Congregations long to get back to February 2020, but a recent Gallup poll (U.S. Congregations) shows that 2020 is the end of a significant 20-year decline in church membership. To go back is to go back to the ways of decrease.
Gallup’s latest study on membership in the U.S. reveals that for the first time in 80 years, less than 50% of people affiliate with a local congregation (Canada’s affiliation level is even lower). The decline has been fast. For almost six decades, affiliation rates hovered around 70%. In 2000 they began to decline. In 2010 affiliation was 61%. In 2020 47% (note this includes all affiliated with a church, mosque, or synagogue). What is more telling for the future is that only 36% of Millennials and Gen Z affiliate with a congregation.
The shift in affiliation reveals an increase in the non-religious and non-affiliated in the U.S. In 2009 17% were in this category; by 2020, 29% claimed this status.
Even as we see these numbers, many of our congregations long to get back to February 2020. Back to the way things were. They are, in the words of a friend of mine, saying, “Sign me up to lose more.”
Rather than going back to February 2020, what if we see this past year as God’s moment to reshape the Bride of Christ? What is God has used this past year to break his church? What if when God breaks something that he doesn’t put them back together in the same way?
This year with Covid 19, Black Lives Matter, political, academic, economic, and a host of other disruptions have forced the church to do ministry and mission differently. What if we decided to learn from this past year in ways that shape a new ministry and mission future. A new ministry and mission future that listens to those who are not interested in February 2020 but may be interested in a church that engages the world with good news wisdom?
Rather than going back to February 2020, let’s ask ourselves a few questions that lead us into the world we are in dwelling now.
- How has God broken our congregation in this past year?
- How can we imagine him putting us back together in a different way?
- How has God broken our local community in this past year?
- How can we envision joining people in our community who repair what’s been broken?
- How have we reimagined discipleship because of Covid 19, Black Lives Matter, and the many disruptions in life? How can this reimagining lead us into a new day of discipleship?
- How do we navigate our anxiety in this time, an anxiety that makes us long to go back to February 2020?
“Sign Me Up to Lose More” provided by Larry Doornbos, director of Vibrant Congregations. Vibrant Congregations joins local churches in discovering their God-given, hope-filled, shalom-focused future using the Vibrancy Pathway:
Pray Deeply|Identify Wisely|Implement Joyfully
Pray Deeply: We engaging congregations in Word and prayer to listen to God’s word to the church
Identify Wisely: We join with the congregation in discovering their best partner for fresh steps in ministry and mission.
Implement Joyfully: We equip the congregation to move forward into God’s future.
For more information on the Vibrancy Pathway, resources and our latest Church Now Conversation, visit Vibrant’s website.