Decline In Number of Americans Belonging To a Religious Congregation

The Gallop organization has conducted a survey of Americans for more than 60 years on the topic of belonging to a religious congregation. For most of the 60 years not surprising to most of the world’s observers, the percentage hovered around 70%.

This year, 47% of Americans say they belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque.

Having been in church leadership at times, I’ve heard many excuses. And many plans for church growth. There exist doctorate degrees with an emphasis in church growth. I know of one such graduate who grew a congregation from 650 to 250. MBAs and economists talk of negative growth rather than decline. I guess that sounds better.

Most blame cultural influences.

I’d suggest that church leaders seriously ask and answer the question, “What have we done to turn people off?”

One of the accepted spiritual disciplines is meeting with others.

But most of us just want to associate with welcoming people. Not divisive ones. Where meeting is more than attending a “rock concert and a TED talk”. Where, perhaps, we can have a cup of coffee or tea with others and share what living in the kingdom of heaven has meant this past week.

Two metrics seem to matter. And as we say in manufacturing, what gets measured gets managed. The metrics are attendance and money.

There is no metric for the status of people’s hearts. And that is what matters to Jesus.

In the pandemic, most of us are not meeting with many people. As we begin to ease out of the isolation, perhaps we look for small gatherings of seekers and learners and worry less about rock music, smoke machines, flashing lights, and a rocking sermon.

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