George Barna is an experienced researcher who has studied churches for many years. Here is an article that seek to flag possible issues that may be leading to the decline that mainline churches have been experiencing. It is helpful as it reminds pastors like myself of pitfalls to avoid and emphases to maintain.
Here are some take-homes that I noticed for our own UM church in Copper Hill.
- I pray that I am allowed to stay at Copper Hill many more years. I was shocked to read that the average tenure of pastors in mainline churches is only 4 years which is one-half what it is in non-mainline churches. Annual conference just passed, and looking at the NYAC report of our UM area, I could tell that we are not doing well in that department. This week I begin year four at Copper Hill UMC. I am just beginning in the work that I believe God has called me here to accomplish. I believe it is unfair to the church for a pastor to stay at a church less than six years unless there are extenuating circumstances.
- Unfortunately, I note in the article that Copper Hill is typical of many mainline churches in that we have been adding members but only fast enough to stay about even in attendance. We need to seek ways to increase our outreach.
- Fortunately, we are well ahead of the curve in demographics. We are blessed to have young adults with children attending, visiting, and participating in the government of our church. This is awesome.
- I note that Barna calls attention to the need for commitment. Apparently, mainline churches are falling victim to their own pluralism. If the pastor does not give a clear gospel message that calls for salvation through Jesus, the raison d’etre of the church is compromised. The people in the pew catch the lack of purpose. Over time, attendance falters; giving declines and extremely few from the younger generation feel called into ministry. But if the gospel is front and center, the message of the cross has its own drawing power. The church, properly presented, is part of the greatest cause on earth. Churches with that attitude will have an excellent record of raising up both younger and middle-aged people for ministry.