How to Fix Low Church Attendance?
(Posted August 31, 2023)
“I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty.”
-- Alben W. Barkley, former U.S. Vice President
It seems to come up every time someone starts talking about which churches seem to have more people in attendance than others. The comments also come along with some interesting myths about why that’s so.
What People Say About Attendance at Other Churches
“Oh…. the Catholic Church is ALWAYS full of people. I guess it because they get told they HAVE to attend Mass, or go to hell.” I often find that this person hasn’t been inside a Catholic church, but instead sees people coming out from church.
The other observation I hear is about evangelical or “fundamentalist” churches, that they are also well- attended because everything is spelled out for them in black and white about what to think and how to act and earn their “insurance policy to heaven.”
These concepts of other people’s religion are always presented to me as if they are the TRUTH of these faiths.
Recently someone in the media perceived our denomination, the United Church of Christ, as “Christianity Light.” I suppose this is because the modern incarnation of our faith makes room for dialogue with all sorts of belief systems, including ones that are clearly non-Christian. But it is far from the truth.
Not only are they assumptions about other denominations and our own, but these statements also do nothing to help change the very things that have turned some people away from belief.
What Do the Polls Say About Church Attendance?
And the results are in. When asked what religion people identify with:
- 51% of respondents 15 years ago identified as Protestant. Today that number has dropped precipitously to 43%,
- Among Catholics in the same time period, 24% identified as Catholic then, and now have declined to less than 20%.
- Evangelical church attendance has declined by 10%.
- Mega churches have actually experienced an increase, mainly because of their structure.
Three Reasons Why Church Attendance is Down
The truth about church attendance is that almost ALL houses of worship, Christian and otherwise, have watched their attendance decline. There are several reasons this is happening, but the most prominent undercurrents:
- Religion too often pulls people apart.
- Fails to help stanch the spread of hatred.
- Ignores serious sin that exists in their midst.
As a result, all churches have witnessed a decline because people try to escape hypocrisy.
What Does Jesus Say That Can Fix Church Attendance?
What DID Jesus tell us that we need to do in order to travel the road to the Kingdom of God?
Those “rules of the road” were put together very clearly by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, Chapter 12. If all of us were to follow the rules of Christian love, even in part, there would be no room for the kind of behavior on the part of so-called Christians, which has turned people away from attending a church they believe is hypocritical.
This Sunday we’ll be hearing about real-life examples of when church-going people actually lived the way Christ told us to live as the people planting the seeds of congregations across the world.
Come join us and share in the Lord’s Supper this weekend. -- Pastor Pat Kriss