If youâ€™d like to read the whole report (the Pre-Conference Journal for the upcoming special session) you can find it on the Texas Conference website. In my previous posts on this proposal I highlighted the positive reasons for making this move: Thereâ€™s lots of people out there and weâ€™re not reaching them!
There are also â€œnegativeâ€ reasons. Weâ€™re in trouble. The first negative statistic, worship attendance last year was down .06% from 2000. As I consider the attendance reports since 1998 I donâ€™t see any really significant change. Churches compute attendance by a variety of means: (1) Counting people (some ushers & preachers are pretty imaginative with their counting); (2) Attendance pads (I have never seen these be 100% accurate. They undercount more often than they overcount.); (3) A checklist. (Usually in a software package.). None of these methods are fool proof; all have a margin of error. Iâ€™m inclined to think that the worship attendance variance over the past few years is within the margin of error. If so, weâ€™re not seeing substantial decline (assuming the numbers are real), but since these numbers are just over a third of our reported membership, weâ€™re still doing pretty pitifully.
By my reckoning, attendance is hugely important. Healthy churches will have more people in attendance than they do members. Why? First, because they will be attracting seekers â€“ people who are investigating Jesus â€“ who have not yet committed themselves. Second, because membership is seen as a substantive commitment, not just getting your name on a roll.
Other statistics are down also: Professions of Faith (new Christians), Baptisms, and students in confirmation classes all declined over the past 5 years. Weâ€™re apparently not doing enough to help people become Christians and connect to the church.
Considering these statistics, the document sums up the situation very briefly:
The Texas Annual Conference is at a turning point. We can maintain the current path, which is not addressing the opportunities of our growing area, or we can choose a new path leading to growth, revitalization, and enhanced ministry and mission.
Iâ€™ll put up more later.
I read Kotter’s book “Leading Change” a little while back and he listed “creating a sense of urgency” as a major factor in any change. I’m glad the leadership has done the research to bring forward our attendance, profession of faith, baptism and confirmation class decline and I hope that reality will create and sustain a sense of urgency. I get the feeling that it has on the conference level. I don’t know about how the sense of urgency is across the board in local churches.
My perception is that their is sometimes a sense of urgency in local congregations, but here in small town E Texas, the urgency is more about survival: Will we be able to pay the bills? Will the church survive into the next generation? One of the hardest things we do is create, sustain and focus evangelistic passion.