I’m about one third of the way through this BIG document. It’s tough going and maybe worth it. Always a bit oversold … And of course it’s Church of England so the context is very different,
The key paragraphs in the Executive Summary say this:
1) The reason for decline in affiliation and attendance is the failure to replace older generations of churchgoers.
The problem is not adults leaving the Church: it is that half of
the children of churchgoing parents do not attend when they reach adulthood.
2) This key finding has important implications. Retaining children/youth is critical; it is easier to raise people as churchgoers than to turn the unchurched into attenders.
There is no harm in pursuing programmes aimed at former or non-churchgoers (Back to Church Sunday, Alpha, etc.), but expectations need to be realistic.
Recent history suggests that gains and losses during adulthood are roughly in balance; the challenge is to retain the new generation
I can see that. Many of our congregations have a core of devoted and faithful people. They are my age and older. There is a new generation coming after them – but not nearly enough.
So the thrust of the Report is that we need to grow a new generation. Gains and losses among adults will largely cancel each other out. Time for a new focus on children and young adults ..