Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dedicated Church Members Attending Church Less Often

I recently read a blog entry by Carey Nieuwhof, the teaching pastor at Connexus Church in Toronto, Ontario. The title of his article caught my attention, "10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Church Less Often." 

At Brighton First, we have noticed a growing trend in weekly attendance. We would expect that the marginally involved congregation members might not attend regularly. In the last few years, we've also noted that congregation members who are deeply involved in ministry and/or church leadership are not attending regularly. For some, attending church every 3 - 6 weeks is the "new" regular attendance.

I was interested in what Nieuwhof cited asreasons for the drop in weekly attendance that many churches are experiencing. He listed these 10:
  1. Greater Affluence. People have more money and, therefore, have more options on Sunday morning.
  2. Higher Focus on Kids' Activities. In the Brighton area we see a yearly increase in the number of sports practices and games that are scheduled for Sunday morning. In addition, if athletic or academic competitions take families out of town for a full day on Saturday or all weekend, Sunday morning worship can be a low priority.
  3. More Travel. Greater mobility, the distances family member and friends live from each other, and affluence contribute to persons traveling away from home more.
  4. Blended and Single Parent Families. Attendance for families is sometimes determined by child custody schedules.
  5. Online Options. Just like television evangelists have been the worship option for some in years past, today, there are many live stream and pod cast worship options. There is no need to attend worship to catch a weekly message or listen to praise music.
  6. The Cultural Disappearance of Guilt. There was a time in some communities when any new acquaintance would be asked, "What church do you attend?" There was a cultural expectation that most people were connected to a faith institution. This is not the case anymore. Very few people are going to question why a person is grocery shopping, golfing, or washing the car instead of attending worship. There is no pressure or guilt.
  7. Self-Directed Spirituality. The practices of spiritual seekers has changed. Many see no need for the authority of a religious institution or a religious leader to guide spirituality. Internet sources, books and alternative spiritual activities are individually chosen.
  8. Failure to See a Direct Benefit. Nieuwhof writes, "People always make time for the things they value most. If they're not making time for church, that tells you something." Church leaders have to ask, "How is worship and the life of the church contributing value to the lives of those who attend?"
  9. Valuing Attendance Over Engagement. Some make "attendance" the primary goal in relationship to their worshiping community. If attendance once per month is the basic goal, then seeing church as a place to engage in spiritual growth, community building and service fall lower on the priority list.
  10. Massive Culture Shift. The number of people who check "none" when asked about their religious affiliation is rising. As a growing percent of the population doesn't even think about a life of faith, church attendance continues to shrink.
Brighton First is challenged to offer relevant worship and life-changing ministry in the midst of cultural trends and practices. The questions we ask ourselves need to be bigger than "What brand of coffee should we serve?" and more relevant to the challenge than "Should our pastor wear a clergy robe?" We need to ask which of these trends, if any, are applicable to our church and the Brighton area. And with these realities, how can we offer Jesus Christ in a way that will reach people and change lives?

Some would say that we are living as Christians in a discouraging time. Another perspective, and one that I hold to on my best days, is that we live in a time of opportunity. Having Christ in our lives does make a difference. We have a hope that cannot be shaken. We live in a time when many, burdened and distracted by this modern life, need to hear this compelling truth. Dropping attendance is a wake up call. How will we tell people about Jesus?

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