reMIX & Researchers tell us what’s dramatically declining in the U.S. is white Christianity. It’s time you get serious and hire a coach to help you become a church of living color. MarkDeYmaz & I coach churches & together co-authored a practical book on how to do it.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I have taught hundreds of churches how to become multi-ethnic. And I’ve produced books and scholarly research/papers on how to do this too.

If your church is serious about becoming multiethnic you need someone to coach you. And that’s what I do.

For background why you need a coach, see this article of March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelsonhttps://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/ where the author said:

“Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.”

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reMIX & Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

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CONFLICT RESOLUTION & “Listening leads to understanding people. The biggest communication challenge is that most of the time we do not listen to understand. We listen to prepare our reply.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. The author of this post has been shadowing me to become a missional coach. He is an experienced pastor having served in megachurches such as D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Church in Ft. Lauderdale as well as Vineyard and Presbytetian churches. Now in his late 70s, Tom is still learning, sharing and serving (and inspiring me).

Leadership Thought: So You Think You Are A Good Listener! by Tom Crenshaw, 5/6/21 (quoting John Maxwell).

… This past year I read a book by John Maxwell called the Leaders Greatest Return. It was one of the most rewarding leadership books I have read in many years, and I would like to provide a few insights from his chapter on becoming better listeners.

“The average person suffers from 3 delusions: (1) that he is a good driver, (2) that he has a good sense of humor, and (3) and that he is a good listener. Most people, however, including many leaders, are terrible listeners; they actually think talking is more important than listening,” writes Steven Sample, author of The Contrarians Guide to Leadership.

“What most people want is to be listen to, respected and understood, and if this happens, they will be more motivated to listen to you and see your point of view (p 54).

“Listening leads to understanding people. The biggest communication challenge is that most of the time we do not listen to understand. We listen to prepare our reply. Effective listening requires more than hearing the words transmitted. It demands that you find meaning and understanding in what is being said. After all, meanings are not in words, but in people. (Listening) is more than hearing words. It demands you find meaning and understanding in what is being said …..…… People are far more likely to listen to us if we first listened to them” (pp. 55-56).

Listening is the best way to learn. Television host Larry King says “I remind myself every morning that nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening…… When we fail to listen, we turn off much of our learning potential” (p.56) …….”What others have to say to you is more important than what you have to say to them” (p. 57)

Listening engenders trust and connection. “Billy Graham said a suffering person does not need a lecture, he needs a listener………By listening you gain the trust of the people you work with” (p. 57). David Augsberger said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable…… “Listening draws people to you, which works much better than trying to push your leadership on them” (p. 58).

“You will never get the best out of people if you do not know who they are, where they want to go, what they care about, how they think and how they want to contribute. You only learn these things by listening. When you listen to people. it makes them feel like they are at the very heart of things, like partners, and not employees. They trust you because you care about them” (p. 59).

And in conclusion I might personally add to what our brother James has to say in his charter text on listening. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). I know these words are so easy to say but yet so difficult to live, that is, unless we allow the Holy Spirit to take full control of our tongue.

Let our prayer be, “Lord Jesus, help me this day to open my heart to your Spirit and allow me to be more interested in hearing what others have to say than what I wish to say.

Yours in faith and friendship, Tom

GIN CRAZE & The Reasons Behind John Wesley’s Teaching Against Hard Alcohol.

Writing for History Extra, Mark Forsyth, author of A Short History of Drunkenness, explores the history behind this alcoholic spirit.

…Alcoholic spirits were a pretty new commodity in 18th-century society, though they had actually been around for a long time. They started as a chemical curiosity in about the 10th century AD. They were being drunk by the very, very rich for pleasure by about 1500, as shown when James IV of Scotland bought several barrels of whisky. But even a hundred years later, in 1600, there was only one recorded bar in England that sold spirits to the curious (just outside London, towards Barking).

Then in about 1700, spirits hit. The reasons are complicated and involve taxation of grain and the relations with the Dutch, but the important thing is that gin suddenly became widely available to Londoners, which was a good thing for the gin-sellers as Londoners needed a drink. The turn of the 18th century was a great period of urbanisation, when the poor of England flocked to London in search of streets paved with gold and Bubbles from South Sea [the South Sea Bubble was a speculation boom in the early 1710s], only to find that the streets were paved with mud and there was no work to be had. London’s population was around 600,000. There were only two other towns in England with populations of 20,000. London was the first grand, anonymous city. There were none of the social constraints of a village where everybody knew everybody’s business. And there were none of the financial safeguards either, with a parish that would support its native poor, or the family and friends who might have looked after you at home. Instead, there was gin.

A craze among the poor

It’s very hard to say which was bigger – the craze for drinking gin that swept the lower classes, or the moral panic at the sight of so many gin drinkers that engulfed the ruling classes. Anonymous hordes of poor, often homeless people wandered the city drinking away their sorrows, and often their clothes, as they readily exchanged their garments for the spirit.

Before the industrial revolution and the rash of cotton mills that would fill the north of England a century later, cloth was very expensive. Beggars really did dress in rags, if at all, and the obvious thing to sell if you really needed money fast was, literally, the shirt on your back. The descriptions left to us by the ‘Gin Panickers’ would be funny – if they weren’t so tragic.

The arrival of gin

Before gin had come on the scene, Englishmen had drunk beer. English women had drunk it too – up to a point – but beer and the alehouses where it was served had always been seen as basically male domains. Gin, which was new and exotic and metropolitan, didn’t have any of these old associations. There were no rules around gin. There were no social norms about who could drink it, or when you could drink it, or how much of it you could drink. A lot of places served it in pints because, well… that’s what you drank. A country boy newly arrived in the city wasn’t going to drink a thimbleful of something.

This was, quite literally, put to the test in 1741, when a group of Londoners offered a farm labourer a shilling for each pint of gin he could sink. He managed three, and then dropped down dead. It’s amazing he got that far, as gin, in those days, was about twice as strong as it is now and contained some interesting flavourings. Some distillers used to add sulphuric acid, just to give it some bite.

And so the efforts to ban drinking among the lower classes began. And they didn’t work very well. When authorities decided to ban the sale of gin, there were fully fledged riots. The poor didn’t want their drug of choice taken away. They loved ‘Madam Geneva’, as they called the spirit.

The Puss-and-Mew machine

The contraption known as the ‘Puss-and-Mew machine’ was simple. The gin-seller found a window in alleyway that was nowhere near the building’s front door. The window was covered boarded over with a wooden cat. The gin-buyer would approach and say to the cat: “Puss, give me two pennyworth of gin,” and then place the coins in the cat’s mouth. These would slide inwards to the gin-seller who would pour the gin down a lead pipe that emerged under the cat’s paw. The crowds loved it and the inventor, Dudley Bradstreet, made three or four pounds a day, which was a lot of money. As nobody witnessed both sides of the transaction, no charges could be brought.

Read more at … https://www.historyextra.com/period/georgian/gin-craze-panic-18th-century-london-when-came-england-alcohol-drinking-history/

reMIX & People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%.

… What’s dramatically declining in the U.S. is white Christianity. People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%, reflecting trends continuing today. One-third of U.S. Catholics are now Hispanic. Without its growing nonwhite members, the Catholic Church would be in free fall instead of remaining at about 22% of the U.S. population.

The nones who enjoy lattes at downtown coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of singing in church are largely young, hip and white. But the country’s demographic future as a whole is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and this will impact the religious landscape.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

FORGIVENESS & According to Research Here’s The Best Way To Forgive And Forget

by Emma Young, British Psychological Society, 5/4/21.

… Now a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, led by Saima Noreen at De Montfort University, specifically investigates how different types of forgiveness towards an offender can help people who are intentionally trying to forget an unpleasant incident.

As the name implies, “intentional forgetting” involves actively trying to suppress memories of an unpleasant experience. Recent studies have suggested that this lessens the associated negative emotions. Forgiveness has been more extensively investigated, and there is work finding that forgiving the perpetrator helps(though of course not all victims feel able or willing to forgive, and forgiveness is not an essential component of recovery).

Noreen and her colleagues set out to explore possible interactions between intentional forgetting and “decisional” vs “emotional” forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness is making the decision to forgive the perpetrator, and not to seek revenge — indeed, even to make efforts to maintain a relationship — but while still bearing a grudge. In contrast, emotional forgiveness involves getting rid of negative emotions towards the perpetrator and replacing them with positive ones.

…The team found that participants in the emotional forgiveness group showed greater forgetting of the detail, though not the gist, of the offence than the other groups. These participants also reported feeling more psychological distance from the offence.

The team’s analysis revealed that for these participants, emotional, but not decisional, forgiveness was associated with greater forgetting of the detail of the original transgression (though again not the gist of it). It was also associated with a shift to reporting feeling more forgiveness for the perpetrator.

“Collectively, our findings suggest that the act of emotional forgiveness leads to a transgression becoming more psychologically distant, such that victims will construe the event at a higher and more abstract level,” the team writes. (In other words, retaining the gist, but not all the detail). “This high-level construal, in turn, promotes larger intentional forgetting effects, which, in turn, promote increased emotional forgiveness,” they go on.

Read more at … https://digest.bps.org.uk/2021/05/04/heres-the-best-way-to-forgive-and-forget/#more-41993

STREAMING & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: Don’t neglect the “chat” feature of your worship streaming platforms. Have a “host” in each chatroom of each streaming option. They can welcome virtual attendees, take prayer requests & provide answers/followup.

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks: Check your streaming webpages early every Sunday to ensure they are ready to stream. This church’s streaming page was empty, up to & through the beginning of the service. Plus, add links on your streaming page to FaceBook and YouTube streams of your live worship (though their menu was truncated).

Even this client church, that has done remarkably well hosting online services, left many viewers without a worship opportunity.

Thankfully, the links to their FaceBook and YouTube streaming (in the top menu) added work around options for the technologically inclined.

MINISTERIAL TRANSITIONS & Utilizing a simple graphic, such as this one by a client church, helps congregants visually track the ministerial transition process.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., April 11, 2021.

While designing a course to help pastors and churches successfully navigate pastoral transitions for Fuller Theological Seminary, I became aware of how much church communication must be a priority during pastoral transitions. But often too much or too little information is shared, leading to confusion at best or suspicion at the worst.

This client congregation overcame this problem and communicated its process well through three simple charts.

CHART 1 (behind the word “prayer”) depicts the 5 stage process with a time for each stage. Attendees can quickly see where they are in the process and which steps are still ahead.

CHART 2 depicts how the selection process “narrows” to the selection of a candidate. It is important for attendees to see that the eventual selection has emerged from a significant pool of candidates.

CHART 3 (with the word “prayer” superimposed) reminds that the overriding consideration is that this is a spiritual exercise and prayer is how each stakeholder participates.

The above is CHART 1 (without the word “prayer” superimposed)
& CHART 3 (with the word “prayer” superimposed)
The above is CHART 2

WEALTH & Does Money Make You Mean? Thought provoking and research-based #TedTalk by #UniversityOfCalifornia professor & author #MichaelMechanic

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/does-wealth-rob-brain-compassion/618496/?

TRENDS & The primary challenge facing pastors … is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

… The decline of membership in churches, synagogues and mosques cannot be equated with decline in religious curiosity or practice. When nones are asked why they have disaffiliated from any religious organization, only 22% say it is because they do not believe in God. The primary challenge facing pastors, rabbis and imams is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

STREAMING & one of today’s #SundayChurchHacks: Have a “trouble shooting FAQ” button w/ a list of common video problems. While analyzing a client the streaming feed quit. Other online attendees (the chat room still functioned) figured out a work around. But some of us lost 10+ minutes.

See more ideas in the chapter: “Best practices in streaming services” in Growing the Post-pandemic Church.

COMMUNICATION & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: When you’ve been away (but still watching online) don’t say ‘It is good to be back’ from the stage when you return in person. It makes the online congregation feel second class. Instead say, “It is good to be with you again this week.”

Read about innovative strategies in Growing the Post-pandemic Church.

MUSIC & The impact of the faith & music of DMX

by T.C. Moore, Religion News Service, 4/14/21

The Gospel of John tells the story of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist, describing him as “the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord,’” paving the way for Jesus the Nazarene.

Hence, his other, lesser-known title: John the Forerunner. John’s fearlessness and bold announcement of the coming of the Messiah tilled the soil of hardened hearts and planted the seeds Jesus would cultivate into his world-changing kingdom of God movement.

Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, was my John the Forerunner.

In the wilderness of my gang-involved teens, DMX was a voice unlike any other, piercing my defenses and opening me up to the work of God that would eventually convert me into a devoted follower of Jesus.

DMX burst onto the hip-hop scene in 1998 with an utterly unique debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.” It was at once a raw testament to DMX’s story of suffering and survival while also sounding a faith-filled and hopeful note.

It wasn’t as if God was a stranger to hip-hop lyrics: Tupac Shakur, whose posthumous 1996 album “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” depicted the rapper on a cross on its cover, had often invoked God and heaven, to say nothing of the “Five Percent” theology that pervaded so much of East Coast rap.

But what “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” had that no other could claim was a distinct and overt Christian — maybe even charismatic — spirituality. DMX spoke directly with God in “The Convo,” in a lament worthy of Job (“Why you chose the hood for me?”) and wrestled with satanic temptation in “Damien” as Jesus did in the wilderness. “The Snake, the Rat, the Cat, the Dog / how you gonna see him if you livin’ in a fog?”

DMX wrote hauntingly about death, summoning the anguish of Jesus praying passionately in the Garden of Gethsemane. “You give me the Word / and only ask that I interpret / and give me the eyes / that I may recognize the Serpent.”

The only child of a schizophrenic single mother, I’d experienced more than my fair share of abuse and neglect. For a teenager wrestling with his own inner demons, DMX opened up a way out of the game through faith. If he could loft his questions about the problem of evil directly at God and rebuke the devil who tempted him to sin, maybe I could too. “Somebody’s knocking / should I let him in? / Lord, we’re just starting / but where will it end?”

Later that year, DMX dropped “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” which, like “Hell Is Hot,” topped the charts. When the criminal community to which I’d fled for safety began to unravel and my own choices landed me in one too many potentially deadly situations, the lyrics of “Slippin’” hit me like prophecy: “See, to live is to suffer. But to survive, well, that’s to find meaning in the suffering.”

About this time, my childhood friend Nate invited me to his baptism at a Pentecostal church. I heard God’s voice through the pastor. It called me like the voice of God in DMX’s music. After I was baptized, I encountered a new version of myself. On repeat on my Sony Discman, meanwhile, DMX was telling the story of a prodigal come home: “My child, I’m here as I’ve always been / it is you who went away and are back again,” he said on “Ready to Meet Him.” I tagged my first Bible with a sketch of myself drenched in blood like the cover of that album.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/04/14/dmx-was-my-john-the-forerunner/?utm_source=

WEALTH & Does It Rob the Brain of Compassion? YES according to researchers.

by Michael Mechanic, The Atlantic Magazine, 4/4/21.

…More than a decade ago, as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of the UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, Piff used a series of rigged Monopoly games to see how people would respond to being placed randomly into a position of privilege. Some 200 student volunteers were pitted against one another. The “rich” player was given twice as much cash as the “poor” player, collected twice as much money when passing Go, and passed Go more often, because he got to roll two dice while the poorer player got only one. (Richie Rich also got the most popular playing piece, the little car, while his opponent received the undesirable boot.)

As the games progressed, rich players became more and more cocksure. They spoke louder, moved their pieces more aggressively, and even consumed more pretzels from bowls that the researchers had put out as part of the experiment. “We had little gradients on the table where you could measure how much space a person is taking up from when they began to when they ended,” Piff told me. “The richer players began to take up more room. They got bigger as they got richer.”

The Monopoly experiment wasn’t the most rigorous science ever, and Piff never published the results, although the study was later replicated by others and referenced in Piff’s popular TED Talk, “Does Money Make You Mean?” But his observations were consistent with a large body of social science finding that people of higher socioeconomic status, compared with those lower down the ladder, are more prone to entitlement and narcissistic behavior. Wealthier subjects also tend to be more self-oriented and more willing to behave unethically in their own self-interest (to lie during negotiations, say, or to steal from an employer). In one study, Piff and his colleagues stationed a pedestrian at the edge of a busy crosswalk and watched to see which cars would let the person cross. Suffice it to say that Fords and Subarus were far more likely to stop than Mercedeses and BMWs.

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/does-wealth-rob-brain-compassion/618496/?

TIME MANAGEMENT & Nehemiah’s reply to needless meetings & heedless critics.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In 30+ years of church consulting excessive meetings and insufficient action is a major misstep that stops churches from moving forward and growing. Too many meetings often drain volunteers and leaders of their enthusiasm, energy and progress.

The Old Testament business leader Nehemiah provides a helpful example of what to do when you are badgered by people who want to slow you down with endless meetings … when action and effort is required. Take this take a look at the way Rick Warren explains this in the following article.

You Don’t Need to Fight Critics by Rick Warren — 04/07/2021

God uniquely created you for an important assignment on Earth that only you can accomplish.

But you will face naysayers along the way. They’ll tell you: “You’re the wrong person. You’ve got the wrong idea. You’re doing it the wrong way.”

Take the Old Testament story of Nehemiah, for example. Nehemiah wasn’t a pastor or a priest. He was a businessman. Israel had been taken captive by the Babylonians. The Israelites had been in exile for 70 years—and then the Babylonians let them go home.

Jerusalem had been destroyed and was defenseless. But Nehemiah got a big idea to change that. “I’ll rebuild my city,” he thought. “And I’ll start by rebuilding the wall to protect it.”

Nehemiah’s story teaches that every opportunity comes with opposition.

For Nehemiah, the opposition was instant. Israel’s enemies didn’t want to see Jerusalem defended. They tried all sorts of things to stop him from rebuilding the wall. They tried ridicule, rumors, and threats. When none of that worked, they tried to slow him down by involving him in bunch of meetings.

Your critics—the naysayers who want to prevent you from doing what the Lord has called you to do—will use the same bag of tricks. They’ll ridicule you, spread rumors about you, and even threaten you to get you to stop doing what God wants you to do.

But instead of listening to them, respond the way that Nehemiah did: “So I replied by sending this message to them: ‘I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?’ Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply”(Nehemiah 6:3-4 NLT).

You don’t need to fight with naysayers. It’s not worth it. If you try to take on people who have a negative opinion about God’s plans for you, you’ll just waste your time.

Nehemiah didn’t defend his work. You don’t need to defend yourself either. Just let the naysayers’ criticisms go.

One day God’s work through your life will be proven correct. Have enough faith to wait for that day to come.PLAY today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

POLITICAL AFFILIATION & Distribution of party affiliation in various denominations. #graph via @RyanBurge

In the 2020 CCES, there are 44,131 white respondents. There are 1,892 Southern Baptist Republicans. There are 1,107 non-denom Republicans. There are 1,102 United Methodist Republicans. Democrats in the UMC, ELCA, ECUSA, ABCUSA, DoC, CoC, and PCA combined are 1,296.

TRENDS & U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time Due to Millennials, Gen. Z., Less Emphasis Upon Membership & Those With “No Religious Preference.” #Gallup

by Jeffrey M Jones, Gallup, 4/29/21.

… Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.

Line graph. U.S. church membership was 73% in 1937 when Gallup first measured it. It stayed near 70% through 2000 before beginning to decline, to 61% in 2010 and 47% in 2020.

U.S. church membership was 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and remained near 70% for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21stcentury.

As many Americans celebrate Easter and Passover this week, Gallup updates a 2019 analysis that examined the decline in church membership over the past 20 years…

Decline in Membership Tied to Increase in Lack of Religious Affiliation

The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference. Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years.

As would be expected, Americans without a religious preference are highly unlikely to belong to a church, synagogue or mosque, although a small proportion — 4% in the 2018-2020 data — say they do. That figure is down from 10% between 1998 and 2000.

Given the nearly perfect alignment between not having a religious preference and not belonging to a church, the 13-percentage-point increase in no religious affiliation since 1998-2000 appears to account for more than half of the 20-point decline in church membership over the same time.

Most of the rest of the drop can be attributed to a decline in formal church membership among Americans who dohave a religious preference. Between 1998 and 2000, an average of 73% of religious Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. Over the past three years, the average has fallen to 60%.

Line graph. Changes in church membership among Americans who express a religious preference or affiliation. Between 1998 and 2000, 73% of religious Americans were members of a church, synagogue or mosque. That dipped to 70% between 2008 and 2010, and it fell to 60% between 2018 and 2020.

Generational Differences Linked to Change in Church Membership

Church membership is strongly correlated with age, as 66% of traditionalists — U.S. adults born before 1946 — belong to a church, compared with 58% of baby boomers, 50% of those in Generation X and 36% of millennials. The limited data Gallup has on church membership among the portion of Generation Z that has reached adulthood are so far showing church membership rates similar to those for millennials.

The decline in church membership, then, appears largely tied to population change, with those in older generations who were likely to be church members being replaced in the U.S. adult population with people in younger generations who are less likely to belong. The change has become increasingly apparent in recent decades because millennials and Gen Z are further apart from traditionalists in their church membership rates (about 30 points lower) than baby boomers and Generation X are (eight and 16 points, respectively). Also, each year the younger generations are making up an increasingly larger part of the entire U.S. adult population.

Read more at … https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx?

GATHERING & How dinner churches are surviving (and thriving) in post-pandemic church.

“How are dinner churches surviving the pandemic?” by Kendall Vanderslice, The Christian Century, 3/23/21.

…Modeled after the early church practice of sharing a meal together as Eucharist, dinner churches seek to address social isolation and loneliness through the very structure of their worship. Their practice also mirrors the agape meal or love feast tradition, a tradition adopted by John Wesley and memorialized in the UMC Book of Worship.

…In many denominations, the quick shift to online worship led to theological confusion and debate over if and how to celebrate the Eucharist. For dinner churches, which form their core identity around gathering for a communal meal, that question posed a particular sort of challenge. Their approach to it has varied, as has their approach to virtual worship generally.

… Over the course of the two-hour service, congregants participate in every aspect of the liturgy. They welcome visitors and catch up with old friends. They sing, eat, and discuss the scripture reading. They pray and share their joys and concerns. The church even sets aside time for mingling, encouraging congregants to utilize breakout rooms in shifting groups of two or three people to approximate the informal conversations that would happen at the start of an in-person gathering.

… Anna Woofenden, the Protestant chaplain at Amherst College and pastor of a campus dinner church, made the transition quickly as well. “We had spring break off, then we started right back up. We kept the same time, the same liturgy, we just met on Zoom.”

This consistency from week to week, and from pre-COVID worship to now, has proven invaluable for worshipers and pastors alike.

“Lots of students told us, ‘This is the one consistent thing in my life right now. It’s the one thing I can count on,’” says Woofenden. “In this time where everything feels different, everything feels uncertain, we all find great peace and comfort in the well-worn words and well-worn rhythms and being held by that liturgy.”

…As the coronavirus precautions stretch on, churches of all sizes and traditions find themselves increasingly hungry for more embodied forms of connection. The virtual agape meal or dinner church service provides that. Although it cannot fully address the human need for physical relationships, it serves as a helpful tool until the longing to worship together as a body can be filled. This tactile reminder of a future in which we will gather once again to break bread, shake hands, and embrace one another offers something to carry us through to that future, as the Eucharist carries us on toward the new creation.

“Even though we’re on Zoom, we can breathe together and feel the presence of God touching us and speaking to us as a community,” Scharen says. “That’s the work of the Holy Spirit blowing, even through this weird Zoom format that we have.”

Read more at … https://www.christiancentury.org/article/features/how-are-dinner-churches-surviving-pandemic?