six-in-ten.
Ok, so maybe it’s not a decline of religion per se but a decline in “organized religion.” Gallup and other pollsters get around this by asking about how important religion is people’s lives. As with the other measures, this measure of religion is moving downward. It, too, has dropped about ten points since the early 1990s.
How about this measure: is religion relevant for today’s problems or is it out of date? The percentage of people who think religion is relevant for today is down from 80 percent to 70 percent.
There are more sophisticated ways of combining these measures, but here is combination that puts them into one graph. This is simply the average of all the measures for each year. In the early 1990s, this average was hovering around 78 percent. From 2000 onward, the measures have been in decline, reaching 69 percent last year.