Gone are the days when you could do a bit of advertising, open the doors of the church, and see people stream in. Many of us “old-timers” may come up with some pat answers like you need to work harder or go back to the good ole days of revival meetings, but the fact is, it is more challenging to lead and grow a church today than it was 30 years ago.
Pastors and congregations are increasingly discouraged about declining attendance. Yes, we may be partly to blame, but many of the reasons are more difficult to change. Here are some causes for the shift away from Sunday attendance.
- Our culture has become more post-Christian. Our society has grown more skeptical about organized church. The religious “nones” and “dones” are rising in number. Years ago, people attended church because they saw it as beneficial. Good citizens showing up at church! People no longer see going to church “social” necessity. Some have estimated that today, congregations could be losing anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent of their attendance with this shift.
- Even committed Christians are attending less frequently. Growing up, we’d never think of missing a Sunday service (let alone, Sunday night and Wednesday night). Today, even committed believers have no problem skipping Sunday church. Ironically, some have dropped out because they are burned out by over-commitment. It has been estimated that regular attendance is down by 25 percent, basically, one less Sunday a month.
- Weekend work. Blue laws are gone, and Sunday is just another day of the week. Stores and even some companies stay open through Sunday. More and more people find themselves working on Sunday and not available to attend a church service.
- Competing commitments. Church is no longer the only show in town. Years ago, the church was the only thing scheduled on a Sunday morning. Now the options are endless. Sports. Shopping. Brunch. Travel. Stay home and watch online. Today people have choices, and more often, they don’t choose Sunday Church.
- Some churches have become self-serving. Tom Rainer mentions this in his book, I Am a Church Member: “When church members see the church as a place to meet the needs and preferences of ‘me, myself, and I,’ you have a congregation who is inwardly focused.” Some churches are not willing to make the necessary changes in order to be relevant to the community around them.
BEFORE YOU GO
Carey Nieuwhof just posted a blog entitled, “10 reasons even committed Christians are attending church less often,” which is worth looking at.
So what do you think? What other reasons do believe church attendance is declining? Is my perspective is too cynical? What can we do to overcome some things challenges in our world today?
4 Comments Add yours
Randy, I believe we who live on the West Coast face the struggle that our populations are the least inclined to be in church. We have some wonderful, fully committed people but the general population is more interested in skiing, the ocean, outdoor activities and many other interests.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I believe all these are true and that it is not to negative. There are other reasons to consider also. Here are maybe a few:
• We can be afraid of truth-telling. By this, I mean Biblical truth-telling.
• We have sought to identify with our culture so much that we have lost what makes us different.
• We have continued to ask people to come to a single meeting on a particular day at a particular time that in America at least originated in a more agrarian culture.
• We have abandoned or at least called into question many long-held Biblical convictions.
• We at times do not want to speak with an authoritative voice for God. Other’s words have taken the place of “God says”.
• We have not clearly held church membership in high regard, identified what it means to be a member.
My using “we” is to show that I include myself as a contributing part of these things. Just a few thoughts as I read this today.
I love this thought from Jesus “Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church, and all the powers of hell (gates of Hell KJV) will not conquer it.NLT Matt. 16:18
Jesus will build His church and nothing will stop it!
LikeLiked by 1 person
As i visit churches around the world and am even now in the Philippines, they can identify with many of the things you say. But they are doing here as many churches are doing elsewhere, they are evangelizing through ministry outreaches (e.g. disaster relief like with the volcano here) and neighbors reaching neighbors. then there is increased reliance on small groups, cell groups, study groups. The name changes and some structural differences but basically looks like Wesley’s ideas. Here there is strong accountability, bonding and commitment. Sounds very much like Wesley. 🙂 new leaders are constantly being trained and current leaders are cared for and refreshed by further training. One of the results is an excitement as the groups see and experience transformation in their lives. Sunday service is still a gathering but a gathering of the cell groups.
People are seeking God and Sunday church is the first place they will go. However, many of them want to encounter Him in the people, but the structure doesn’t facilitate relationships without a lot more work on their part. There is a loneliness epidemic. Churches are hospitals, but instead of assisting people to enter, the main doors are locked and people are exhorted to climb in through the windows.