More Bad News for the (Mainline) Church

I spent some time last week with a group of mainline clergy.  They were truly great people who really wanted to change their churches.  I was speaking about preaching, and they wanted their preaching to be more relevant and contemporary.  But, they reported to me, they are handcuffed.  Their aging congregations simply will not abide change of any kind.

These clergy were in a predicament: their congregations are so small that to lose any of the old-timers virtually ensures closing the doors to the church, but without dramatic changes, the congregations are bound to continue their decline.  The question is, can these clergy both satisfy the elderly members and also reach out to new, younger members?

The answer seems to be no.

Hartford Seminary, an authoritative voice regarding trends in the American Church, has released a study about what happened in the forst decade of the millennium.  The news all around is not good, and it’s particularly bad for the mainline church.  In fact, the report, “A Decade of Change in American Congregations, 2000-2010” (PDF), suggests that the phrase to describe these congregations should be changed to oldline Christianity.

As seen in the above graphs, innovation in worship directly correlates to congregational health and vitality.

White churches in general, and oldline churches particularly are doing a horrible job at keep young adults interested in faith: [Read more…]