Decline, and what to do about it

Mary Frances Schjonberg writes for Episcopal News Service:

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council heard here Feb. 21 that church membership and Sunday attendance continued to decline in 2008, but also heard a call for the church to promote knowledge of the characteristics of growing congregations.

During his statistic-laden hour-long report, Kirk Hadaway, the church’s program officer for congregational research, told the council that congregations grow when they are in growing communities; have a clear mission and purpose; follow up with visitors; have strong leadership; and are involved in outreach and evangelism.

Congregations decline, he said, when their membership is older and predominantly female; are in conflict, particularly over leadership and where worship is “rote, predictable and uninspiring.”

…. Hadaway suggested that “if we’re going to turn this around — or at least turn around the decline — more attention needs to be paid to the things that result in growth, rather than to the broader cultural factors that are affecting our current patterns.” Those cultural factors include such things as an aging population with declining birthrates and an increase in the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation.

Earlier coverage of this data is here. John B. Chilton has written extensively about issues of congregational growth. (1 and 2 and 3) And bishop John Bryson Chance commented on an earlier survey in Washington Window.

Updated: how loss of membership is affecting the Diocese of Northern California.

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