Why are church populations lower than ever?
This is a question that Christians in the US and Canada have been wrestling with for years. And the COVID-19 pandemic absolutely accelerated the trends that were already driving down church membership and church attendance. Since the 1990s, the numbers of practicing Christians has been in freefall. There’s no shortage of speculation about the reasons why this has happened. Pew Research Center, which studies this subject extensively, summarizes the possible reasons:
“…some scholars contend that secularization is the result of increasing “existential security” – as societal conditions improve and scientific advances allow people to live longer lives with fewer worries about meeting basic needs, they have less need for religion to cope with insecurity (or so the theory goes). Others say that in the U.S., an association of Christianity with conservative politics has driven many liberals away from the faith. Still other theories involve declining trust in religious institutions, clergy scandals, rising rates of religious intermarriage, smaller families, and so on. When asked, Americans give a wide range of reasons for leaving religion behind, Pew Research Center has found.”
Whatever the reasons, the fact is that we’re faced with a declining number of people who feel that church membership – as well as worship attendance – is an important part of their lives. And since many churches have buildings that were built for much larger active congregations, we’re feeling the squeeze.
How do we fix it? That’s the priceless question, isn’t it. We can’t change the societal trends, but we can work together to help ECC continue to be a meaningful part of our community.
- We are better when we stay engaged. Attend Sunday worship. Join a ministry team or Bible study group. Help out with events.
- Engage with children and youth, in our church and in the community. Kids who grow up knowing a loving, caring, life-giving church family grow up to be adults who value their own faiths and faith communities.
- Practice generosity. A thriving church is one that has people who are dedicated to it, not only in financial donations, but also in generously sharing the life skills and spiritual gifts that you have been given.
- Pray. Pray for your church. Pray for your ministers. Pray for your own openness to the changes that will have to happen for the Church universal to truly become a reflection God’s kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.
For further reading:
https://healthychurch.org/resources/archives/6-ways-mainline-churches-should-respond-to-decline/ (This is written for an Episcopalian audience, but it has some great ideas for churches of any denomination.)