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Your Congregation's Future Depends on People You Haven't Met

If you belong to a typical congregation in the North America, your membership is in decline. The median attendance in almost all mainline denominations is less than 100 people attend worship each week. Your system is not likely to be bringing in large numbers of younger people and so it is aging. Even many stable congregations are aging and will suddenly find themselves losing a large number of people to health, relocation to be near children and grandchildren, downsizing to smaller quarters, etc. If only the people who currently attend the congregation where you worship define its future, you can do the math and figure out pretty quickly, “We are going to disappear one day.”

Now that may be OK with you. Not every congregation needs to live forever (every church that Paul started is no longer in business today!). But if your message and mission field are important and you believe God wants ministry there to continue then there is a basic truth: “The future of your congregation rests in the hands of people you haven’t met yet.”

Coming to grips with God’s desires for ministry in your place and the long term truth that some one else will have to lead that is important. How are you making space for new people to enter the system, gain experience in leadership and take over the reins? When new people do come, are they both welcomed with integrity and also walked through the process of belonging, connecting and being equipped and mentored to take on important roles?

No congregation’s future rests solely in the hands of the current participants. Congregations who know this and live intentionally working to be sure that new people ascend to important roles in the church are in a radically different place than those who hope someone new will drop in and simply want to lead some day. Are you truly alert to, and ready for, new people. The future of your congregation rests in the hands of people that you haven’t met yet!
Dave Daubert 12/6/2017 2 Comments
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Harvey Brandt
1/4/2018

This article speaks truth. Our small congregation (Sitka Lutheran Church in Sitka, Alaska ) went from 70 attending worship in 2007 to about 40 to 45 attending worship today (2017)... We have stabilized attendance at worship, however, we have not incorporated sufficient young people into leadership positions to take care of future needs in terms of administering, taking care of necessary functions that characterize a healthy congregation. I agree with everything stated in this article. Our responses to this: 1. Messy Church 2. A revitalized Youth Group 3. Trying to re-start Sunday School 4. A Summer Volunteer Program that assists (and some would say) masks our true needs 5. Our Quilting group reaches out, but mostly to people already attending another church Beyond that, we have done business as usual with fewer people doing more things. Most of those people are aging quickly. Discipleship keeps popping up as an issue that we need to address, but I am not sure how well, if we have addre

admin 1/4/2018

Harvey, thanks for your comments. You are not alone in this. I work with congregations that routinely want to have better results but don't change what they do. They just hope for something different or as you said, come up with things that appear helpful on the surface but may mask the long term realities. More with less is the mantra of many congregations! Keep pressing the discipleship issues. Two things that almost always help - improved congregation-wide bible reading efforts (campaign style with a real focus on getting everyone reading and discussing each week - The Essential Jesus is a good example for this) and getting people out to meet people in the community while still being clear that they go out on behalf of the church. This meeting of new people is essential - even if it doesn't initially involved evangelism but just relationship building. Be blessed!

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