How do we define “thriving”?

Tiny church photo by John Menard of a small church in Romania

The Faith Communities Today 2015 survey finds that small churches are in danger of failing, working with low numbers of attendees and limited resources, but some remain stable and vibrant despite having scarce resources. This includes many Episcopal churches, which often have weekend attendance below 100 members.

Religion News Service has published analysis and details, focusing on the optimism that many small churches express, despite the odds against them. “Thriving” seems to indicate growth, especially among younger church members, who are the least represented age demographic in church attendance.

Perhaps the gap between the optimism and the numbers is best understood by questioning the assumption that a ‘thriving’ church is one which has a high and growing attendance on Sunday; some of the churches that seem the most satisfied in the article were not necessarily large, but were financially stable and had innovative services and outreach, including pub theology nights and empanada giveaways. One church holds a ‘prayer walk’, where members walk the city, and ask others if they can pray for them.

How do you define ‘thriving’? Is there a future for small churches where membership numbers stay static or even decline? If your church has a low Sunday attendance, do you fear for the future, or are you confident that your church can thrive and remain healthy despite low numbers?

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