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 A Report from the Director SEPTEMBER 7, 2011 

Update: Challenges to Active Church ParticipationChallenges to Active Church Participation

Virtually all churches are experiencing a changing environment regarding what they can expect from members in relation to time, participation, and energy. Some feel this is one reason for the ongoing worship attendance recession that began in 2002 and continues today. A new report from the Faith Communities Today research project provides data to substantiate this changing landscape. Based on the 2008 national survey of churches and other religious communities, the report written by Mike McMullen covers “attracting and keeping congregational members.”

When asked about obstacles that make it more difficult for them to participate regularly in church life, people offered remarkably similar responses.

  • School and sports activities. “By far the greatest obstacle for integrating people into the life of the congregation is school or sports-related activities among young children and teens,” the report finds. This is true for rural, small town, urban, and suburban settings, as well as across denominational lines.
  • Conflict with work schedules. The multitude of jobs and job responsibilities found within a single household often produces conflicts with worship and other church activities. The number of people who must work on Sundays is growing.

The common denominator in these two responses is time pressure.  Even churches providing multiple worship services on multiple days are finding that members still report difficulty in managing their time responsibilities in a way that includes regular worship.  It is no wonder that pastors and church leaders are easily irritated and sometimes discouraged in the face of what feels like rejection. 

Consultant and author Gil Rendle makes a distinction between problems and conditions.  Our normal inclination is to see everything as a problem that we can fix.  Sometimes we face a new context that is not a problem susceptible to our repair but rather a new condition we must engage.

“Religious leaders should learn to respond to environmental change not as a threat,” the report says, “but an opportunity to expand or transform their mission.”  I am not sure any of us know just now what it means to expand and transform our mission under these new conditions, but chances are the changes are here to stay. 

Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

A free download of “Attracting and Keeping Congregational Members” is available at faithcommunitiestoday.org.

Register for the Connect with Your Neighbors Conference

To reach new disciples, it used to be enough for our churches simply to reach out to our neighbors. But today we need to do more. Today we need to connect with our neighbors through understanding, engagement, and service.

To help you meet this challenge, the Lewis Center presents the Connect with Your Neighbors Conference, part of our Reach New Disciples program, on Saturday, November 5, from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on the campus of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. Building on our continuing work in attracting new disciples, this half-day conference for laity and clergy features insightful presentations and practical workshops to help you roll up your sleeves and connect with new disciples. Learn more and register today.

Connect with Your NeighborsPreorder the Connect with Your Neighbors
DVD/CD Resource

Bring the best of the Connect with Your Neighbors Conference home to your church with videos of the presentations plus workshop PowerPoint presentations, introductory videos, outlines of key points, and more. This resource ships in early December. Learn more and preorder today.

Are You a Clergy Mentor?

If you are serving as a mentor for one or more new clergy, the Lewis Center's Taking Clergy Mentoring to the Next Level video training resource can strengthen your preparation for your ministry of mentoring other clergy. Learn more.

Seeking Year-End Feedback on Your Pastoral Leadership?

Lewis Pastoral Leadership InventoryIf you are a pastor seeking a way to get feedback based on research-tested categories and questions, check out the Lewis Pastoral Leadership Inventory® (LPLI) at www.lpli.org.

Apply for Wesley Seminary's Doctor of Ministry in Church Leadership

Wesley Theological Seminary is accepting applications from those seeking doctoral study in church leadership. The next cohort begins in May 2012. Students receive enhanced knowledge, skills, and motivation to lead the church toward service, vitality, and growth. Theological disciplines and contemporary leadership studies are engaged to enhance the fruitful practice of leadership. The combined resources of the Wesley faculty, the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, and guest faculty bring depth and energy to this track. The application deadline is December 1, 2011. Learn more.

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