EXIT BEHAVIOR & Most churchgoers will put up with a change in music style or a different preacher. But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus. #LifeWay #research

by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 6/26/18.

But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

The study of Protestant churchgoers found most are committed to staying at their church over the long haul. But more than half say they would strongly consider leaving if the church’s beliefs changed.

Pastors often worry about changing church music and setting off a “worship war,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. But few say they would leave over music.

Churchgoers are much more concerned about their church’s beliefs.

“Mess with the music and people may grumble,” he said. “Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”

CHURCHGOERS STAY PUT

LifeWay Research switch churches

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Protestant churchgoers—those who attend services at least once a month—to see how strongly they are tied to their local congregations.

Researchers found most churchgoers stay put.

Thirty-five percent have been at their church between 10 and 24 years. Twenty-seven percent have been there for 25 years or more. Twenty-one percent have been there less than five years, while 17 percent have been at the same church for between five and nine years.

Lutherans (52 percent), Methodists (40 percent) and Baptists (31 percent) are most likely to have been at their church for 25 years or more. Fewer nondenominational (11 percent) or Assemblies of God/Pentecostal churchgoers (13 percent) have such long tenure.

About two-thirds (63 percent) of churchgoers who are 65 or older are completely committed to attending their same church in the future. That drops to 50 percent for those younger than 35.

Older churchgoers are also least likely to want to leave their church. When asked if they’ve thought about going to another church in their area, 92 percent of those 65 or older say no.

Overall, 15 percent of churchgoers say they have thought about going to another church in the past six months. Eighty-five percent say they have not.

Of those thinking about going to another church, about half (54 percent) have already visited another church. Forty-six percent have not.

“If people are thinking about leaving your church, chances are they’ve already started looking,” said McConnell. “So they’re probably halfway out the door.”

LifeWay Research reasons switch church

Read more here … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/06/26/what-makes-churchgoers-stick-around/

WORRY & C.S. Lewis reminds us that during crises the most important question on people’s minds becomes: “Is this all there is?” and so we have the opportunity to speak of Christ to those who are waking up to the realities of this life.

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 3/26/20.

… In his (C.S. Lewis’) admonitions, can we simply replace the words “atomic age” with “COVID-19 age” or was Lewis getting at something deeper and even more relevant for the church today?

…Here’s how he opened “On Living in an Atomic Age,” which can be found in the collection Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays:

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

…After the above excerpt, Lewis moves on to what he saw as the “real point.” … He points out that all of science agrees that the end of life on this earth is inevitable. It’s only a matter of “when” not “if.”

If the threat of an atomic bomb serves as a reminder for us, then it can be a good thing. “We have been waked from a pretty dream, and now we can begin to talk about realities,” he writes.

Once we are awakened to the frailty of life, Lewis says we see at once that whether or not an atomic bomb destroys civilization is not the most important question. Something was always going to destroy us and civilization.

The most important question becomes: Is this all there is?

If we are going to die (and we will), if civilization as we know it will be ended (and it will), Lewis argues, then we should be most concerned about what, if anything, lies beyond the natural world?

And as we live life differently—both from how we did previously in limiting our interactions and in how others do now through selflessness—we will have the opportunity to speak of Christ to those who are waking up to the realities of this life.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2020/03/19/no-c-s-lewis-would-not-tell-you-to-ignore-the-coronavirus/

BIBLE & Top 5 verses searched for during this time of uncertainty. #AaronEarls #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 3/24/20.

…Last Sunday, March 15, was tied for the highest usage day in YouVersion’s history (tied with Easter last year).

The top five verses shared that day all had some relation to how people approach the current situation.

  1. Hebrews 13:16 — Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
  2. Psalm 91 — The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. (v. 1)
  3. 2 Chronicles 7:14 — [A]nd my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
  4. 2 Timothy 1:7 — For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
  5. Philippians 4:6-7 — Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2020/03/23/several-bible-verses-jump-in-online-searches-during-coronavirus-outbreak/

CHRISTMAS & LifeWay Research asked people when they are more open to considering matters of faith. Christmas was the most common response. Almost half (47 percent) said they were more open to thinking about faith during the holiday season.

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 12/4/19.

Four in 10 Americans who never attend church (41 percent) say Christmas should be more about Jesus.

In 2015, LifeWay Research found 61 percent of Americans typically attend church at Christmastime. And among those who do not attend, 57 percent said they were likely to attend if someone they knew asked them.

In 2010 LifeWay Research asked people when they are more open to considering matters of faith. Christmas was the most common response. Almost half (47 percent) said they were more open to thinking about faith during the holiday season.

Read more at …https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/12/why-x-mas-actually-keeps-christ-in-christmas/

THEOLOGY & What Exactly Solomon Meant When He Wrote: “to every thing there is a season.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: During the social upheavals of the 60s and 70s, a song by The Byrds titled “Turn, Turn, Turn” (based upon Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 3) had a deep, yet complicated, influence upon young people like me. As I matured in my understanding of Scripture and theology, I came to understand this scripture is much more profound than I had thought. And I discovered it points to something even more exciting! Here LifeWay writer Aaron Wilson succinctly points out what that future is.

“The Bible passage people mistake for good news,”

by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay, 6/22/19.

…despite its popularity, Ecclesiastes 3 may also be one of the most misunderstood sections of the Bible. This is because people often interpret the chapter as containing reassuring news about the balanced nature of the universe. But really, the chapter is more of a lament, one that points to the need for Christ.

SOLOMON’S GRIEVANCE WITH LIFE

At its core, Ecclesiastes describes the brutal reality of life under the curse. It’s strange therefore, when people describe chapter 3 as comforting and uplifting when Solomon says in the same book that life is wearisome (1:8), miserable (1:13), and distressing (2:17).

Given these gloomy descriptors, why is Ecclesiastes 3 so popular? Part of it likely comes from the poetic beauty Solomon uses in the first half of the chapter to juxtapose life circumstances. “There’s a time to give birth and a time to die,” he writes, “a time to plant and a time to uproot.”

Solomon goes on to pair other activities such as weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, and war and peace. He then summarizes the list by writing, “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.”

People often quote this chapter of Ecclesiastes at funerals and memorial services. But while it’s true God sovereignly works all things together for the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), people who seek to find solace from Ecclesiastes 3 are missing the author’s point.

Solomon didn’t pen the words, “to everything there is a season,” to provide a grateful tribute to a balanced universe—a philosophy that more closely resembles some eastern religions or “the force” from Star Wars than it does Scripture. No, Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes 3 to lodge a complaint he had with a world he saw as meaningless.

VANITY UNDER THE SUN

Solomon begins Ecclesiastes with the blunt statement, “Absolute futility! Everything is futile.” He then spends the next 12 chapters of his book systematically unpacking the meaninglessness of life under the sun.

One of Solomon’s greatest frustrations with the world is the prevalence of death and how it infuses vanity into life’s pursuits and activities. His goal therefore in writing, “there’s a time to die” isn’t to inspire comfort. Instead, he’s declaring death a plague—a fate no person escapes because, under the curse, there’s sadly a time for it.

…Given the reality of such brokenness, Christians should be leery of using the phrase, “there’s a time for everything” as encouragement. Instead, they should read Solomon’s words and respond, “Oh man, there really is a time for sin and suffering in this world. Who can save us from this futile way of living?”

The answer, of course, is Christ.

TWO KINGS—TWO STATEMENTS

One of the most beautiful promises in the Bible comes in Revelation 21:4 which speaks of Christ wiping away every tear from the eyes of the saints. John describes this future moment of restoration by writing, “Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2019/06/07/the-bible-passage-people-mistake-for-good-news/

TRENDS & 7 Surprising Trends Of Today’s Worldwide Growth of Christianity via #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 6/11/19.

…The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary regularly publishes the Status of Global Christianity. Evaluating their research and predictions provides an encouraging and potential surprising picture for the current and future state of Christianity.

1. CHRISTIANITY IS GROWING FASTER THAN THE POPULATION.

Globally, Christianity is growing at a 1.27% rate. Currently, there are 2.5 billion Christians in the world. The world’s population, 7.7 billion, is growing at a 1.20% rate.

Islam (1.95%), Sikhs (1.66%) and Hindus (1.30%) are the only religious groups growing faster than Christianity, though followers of Jesus outnumber every other faith and are predicted to continue to do so at least through 2050.

2. PENTECOSTALS AND EVANGELICALS ARE GROWING THE FASTEST AND ARE STILL PICKING UP SPEED.

Among Christian groups, Pentecostals (2.26%) and evangelicals (2.19%) are growing faster than others.

They are both also growing faster than they did just two years ago. In 2017, Pentecostals’ growth rate was 2.22% and evangelicals was 2.12%.

3. ATHEISM HAS PEAKED.

There are fewer atheists in the world today (138 million) than there were in 1970 (165 million).

Since 2000, atheism has rebounded slightly—only by 0.04%—but it is expected to decline again and fall below 130 million by 2050.

Agnosticism has maintained a small growth rate of 0.42%. After reaching 716 million this year, however, it is expected to drop below 700 million by 2050.

4. CHRISTIANITY IS GROWING IN CITIES, BUT NOT FAST ENOUGH.

Today, 1.64 billion Christians live in urban areas, growing at a 1.58% rate since 2000.

But more than 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and that is only continuing to grow.

The global urban population is growing at a 2.15% rate.

5. THE CENTER OF CHRISTIANITY HAS MOVED TO THE GLOBAL SOUTH.

In 1900, twice as many Christians lived in Europe than in the rest of the world combined. Today, both Latin America and Africa have more. By 2050, the number of Christians in Asia will also pass the number in Europe.

Currently, Christianity is barely growing in Europe (0.04% rate) and only slightly better in North America (0.56%).

Oceania (0.89) and Latin America (1.18%) have marginally better rates, but the faith is exploding in Asia (1.89%) and Africa (2.89%).

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2019/06/11/7-surprising-trends-in-global-christianity-in-2019/

TRENDS & 73% of American churches are declining & we are seeing a marked decline in fast-growing churches (from 12% to 3%) and a marked increase in churches declining toward death (10% to 19%). #LifeWay

by Thom Rainer, LifeWay, 6/3/19.

Based upon an aggregate of several research projects, I made some notes of growth and decline rates of churches and summarized my estimates into five categories by worship attendance changes over the previous five-year period. I compiled the following numbers ten years ago:

Growth and Decline Categories of North American Congregations 2009

  • Fast-growing (growing greater than 5% annually): 12%
  • Growing (growing nominally to 5% annually): 23%
  • Steadily declining (declining 0% to 3% annually): 34%
  • Rapidly declining (declining 2% to 5% annually): 21%
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually): 10%

This past week I conducted the same exercise based on some of my updated research and the research of others and estimated the following:

Growth and Decline Categories of North American Congregations 2019

  • Fast-growing (growing greater than 5% annually): 3%
  • Growing (growing nominally to 5% annually): 24%
  • Steadily declining (declining 0% to 3% annually): 32%
  • Rapidly declining (declining 2% to 5% annually): 22%
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually): 19%

My numbers admittedly are estimates, but they do have some quantitative basis, such as denominational statistics, research by LifeWay Research, and the data available in the increasing number of consultation and coaching requests we receive.

Obviously, the staggering reality of these numbers is the pronounced change in the two extreme categories. We are seeing a marked decline in fast-growing churches and a marked increase in churches declining toward death.

Read more at … https://thomrainer.com/2019/06/the-faster-pace-of-decline-toward-death-of-many-congregations/

ATTENDANCE & Most Young Adults Drop Out of Church Between Ages 18-22 For These Reasons #LifeWayResearch

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 2/18/19.

… Two-thirds (66 percent) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Thirty-four percent say they continued to attend twice a month or more.

While the 66 percent may be troubling for many church leaders, the numbers may appear more hopeful when compared to a 2007 study from LifeWay Research. Previously, 70 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds left church for at least one year.

“The good news for Christian leaders is that churches don’t seem to be losing more students than they were 10 years ago. However, the difference in the dropout rate now and then is not large enough statistically to say it has actually improved,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“The reality is that Protestant churches continue to see the new generation walk away as young adults. Regardless of any external factors, the Protestant church is slowly shrinking from within.”

When They Drop Out

The dropout rate for young adults accelerates with age, the study found.

While 69 percent say they were attending at age 17, that fell to 58 percent at age 18 and 40 percent at age 19. Once they reach their 20s, around 1 in 3 say they were attending church regularly.

“Overall Protestant churches see many teenagers attending regularly only for a season. Many families just don’t attend that often,” said McConnell.

“As those teenagers reach their late teen years, even those with a history of regular church attendance are pulled away as they get increased independence, a driver’s license, or a job. The question becomes: will they become like older adults who have all those things and still attend or will students choose to stay away longer than a year.”

Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay, said those numbers speak to the issue at hand. “We are seeing teenagers drop out of the church as they make the transition out of high school and student ministry,” he said. “This moment of transition is often too late to act for churches.”

Why They Drop Out

Virtually all of those who dropped out (96 percent) listed a change in their life situation as a reason for their dropping out. Fewer say it was related to the church or pastor (73 percent); religious, ethical or political beliefs (70 percent); or the student ministry (63 percent).

The five most frequently chosen specific reasons for dropping out were: moving to college and no longer attending (34 percent); church members seeming judgmental or hypocritical (32 percent); no longer feeling connected to people in their church (29 percent); disagreeing with the church’s stance on political or social issues (25 percent); and work responsibilities (24 percent).

Almost half (47 percent) of those who dropped out and attended college say moving to college played a role in their no longer attending church for at least a year.

“Most of the reasons young adults leave the church reflect shifting personal priorities and changes in their own habits,” said McConnell. “Even when churches have faithfully communicated their beliefs through words and actions, not every teenager who attends embraces or prioritizes those beliefs.”

Among all those who dropped out, 29 percent say they planned on taking a break from church once they graduated high school. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say their leaving wasn’t an intentional decision.

“For the most part, people aren’t leaving the church out of bitterness, the influence of college atheists, or a renunciation of their faith,” said Trueblood.

“What the research tells us may be even more concerning for Protestant churches: there was nothing about the church experience or faith foundation of those teenagers that caused them to seek out a connection to a local church once they entered a new phase of life. The time they spent with activity in church was simply replaced by something else.”

Read more at … https://lifewayresearch.com/2019/01/15/most-teenagers-drop-out-of-church-as-young-adults/

RECLAIMED & Why brokenness is better than giftedness in ministry.

by Brian Loritt, LifeWay, 12/8/18.

…At 25, I became the first African-American pastor at a historic white church in Southern California.

The best pastors I know aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but the most wounded.  The most dangerous are the gifted ones who can’t empathize.

Along the way I was plagued by an eerie sense that my platform was a lot larger than my character infrastructure could support. Or to say it in football language: I was out-punting my coverage.

I was gifted.

But I was also tragically unbroken, and the symptoms of this disorder manifested itself in the following ways:

  • An inability to connect with those who were afflicted and beaten down by life.
  • A nauseating arrogance seen in the judgmental spirit I nurtured towards those who made mistakes. I would often find myself thinking: What a loser. Why can’t they get it together?
  • Intense isolation. Because my ministerial paradigm made no room for those who had been wounded or defeated, I had to become my own personal PR management firm. The truth is we all have wounds and struggles, but no one could see mine.

In life and in ministry you’ll have trouble. You’ll deal with ungrateful parishioners. You’ll have leaders within your church who have one agenda—to get you out.

People will gossip about you, and even betray you.

I had these wounds; I just wasn’t broken. There’s a difference between the two.

Wounds are painful things that happen to us. Brokenness is the redemptive, Christ-exalting response to those wounds.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul—in painfully autobiographical terms—pulls us into his journey of wounds, describing his “thorn in the flesh”. While we can make good guesses as to what it was (probably some lingering health issues from his stoning in Lystra), at the end of the day they are exactly that—guesses.

What we do know is that it was painful, shameful, and constant.  Paul prayed several times for God to take it away, and God responded by saying in so many words—no.  More accurately, God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The best pastors I know aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but the most wounded.  The most dangerous are the gifted ones who can’t empathize.

The word “sufficient” in 2 Corinthians 12 is a poignant one, because it speaks of grace in both quality and quantity. God will give Paul not just general grace, but a specific measure of grace to get through the wounds in his life in a way that gives God glory and blesses His people.

…limp.

A LEADER’S RESPONSE TO BROKENNESS

What was the result of Paul leaning into God’s grace and experiencing Christ-exalting brokenness?

  • He was able to connect in a tender way with those who were hurting. Writing to the Thessalonians he says, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (Thessalonians 2:7).
  • He possessed a deep-seated humility seen in his repeated refrain of being the least among the disciples, or the chief of sinners.
  • He was transparent about his weakness. We know those who have not just been wounded, but redemptively broken. They’re people on public record when it comes to their weaknesses. This is Paul: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30).

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/03/why-brokenness-is-better-than-giftedness-in-ministry/

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Statistics on the Decline in Conversions in Churches.

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, Christianity Today, 3/6/19.

…Church conversions

The lack of growth in worship attendance in most churches is matched by a lack of new commitments to Christ last year.

Fifty-four percent of pastors say fewer than 10 people indicated a new commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior in 2018, including 8 percent who had none.

In some ways, however, those numbers mask deeper evangelistic issues. When evaluating churches based on the number of conversions per 100 attendees, 67 percent had fewer than 10 per 100 people attending their church. Around a third (35%) had fewer than five new commitments for every 100 people attending their worship services.

Forty-six percent of smaller churches (fewer than 50 in worship services) say they had 10 conversions or more for every 100 in attendance, while only 18 percent of churches 250 and above meet that benchmark.

While there are no major differences between evangelical and mainline churches in terms of new converts, denominational differences do exist.

A majority of Pentecostal pastors (57%) say they saw 10 or more new commitments to Christ in their church last year per 100 attendees. The next closest denominations are Lutherans (39%), Holiness (38%), and Baptists (35%).

A quarter of Methodist (25%) and Presbyterian or Reformed pastors (23%) say they had 10 or more new commitments to Jesus in 2018 per 100 attendees. Half of Methodist pastors (50%) had fewer than five new commitments last year.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/march/lifeway-research-church-growth-attendance-size.html

CHURCH HEALTH & The Big Get Bigger While the Small Get Smaller

by Aaron Earls, Christianity Today, 3/7/19.

…Growth is not absent from American churches,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But rapid growth through conversions is uncommon.”

The research gives a clear picture of the state of Protestant churches in America today.

  • Most have fewer than 100 people attending services each Sunday (57%),
  • including 21 percent who average fewer than 50.
  • Around 1 in 10 churches (11%) average 250 or more for their worship services.

Three in five (61%) pastors say their churches faced a decline in worship attendance or growth of 5 percent or less in the last three years. Almost half (46%) say their giving decreased or stayed the same from 2017 to 2018.

More than 2 in 5 churches (44%) only have one or fewer full-time staff members. Close to 9 in 10 pastors (87%) say their church had the same or fewer number of full-time staff in 2018 as they had in 2017, including 7 percent who cut staff.

In 2018, few churches added new multi-site campuses (3%) or were involved in some form of planting a new church (32%). Sixty-eight percent say they had no involvement in church planting. Around 1 in 10 (12%) say they were directly or substantially involved in opening a new church in 2018, including 7 percent who were a primary financial sponsor or provided ongoing financial support to a church plant.

“The primary purpose of this study was to obtain a set of objective measures on churches’ reproduction and multiplication behaviors today as well as to understand their core context of growth,” said Todd Wilson, chief executive officer of Exponential. “By combining these measures, we can help churches think about multiplication.”

Declining, plateaued, or growing?

Twenty-eight percent of Protestant pastors say their church has seen worship service attendance shrink by 6 percent or more compared to three years ago.

Another 33 percent say their church has remained within 5 percent, while 39 percent say their congregation has grown by at least 6 percent since the first quarter of 2016.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/march/lifeway-research-church-growth-attendance-size.html

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Gen. Zers believe in the exclusivity of Jesus and the reality of hell more than their parents.

by Aron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/1/19.

…LifeWay Research’s 2018 State of Theology Study found some positives and negatives among the beliefs of younger Americans. They also found some issues that transcend generations.

When pastors speak about the exclusivity of Jesus and the reality of hell, they may find more younger heads nodding in agreement than older ones.

While 73 percent of those 65 and older believe God accepts the worship of all religions, that number falls to 62 percent of those 18 to 34.

Young adults are the most likely age group to agree even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation and among the most likely to say hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever.

Pastors may also find more 18- to 34-year-olds concerned about evangelism. They are the most likely to say “it’s important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus as their Savior.”

Among all young adults, 58 percent agree with the importance of personal evangelism. Among evangelicals 18 to 34 years old, 89 percent say encouraging others to trust Christ is important to them.

In other theological areas, however, church leaders may find hard ground among young adults.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2019/02/18/generation-why-churches-worry-they-cant-reach-young-adults-full-of-questions/

MULTIPLICATION & The 5 Levels of Churches Explained & the Percentage of Churches in Each Level. #NewResearch #Exponential

by Thom Rainer, LifeWay, 3/6/19.

In addition to the categorization of churches as

  • declining/subtracting (Level 1),
  • plateauing (Level 2), and
  • growing/adding (Level 3),
  • the study looked at two other supplemental categories.
    • A Level 4 (reproducing) church places a high value and priority on starting new churches.
    • A level 5 (multiplying) church takes church planting to multiple generations of congregations.

    … Here are some of the fascinating findings:

    1. 70% of churches are
    2. subtracting/declining or plateauing. Only 30% are adding/growing based on Exponential’s categorization of churches which is defined above. This data is largely consistent with other research we have done. The period covered is three years.
    3. There are relatively few reproducing churches. The research categorized only 7% of the churches as reproducing (Level 4). The numbers of churches considered multiplying (Level 5: multiple generations of church plants) was 0% in the sample, indicating a negligible number in the total U. S. church population.
    4. The majority of Protestant churches had less than 10 people commit to Jesus Christ as Savior in the past 12 months. That’s fewer than one person per month. That’s not good. That’s not good at all.
    5. Smaller churches are at severe risk.Among those churches with an average worship attendance under 50, only 20% are growing. That is the lowest of any of the categories of churches and is an indicator that these churches are at the greatest risk of dying.
    6. Larger churches have a much lower risk of dying. Among the churches with an average worship attendance of 250 and more, 42% are growing. That is, by far, the largest number of growing churches in any category.

    Read more at… https://thomrainer.com/2019/03/major-new-research-on-declining-plateaued-and-growing-churches-from-exponential-and-lifeway-research/

    BELIEF & Less than half of Americans say religion can answer today’s problems. #LifeWay

    by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 1/23/19.

    As Americans grow accustomed to turning to Google for help, God no longer seems as relevant.

    For the first time since Gallup began asking in 1957, less than half of Americans(46 percent) say religion can answer all or most of today’s problems. A growing number—up to 39 percent—see religion as largely old-fashioned and out of date.

    Gallup religion answer today's questions old fashioned

    Unsurprisingly, the more one attends church, the more likely they are to believe religion does have the answers.

    Eight in 10 weekly church attenders (81 percent) say religion can answer today’s problems. More than half of nearly weekly and monthly attendees (58 percent) agree.

    But 27 percent of those who attend less often see religion as having the answers, while 58 percent say it is old-fashioned and out of date.

    Fewer than 1 in 10 religiously unaffiliated Americans (9 percent) believe religion has answers for today. Seventy-three percent see it as largely out of date.

    “The public is now more closely divided than ever before in its views of religion as the answer to what ails society,” said Gallup’s report.

    Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2019/01/10/losing-our-religion-less-than-half-of-americans-say-religion-can-answer-todays-problems/

    PHYSICAL CHALLENGES & 3 Ways to Engage the Homebound in Church Life #HeatherHagstrom,

    by Heather Hagstrom, LifeWay, 12/7/18.

    Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I enjoyed actively participating in my church and thrived in a young adult weekly Bible study. It was a blessing to worship God and fellowship with other believers regularly.

    After I was diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t attend church or Bible study consistently for seven months while going through a major surgery and cancer treatments. Throughout my cancer journey, the church included me even when I couldn’t attend consistently.

    This inclusion gave me hope and perseverance to view my trial from God’s perspective so as to bring Him glory through my suffering.

    With the number of people forced to stay home because of physical or mental illness, how can churches include these isolated and hurting people in their congregations?

    1. PRAYER

    “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18 (CSB)

    Throughout my cancer journey, I was humbled and thankful my church and other churches throughout my hometown—and even other places in the U.S.—were praying for me.

    A pastor and his intern met me in the hospital at 5:30 a.m. to pray with me before and after my cancer surgery. My 28 days of radiation promoted prayer as a pastor prayed for me daily at my scheduled times for radiation. Sunday school classes also kept me on their prayer chains throughout all my treatments.

    All these prayers helped to ease my fears, encouraged me to persevere, and prompted me to keep my focus on God, knowing He had a good plan for me even in the midst of my pain and heartache…

    2. DISPLAYS OF COMPASSION

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (CSB)

    When I was isolated at home, my pastor took the time out of his busy schedule to personally write a note of encouragement to me. This helped me feel included as part of my church.

    I also felt included in my church when I was able to attend online through livestream and people applauded to welcome all those who were attending online.

    When I couldn’t physically attend church, my parents, who were my caregivers, stayed home with me to watch the church service online. They graciously served me communion at home while we watched communion being served at our church service.

    God changed my attitude to see my cancer journey not as a crisis but as an opportunity to share His love and compassion with those in difficult situations...

    3. ABOVE-AND-BEYOND OUTREACH

    “Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts.” Romans 12:4-6a (CSB)

    As people from different churches volunteered their time and talents to help me throughout my health crisis, their skills were increased to help others. Many cooked and provided delicious meals for me and my parents through a meal train after my surgery. Others wrote encouraging cards, offered rides to my treatments, and provided thoughtful care packages.

    Including me in my weekly Bible study through the use of technologies such as FaceTime and Skype when I couldn’t physically attend has provided skills and resources to include others. All these people were utilizing the gifts and skills God had given them to provide outreach to others.

    As I was included through creative approaches, I received encouragement, which motivated me to promote the gospel in my cancer center. Each time I went to my cancer center to have blood drawn, receive treatments, or attend a follow-up appointment, God led me to bring in cancer devotionals…

    Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/06/3-ways-to-engage-the-homebound-in-church-life/

    CHRISTMAS EVE & Non-Christians are more likely to come to worship services on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year, including Easter. What churches are doing.

    by Thom Rainer, Facts and Trends, 12/6/18.

    …Non-Christians are more likely to come to worship services on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year, including Easter. Church leaders get it. They are putting more prayer, preparation, and strategic thinking into the services.

    There are three popular times for the service. Whether a church has one or multiple Christmas Eve services, three times are more popular than others: later afternoon (typically for families with young children and for older adults); early evening (the more traditional time); and late evening (for empty nesters and families with teenage or grown children).

    The services are traditional. They include traditional hymns and carols. They may include some time for the lighting of the final advent candle.

    The services are brief. The typical length is 30 to 45 minutes.

    The pastor’s message is brief. The typical length is 10 to 15 minutes.

    Most churches include candlelight services. They are now expected by Christians and non-Christians alike.

    Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/06/9-trends-in-christmas-eve-church-services/

    GUESTS & The 4 biggest blind spots of churches according to #LifeWay #agree

    Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I have conducted mystery visitor, Sunday worship analysis at hundreds if not thousands of churches. This article by Aaron Wilson is based upon the research of the FaithPerceptions.com group, and an interview with their founder Melanie Smollen. Read the article to find great summation of what I found.

    Basically I see there are repeatedly four “missteps” (Wilson class them “blind spots”) in churches,  regardless of size, culture or polity. Here is a summation of each with my personal analysis followed by a link to Aaron’s excellent summation.

    BLIND SPOT #1: FRIENDLINESS IS ENOUGH

    Most churchgoers feel they’re friendly to visitors, because they’re friendly to the people they already know. But as a mystery visitor most Sundays of the year, I found that churches overlook and under engage guests. That is, unless a church is intentional in reaching out to guests and utilizing those people with the gift of hospitality, see 1 Peter 4:9, Rom. 12:9-13, 16:23, Acts 16:14-15, Heb. 13:1-2). Also see the chapter on spiritual gifts in my book Spiritual Waypoints (an overview can be found here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/spiritual-gifts-list-how-to-help-others-discover-their-ministry-calling-spiritualwaypointsbook/).

    Usually a church leader will have an anecdotal experience about some guest that has been reached. And, I’m sure these are valid experiences. But they are just that, anecdotal and usually outliers.  Therefore I agree with  analysis number one.

    For more read Aaron’s article and interview with Melanie Smollen here … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/08/17/the-4-biggest-blind-spots-of-churches/

    VOLUNTEERS & Research reveals 41% started because someone already involved invited them to join. #NationalSurveyOfCongregations

    by Helen Gibson, LifeWay, 7/27/18

    (According to) the 2015 National Survey of Congregations …, released in 2016, the most recent year such data is available, shows around 1 in 4 Americans, or 24.9 percent, said they volunteered at least once over the course of the year.

    Women tend to volunteer more than men, at a rate of 27.8 percent to 21.8 percent…

    Americans 35 to 44 years old and those 45 to 54 years old were most likely to volunteer, at rates of 28.9 and 28 percent, respectively. On the other hand, people 20 to 24 years old were least likely to volunteer, at a rate of 18.4 percent.

    Those with higher education levels are also more likely to volunteer. Among respondents 25 years old or older, 38.8 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher said they volunteered, while 26.5 percent of those with some college or an associate degree, 15.6 percent of those with a high school diploma only, and 8.1 percent of those without a high school diploma said the same.

    Whether or not someone is married with children may also affect the likelihood that they volunteer. Around 1 in 3 married people (29.9 percent) said they volunteer, while about 1 in 5 of those who’ve never married (19.9 percent), and 1 in 5 of those with other marital statuses (20.2 percent) said the same. Parents with children under the age of 18 were also more likely to volunteer (31.3 percent) than people without kids (22.6 percent).

    (Some takeaways:)

    (Make it easy to volunteer)  Around 4 in 10 volunteers said they got involved with a particular organization by approaching that organization themselves, so make it easy for your church’s members to figure out how they can get connected to certain ministries.

    (Current volunteers should be encouraged to recruit more volunteers) Another 4 in 10 volunteers said they started volunteering after being asked by someone else — and most often, that was someone who was already involved in that organization. Encourage those who are currently serving in a particular ministry area not only to keep serving, but to invite others to join with them….

    (Serving = discipleship)  Daniel Im, LifeWay’s director of church multiplication, described it as a way to grow spiritually on a recent volunteer recruitment episode of the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast.

    “When you serve, that’s actually how you become more like Christ — because that’s what Jesus came to do,” Im said. “So why don’t you do what Jesus did, and why don’t you grow and become more like Him?’”

    Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/07/26/data-paints-a-picture-of-volunteerism-across-the-nation/

    CHURCH EXIT & New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers #LifeWay

    Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my consulting on church change and church revitalization, I sometimes encounter a judicatory leader or a parent church that will want to change another church’s theology. But, research indicates that you must be very careful in doing so.

    I have observed that churches many times grow around a specific theological viewpoint. Sometimes that theological view is in error, unorthodox, schismatic or heretical. In those circumstances it must be changed.

    But in my experience I have also seen churches that, while they may have primarily orthodox beliefs, have a unique view on (what John Wesley would call) nonessential theological points. These might include issues such as charismatic gifts, healing, modes of baptism, etc.

    In such latter circumstances, the research cited below indicates that we should move cautiously when changing a theological perspective if it is not an essential orthodox belief … or church exit might occur.

    Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers

    Don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

    New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers
    Image: via LifeWay Research

    … Most churchgoers will put up with a change in music style or a different preacher.

    But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

    The study of Protestant churchgoers found most are committed to staying at their church over the long haul. But more than half say they would strongly consider leaving if the church’s beliefs changed.

    Pastors often worry about changing church music and setting off a “worship war,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. But few say they would leave over music.

    Churchgoers are much more concerned about their church’s beliefs.

    “Mess with the music and people may grumble,” he said. “Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”

    Churchgoers stay put

    LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Protestant churchgoers—those who attend services at least once a month—to see how strongly they are tied to their local congregations.

    Researchers found most churchgoers stay put.

    Thirty-five percent have been at their church between 10 and 24 years. Twenty-seven percent have been there for 25 years or more. Twenty-one percent have been there less than five years, while 17 percent have been at the same church for between five and nine years.

    Lutherans (52 percent), Methodists (40 percent) and Baptists (31 percent) are most likely to have been at their church for 25 years or more. Fewer nondenominational (11 percent) or Assemblies of God/Pentecostal churchgoers (13 percent) have such long tenure.

    “Most church members have been at their church longer than their pastor,” said McConnell.

    Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/july/churchgoers-stick-around-for-theology-not-music-or-preacher

    TRANSFER GROWTH & In the past, churches could grow by drawing nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case.” #ThomRainer

    by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 6/14/18.

    … (Rainer:) “ministry is harder now than it used to be.” In the past, he said, churches could grow by drawing in nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case,” he said.

    Many churches rightly jettisoned a programmatic approach to evangelism, but they failed to replace it with anything else, Rainer asserted. “Instead of reaching out,” he said, “they became inward-focused.”

    Yet Rainer was optimistic about the future as he spoke at the breakfast with Jonathan Howe, director of strategic initiatives at LifeWay and co-host of the “Rainer on Leadership” podcast.

    Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

    …Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

    Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/06/13/thom-rainer-points-way-forward-despite-denominational-challenges/