You’ve probably been reading about church decline and the rise of the Nones, Dones and SBNRs (Spiritual But Not Religious) in the news. Here is just one such article: In US, Decline of Christianity Continues at a Rapid Pace, Pew Research Center, Oct. 2019
Charlie Kuchenbrod and I are among those who respond to calls from local churches when the evidence of numerical decline and institutional ill-health begin to mount. We began to wonder together about how to deploy resources to churches when they are facing a fiscal cliff, whether they know it or not.
We decided to offer a series of webinars entitled “Navigating the Wilderness.” Creating webinars was a new technology for both of us, but we were convinced that people would sign up for the events, and also that once completed the resources would continue to be of some value. Indeed, about 35 individuals signed up for each of the webinars. several of these representing a group of leaders watching the sessions together. The sessions covered a range of topics that might be helpful to churches that are either fully aware of the financial challenges ahead, or those who would like to make a data based assessments of their future viability.
Charlie and I believe that the urgency of institutional challenge is a gift: urgency is what helps us overcome the tendency of organizations to revert to status quo. Urgency may help us engage in a season of leadership growth towards more mission clarity and passionate connection to the core of our ministries.
Feedback from these sessions will help us use the webinar format more effectively in the future. But even though this was our first attempt at providing resources in this way, participant responses indicate the content was effective. One participant wrote: "you may be interested to know that, following Charlie’s example in Part I, [the moderator and I] researched trends and reported them with numbers and graphs at this month’s council meeting. Data does change the nature of a discussion. We are now in the process of responding to the question asked by one of our council member, ‘what do we do about this.?'” Another participant mentioned that her church realized “There is a problem NOW and even if we don’t yet know the path forward, we’ve recognized that the current path is neither faithful nor fruitful.”
Recordings of the webinars are available at: www.ctucc.org/NTWseries. “Further Readings” are posted under each webinar to enhance conversation around the videos.
Charlie and I hope that church leaders might view these webinars as a resource around the same time they are thinking of calling us. The webinars will enable leaders to be prepared for more substantial conversations about their work of re-imagining their life as followers of Jesus in this time of institutional church decline. We are still his hand and feet in this world. We just need to get the body of Christ in shape to move out of the buildings and into the world.