I was reading the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week when I came across this article, Lutherans work to shed stuffy image and kick-start change. Intrigued by the title I read on. Here are some of the interesting facts & comments that caught my attention:
- “37 percent of the churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America … now have fewer than 50 Sunday worshipers.”
- “Membership at the ELCA plunged from 5.2 million in 1988 to about 3.7 million today.”
- "A lot of Lutherans are worshiping like they just got off the boat from Europe," … "It doesn't create space for people from different backgrounds. We need to reframe what it means to be church, and make it real and relevant to the neighborhood."
This article is full of challenges and wisdom for all churches. I strongly encourage you to read it and share it with your staff and leaders.
After reading the article, I started to think about how this article applies to the Catholic Church. I went to a trusted source, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), and found some interesting data:
Trend in Catholics who attend church regularly:
And this summary table of data:
As I work with Catholic staff and leaders, I believe one of the key goals of reversing these trends is to increase the engagement of our members. Listen to the definition of engagement from an outstanding resource, Growing an Engaged Church, “Congregational engagement describes the degree of belonging an individual has in his or her Congregation. … engaged members use the language of ‘family’ when they talk about their churches. They want to know they are valued and that they make meaningful contributions to the mission and ministry of their churches (pg 67)“
One of the ways we can increase our members’ engagement is found in a comment in the Lutheran article, "People crave authentic relationships and being together," Grimm said. "It takes really good leadership and commitment to welcome them where they are." Although this is a daunting challenge, I believe it is central to the future of our church membership, mission, and ministry.
If you are interested in this topic and looking for a great brainstorming list of ideas, check out 50 Ways to Increase Active Engagementfrom the Leading Ideas e-zine, a publication of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.
As church staff and leaders, we are being called to creatively address the negative trends we are seeing in our churches. It is best if we understand and accept the reality as described by credible resources like those above. From this base line, we can utilize the many gifts of our staff and leaders, as well as the many ideas available to us from other church leaders who are filled with the Spirit and are proactively addressing this reality.
I know the Spirit will fill you with the wisdom and courage you need on this journey. The Center for Parish Leadership can provide relevant consulting and training for your staff and leaders. Please contact us to explore how we can support you on this journey. If you would like to read previous Weekly Research Update articles, you will find them on our new website Blog. Many blessings on your work in the coming week.