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?