Flipping the Church

Flipping the Church February 22, 2016

I found myself reflecting recently on the ways we count “attendance” in relation to church congregations. Why do we focus on Sunday morning worship services, and not how many come to the community breakfast, or other things. And indeed, what is the meaning of the Sunday morning service, which was designed to convey information in a context in which the normal way for information to flow was very different from today.

This led to a discussion with the area minister from my denomination about what we can learn from developments in education. Perhaps we should try “flipping the church,” moving sermons online and using the time we gather together for discussion and for practical activities?

What do you think? Have you experienced a religious community that decided that it doesn’t make sense to communicate or fellowship the way people had to when we didn’t have the internet and recording technology? What did they do differently? How did it work? How did some – especially older members – react to the new ways of doing things?

Looking into it further, I found (unsurprisingly) that I was not the first to consider this. David Morrow blogged about this here at Patheos. Daniel Im and Chris Wilson also wrote about this, and others responded.

Of related interest:

Ian Paul discusses whether we gather in church to worship or to learn.

A church in Northern Ireland cut back what church means to its core.

Greg Cootsona asked whether worship means going to church.

A recent article addressed changing attendance patterns.

A Patheos post responded to claims that liberal Christianity is dead or dying. Christian Century asked whether we should be as anxious as we are.

Chaplain Mike offered a very simple suggestion as to why people are “losing their religion” in our time.

A quote from John Barclay about grace also relates to this topic.

Interestingly, some of the same points came up in a video which Allan Bevere shared about the alleged decline in mainline churches, featuring Ted Campbell:

Better than church? Religions’ social events have higher purpose

Sociologist Josh Packard suggests that many of the “Dones” are among those who were most active and involved in religious activities, and who found institutional religion too confining, even stifling.

What do readers think? How do we determine church attendance and whether it is in decline? Why do we tend to focus on Sunday morning worship services? How should what religious people do in their congregations change in response to the different ways we communicate and connect with others in the present day?

See also Ben Corey’s post on how to avoid attending a church where you disagree with people.


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  • TrevorN

    If I can be cute for a moment, this isn’t really “flipping the church”. Suppose you measured how effectively a church was fulfilling its purpose by looking at how much time its members spent outside the church “being Christ to the world”? By that measure time spent together in church is time wasted, and a healthy church would be reducing it rather than raising it or maintaining it. That’s flipping the church Peter Rollins-style 🙂

    • I think one can consider it useful, or indeed necessary, to come together for mutual support in order to accomplish those tasks. Otherwise we move from being a community working to change the world, towards being merely separate individuals trying to do that separately when we would at times be more effective doing it together, in a collaborative and coordinated way.