Reflecting on an article I wrote a few years back, I was amazed that in a very short period of time, the percentages on these 7 questions have probably reversed in many cases. I would be fascinated to have you answer these same questions in 2015 and see what you come up with based on your current experience.
Not too long ago I fulfilled a promise I made to speak at a conference cosponsored by the Society for Church Consulting and The Great Commission Research Network. It was held on the beautiful campus of the Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana.
I spoke specifically on the subject Worship Wars Today: 7 Ways to Protect Your Church from Collateral Damage. (Is this still a hot button? Oh yes, STILL!) I asked a question at the beginning…
Have you ever observed or driven a paradigm shift in a church and experienced a loss of members directly because of it?
Using a miraculous system from Interactive Church Resources for gathering instantaneous results to questions asked from the platform, I got this response.
82% said, “Yes!”
Frankly this came as no surprise. Even churches that swear they never had any issues with the so-called worship wars are telling a little white lie. It happened, it’s happening, or it will happen, period!
My second question was…
Do you describe worship services with one word such as blended, traditional, contemporary, etc.?
67% said, “Yes!”
I’m not sure why this bothers me so much. Maybe it’s because it takes a multifaceted God and reduces the worship of same to one incredibly inadequate word. Would you be offended if someone described you as “pretty” or “jockish?” Is worshipping God a “traditional” (i.e. ritualistic) or “contemporary” (i.e. fashionable) experience—I hardly think so.
The third question got a pretty resounding response…
Do you believe that multisite development is the answer to decreasing attendance in American churches?
78% said, “No!”
Somehow this surprised me a little. Multisite churches are springing up all over the country and I’ve spoken often of their uniqueness for success as well as their potential perils. The fact is, multisite worship is getting most of the buzz these days. Why so many “no” responses, then? In talking with conferees as the week progressed, they told me that they feel declining attendance is not tied to people not liking the church or what constitutes its current marketing. It’s more connected to them not “giving a rip” about the church one way or the other. “Total indifference,” as one pastor described it.
The fourth question got a mixed response…
Do you believe that “the church” is becoming too corporate?
Here the answer was 57% “Yes” and 43% “No.”
Again I was somewhat surprised since I frequently hear from my colleagues that their churches are being run like major corporations. There’s always much hand holding when I get their reports about massive layoffs and unfair evaluation forms. The truth (for me) seems to be that churches are finally figuring out how to be legal, intentional, and pastoral at the same time. I’m not saying they always do it right—whatever that means—but they’re trying.
Here’s where I sense people get “ticked,”—when discussion about how to “market” the church’s programs supersedes talk of the needs of the congregation. I completely get both sides!
The fifth question was rather sad in some ways…
Do you believe that “the church” will be able to reach Millennials any time soon?
Here the answer was 39% “Yes” and 61% “No.”
The theme of the conference was Outreach in an eWorld: Innovation, Creativity & Connectivity. There were several outstanding speakers (including Thom Rainer who gave a stretching talk on the uniqueness of the Millennial generation), all of whom touched on the challenge of churches to both figure out and figure out HOW to minister to this growing “layer” of our society.
It appears that, while we’re all working toward understanding this group of young people, we have a very long way to go to tap into their innate sense of need to serve others and value life and the earth. Maybe it’s because they observe in the Boomers and so-called “Me” generation a fairly miserable track record.
Even though the church is often accused of standing still, frozen, and unable to move forward, I’m not sure that can still be said. What’s your opinion?
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