On one of the message groups I follow is a comment that is disconcerting:

Kirk Hadaway, statistics guy for TEC, says that only 21 out 7900 Episcopal churches have had growth in the last 5 years in both ASA and total membership.  0.0027% of churches have had real growth in the last 5 years.

21 of 7900 in 5 years.  That is essentially zero growth, and compared to a 1% a year net growth in US population, the denomination is losing ground.  Add the aging population, and that spells trouble for  US Episcopal churches.

“The problem,” says Hadaway, ” is getting churches to be what they ought to be and do what they ought to do.  This is a tall order because actions flow from identity – they cannot simply be applied like a thin veneer to the surface of a church.  The change must be deeper.”

It’s clear the change can’t be simply in copying the programs of successful churches onto an old structure.  Many have tried, only to find at the end of a tiring and costly campaign that the gains evaporate once the promotion ends.  It takes a process change, an orientational shift.

The Episcopal church is by nature less evangelical than others, but offers insight nonetheless.  We should learn from their experience even as we offer our support to help them change methods within their own organizational and denominational culture.

What we’ve done in the past no longer works, and if we are to be relevant as churches in America and witnesses of the Gospel, we need to get busy.

sources:

  1. Congregational Development group – http://groups.yahoo.com/group/congregationaldevelopment/
  2. The Growth and Decline of Congregations, but C Kirk Hadaway and David A Roozen, p 133 – http://hirr.hartsem.edu/bookshelf/Church&Denomgrowth/ch&dngrw-pt.2.pdf
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