(Originally published on October 2, 2016, on the United Church of Christ’s Center for Analytics, Research, and Data (CARD) Blog site.)
Churches and denominations are being buffeted by momentous social change—and many good church people are in denial about, or are resisting, what is happening all around them.
For example, recent Barna Group research suggests that “many of those outside [of] Christianity, especially younger adults, have little trust in the Christian faith” or in churchgoers. They view Christianity as homophobic, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, out of touch with reality, not accepting of others, and confusing. Worse, many Millennial and older churchgoers “share the[se] same negative perceptions” (David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why It Matters [Baker, 2007], pp. 9-32).
And Duke University’s 2015 National Congregations Study report on “Religious Congregations in 21st Century America” revealed that:
- Most churches are small and getting smaller; “the average congregation in America is down from a median of 80 participants in 1998 to 70” or fewer today.
- “All congregations are aging, but white mainline congregations are older,” and are aging faster.
- Mainline Protestant denominations are losing members; meanwhile, the number of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and “nones” in the United States has grown precipitously since 1998.
- “Congregations are less connected to denominations.” Churches’ “financial contributions to denominations have been in relative decline since 1998.
- Many full- and part-time paid pastoral leaders are second-career. Sixteen percent of pastors serve more than one congregation; 34% are bi-vocational. Nearly 14% of congregations are led by unpaid pastors.”
But it’s not just the church that’s changing; dramatic transformations are occurring within even the most stable and conservative of American institutions—and their traditional patrons and defenders are struggling to adjust to the new realities.
Consider the proud tradition of U.S. naval aviation. Since World War II, American aircraft carriers have patrolled the world’s oceans, and aircraft flown by Navy and Marine pilots have owned the skies.
But on May 14, 2013, for the first time in history, an unmanned jet aircraft was successfully launched from, and recovered on, the deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush.
To read the rest of this article, click onto the United Church of Christ’s Center for Analytics, Research, and Data (CARD) website,