The conversation was both predictable and profound. It was predictable because I have been asked a similar question many times. It was profound because it represents the very nature of the challenges our congregations face today. “Thom,” he began. “I have been serving as pastor of my church for over 20 years. I have never had more difficulty leading growth in a church. What is going on?”
My pastor friend emphasized two points clearly. First, he was not looking for an excuse for the lack of growth. Second, he wanted information so he could address the issue.
The pastor was right. Growth is indeed more difficult today in American congregations. And there are some clear reasons why this reality is true.
- Cultural Christians are much less likely to attend. “Cultural Christianity” is really an oxymoron. I am referring to those people who once attended church because they saw it as culturally, politically, and economically beneficial. That reality no longer exists for the most part. Congregations could be losing anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent of their attendance with this change.
- More committed Christians are attending less frequently. When the most committed believers in a church decrease their attendance patterns by 25 percent (they go from attending four Sundays a month to three), you can expect a precipitous decline in attendance. And the greater majority of congregations are indeed experiencing this unfortunate phenomenon.