The Religion World: The shrinking church


09 Jan 2013

The Lutheran magazine’s January cover story is about the decline in membership and churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The story, written by Nicole Radziszewski, says that nearly 30 percent of ELCA churches average less than 50 people for Sunday services. Average worship attendance dropped 26 percent between 2003 and 2011. More than 1,000 ELCA churches have closed during the past 10 years, some merging with other congregations and some just shutting down.

The plight of the Lutherans is not unfamiliar to Protestant denominations. In 2012, less than half of Americans identified themselves as Protestants, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“Nearly every U.S. Christian denomination has seen membership declines in the past two years, including Southern Baptists, who seemed invincible in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s,” Radziszewski writes.

The Lutherans have tried to reverse the trend with Congregational Renewal Partnership grants, which provided 163 congregations with $2.5 million in 2011. The grants are for three years, but renewal often takes five to seven years, said Neil Harrison, director for Renewed Evangelizing Congregations.

“For a congregation to pursue renewal,” Harrison said, “it needs to identify that things are not they wasy theywant them to be and be willing to explore.”

Christ Lutheran in Cantosville, Md., used a renewal grant and doubled its attendance through increased community involvement, Bible study groups, and outreach with youth programming.

“We have done some remarkable things here as a church,” said Cindy Redman, congregational council president. “We really are believing in our ability to recover and renew.”

From The Religion World


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