I recently wrote a blog post about how to use Shelby Arena to measure the health of your church and its members/visitors. Well, right after it was published, I saw an article on The Christian Chronicle about the major decline in Church of Christ attendance in the last nine years. The article, titled “102,000 Fewer People In the Pews Since ’03: Churches of Christ In Decline”, talks about how the adherents in the nation’s historically a cappella congregations stands at 1,554,579, which is down 6.2% from 2003. The article also shows that the amount of Church of Christ churches in the U.S. peaked in 1990 and has been declining ever since.
Now, I know this isn’t news to most of you, but it is still concerning to see the numbers.
An article entitled “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look At Church Attendance In America”, talks about a church attendance study done by a man named Dave Olson, who is the Director of Church Planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Olson started collecting data over 20 years ago, which eventually led to him studying the annual attendance of more than 200,000 individual Orthodox Christian churches. The 100,000+ Orthodox Christian churches that were not in his study were later included by multiplying a church’s membership by the denomination’s membership-to-attendance ratio.
The results? The actual rate of attendance from head counts taken in the churches show that in 2004, 17.7% of the population attended a Christian church on any given weekend. 17.7%!
This is difficult to swallow since churches are continually trying new things to bring in more people. There are many factors that affect church attendance, but it’s possible that social and traditional media might be some of the biggest culprits. Information travels so quickly now that there’s hardly time for justification or explanation. There aren’t always two sides to a story anymore, which can force us to accept information as we get it. We end up changing our ways of thinking. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes it’s bad.
When people form ideas that differ with what the Gospel tells us, and these ideas become popular, Christians are often viewed as narrow-minded and intolerant. Many want nothing to do with organized religion anymore.
The Bible says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:34-35
As Christians, we need to remember that everyone needs love. We don’t always have to agree on everything with everyone, but it is important to be understanding and patient. If you show others your heart, it’s easier for them to see what God is doing in your life.
How do you promote growth in your church?