Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why is it that some churches simply die away?

I became a member at Stodgy Presbyterian Church a few years ago. As someone who is a computer geek, and who is not one to wait for someone to ask for help, I jumped right in to bring the church office into the 20th century .. still working on the 21st.

Upgraded the computers, added a network and broadband, all without much fanfare. I even created a web presence for the church. As I continued in membership, I noticed that the same people who were at the doors ushering/greeting, providing coffee, were the same people who were on Session and Deacons. After six years, they usually moved from one place to the other. Most of the work of the church is done during conversations between individuals in the halls or on the phone, and the rest of Session finds out once its already occurred.

Programs that worked fine 10 years ago, are still being run today. Any hint of a change, is greeted with the 7 last words of a dying congregation We've never done it that way before!. Staff with great ideas to expand the outreach of Sunday school and youth groups are driven off due to lack of support, and backbiting. In the meantime, the church has lost 1/3 of its members, some to moves, most to moving on to the Church Invisible since 2002.

I'm the evangelism elder, there are some things I'm happy to see I had a hand in, such as doubling the new members this year (yeah ... from 6 to 12 ... whoopee). However, an announcement of a new bible study at church, was greeted with indifference, and only 4 people turned up, none of whom notified the leader in advance.

We're looking to do an outreach course for the community. Starts off with dinner, then a talk, etc. I'm guessing some readers of this blog will know what I'm talking about. Again, a request for volunteers has gone out. In three weeks, no responses. I'm hoping I get some people before the official start ... cause I can't do this one all by myself.

Of course, you then get the how much is this costing? questions, or why does the pastor need a new computer? (even though his is completely shot), isn't there one around here he can use?, well yeah, only until the new staff member is hired, then what. People are so worried about the investments and cash flow and less worried that not using that hoard for the advancement of the church and Kingdom is not following the Great Commission.

I know this is not the way its supposed to work. Coming from an RC background, I learned more about Presbyterianism then most of the long term members of the church or of the Session. There's no urgency, no sense of gee, this church is dying . I can imagine in 10 years or so, hearing that the doors are being closed for good.

At least I tried.


  1. Great post! Right there with you. We're having many of the same issues in the church I serve. The Great Commission is something that the congregation thinks can only be fulfilled after we've taken care of ourselves ("if we close the doors to the church, there will be no mission" - yikes). Or, it's something that people are unaware of. The Session is strong and taking steps to revive programs like Adult Ed and reaching out into the community, but so often the response is "I don't have time for Bible study, etc.," reaching out is "the pastor's job" or "Session's job." Unless there is change I can see the church closing its doors in ten years, maybe sooner. And if it happens I wonder if there will be any inward searching or if the blame will be placed at the feet of the pastors and the Session.

  2. The Pew Potatoes will probably blame the Pastor, after all that's what we pay him/her for !!


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