Author Topic: ELCA Statistics Show Decline  (Read 32860 times)

TravisW

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #60 on: August 16, 2008, 11:54:51 PM »
Wow, it's nice to see that my "pablum" comment has been taken entirely beyond the scope and context of the entire rest of my post, which has remained unreferenced in any other manner or form. 

The whole point of the post was about member retention (or lack thereof), not about getting new people in the doors.  What I referenced as my experience directly relates to my experience.  Many don't share that, and I'm glad to hear that they don't. 

The issue that I see isn't just "why aren't new people joining", it's a combination of that and "why aren't our members staying?"  It can't all be them dying off.  If we don't at least identify the issues leading to the attrition in our numbers, we're just shooting in the dark as to what will remedy them (if, indeed, they can be remedied). 

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #61 on: August 17, 2008, 12:00:11 AM »
During the 50's people flocked to the church. Was the church more "user friendly" or was society different?
Society was different.

Actually an exercise I often do is to ask how things were different 50 years ago, e.g., grocery stores, gas stations, telephones, etc. There was life before McDonald's and Wal-Mart and cell phones -- or even push-button phones.

A major change illustrated by Lyle Schaller in It's a Different World, is that people today demand choices. In the 50's it was expected that the women's group meeting served cookies and coffee. Nowadays, some ladies will want regular and decaf coffee, possibly different teas, cookies and healthy fruit -- they want to have those choices. In the 50's we had three TV stations -- and none of them went all night. Today, we not only have 100's of stations to choose from but with VCRs and DVRs, we can choose when we watch what we want to watch. In the 50's, Lutherans did talk about having exactly the same liturgy in every church in every place. (Sort of like the idea of buying a Ford in any color you wanted -- as long as it was black.) Today many churches find it necessary to offer two or more styles of worship services to give people choices.

My guess, and probably somebody has done the research on this, is that in the 50's very few people changed denominations. When we relocated in the mid-50's, finding a Lutheran Church was a high priority. My one brother who still lives in that town is still a member of that congregation. The rest of the family -- myself, a brother, and my folks, are all living in different states -- but we are all members of ELCA congregations. I find that quite a rarity among people today -- that adult children belong to the same church or even the same denomination as their parents. (A brother-in-law, who grew up Lutheran, has been in a number of different denominations -- and none of them Lutheran.) Statistics I've heard about the youth in our church is that half of them will change denominations as adults.

I think that related to the idea of choice, is that today if people don't feel that a church or pastor is meeting their needs, they look elsewhere. They believe that they have the right to choose what works for them. This is probably related to a problem in most groups is that it's harder to get people to commit to anything long-term. As a fairly recent book indicated, people would rather bowl alone (when they choose to go bowling) rather than join a league where they are "forced" to bowl on a set schedule.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2008, 12:07:02 AM by Brian Stoffregen »
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Layman Randy

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #62 on: August 17, 2008, 12:04:55 AM »
During the 50's people flocked to the church. Was the church more "user friendly" or was society different?
Society was different.

Actually an exercise I often do is to ask how things were different 50 years ago, e.g., grocery stores, gas stations, telephones, etc. There was life before McDonald's and Wal-Mart and cell phones -- or even push-button phones.

A major change illustrated by Lyle Schaller in It's a Different World, is that people today demand choices. In the 50's it was expected that the women's group meeting served cookies and coffee. Nowadays, some ladies will want regular and decaf coffee, possibly different teas, cookies and healthy fruit -- they want to have those choices. In the 50's we had three TV stations -- and none of them went all night. Today, we not only have 100's of stations to choose from but with VCRs and DVRs, we can choose when we watch what we want to watch. In the 50's, Lutherans did talk about having exactly the same liturgy in every church in every place. (Sort of like the idea of buying a Ford in any color you wanted -- as long as it was black.) Today many churches find it necessary to offer two or more styles of worship services to give people choices.

Seems to relate to how "freedom" in Christ/through Christ/from Christ is comprehended or used today, and the impacts of that on statistics related to any "church" body.

Scott5

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #63 on: August 17, 2008, 07:52:07 AM »
And there's another example of a bad advertising idea. I agree with the message. I just doubt that it would be particularly effective. It's along the lines of another idea that might seem good, but that wouldn't work. 

Why is it a "bad advertising idea"?  What criteria beyond "like it" or "don't like it" do you use?  The folks that put it together certainly didn't think that it was a bad idea, and it cost quite a bit of money.  When asked about it on TV (see, there's the dust it kicked up -- the local television station interviewed the pastors), they were able to make an additional plug for their church.  As did the multiple news stories and follow-ups in the papers.

But it's a serious question.  Why do you call this real-world, actually performed mass-marketing idea that brought together billboards, TV, newspapers and internet attention a "bad advertising idea"?  It seems to have made use of multliple media in a single shot.


EDIT: Hey, I just noticed on another thread you asking Peter this question about another topic:

How does one tell the difference between adopting a good idea and "imitating" another church or tradition?

Looks like great minds think alike, because that's what I want to know wrt mass marketing.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2008, 07:57:23 AM by Sc ott Yak imow »

swbohler

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #64 on: August 17, 2008, 08:17:15 AM »
Lutheran Lay Leader writes: "If the general population increases 10%, and church attendance only increases 5%, that still looks like a loss to me. It's worse in Rust Belt areas where all population is shrinking."

I agree.  Yet that very point is all too often missed by "experts".  In the district I serve, my first call was to a dual point parish in the smallest county (in population) in the state.  It was shrinking at a double digit rate, with virtually every new high school graduate moving away for school or work (and not returning).  One year not one person under the age of 65 moved into the entire county!  Deaths outnumbered births by about 3 or 4 to 1.  But our little congregations held steady in numbers through the 6+ years I was there.  At the same time, in one of the fastest growing areas of the state, we had congregations that were growing numerically by about half their county's rate.  And yet it was these churches that were held up by the district missions executive as the shining examples for the rest of us to follow!  Even after I pointed out to him that holding even in the face of a general decline in population was actually "better" (in terms of numbers) than growing at half the rate of the general population, he couldn't get it.  And we were still told that to reach folks we had to change to be like those "growing" churches.

Brian Hughes

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #65 on: August 17, 2008, 08:32:33 AM »

The issue that I see isn't just "why aren't new people joining", it's a combination of that and "why aren't our members staying?"  It can't all be them dying off.  If we don't at least identify the issues leading to the attrition in our numbers, we're just shooting in the dark as to what will remedy them (if, indeed, they can be remedied). 

  From my perspective, our generation of church leaders is walking through very trying times and it's my sense there are no obvious or easy answers.  For example, the sorts of changes needed to reach a new generation (understanding the type of preaching, music, social activism, etc) through effective, faithful and authentic means often grates against those who have been in the church their entire lives.  I can point to a number of large churches in the ELCA who thought they had walked out those differences in creative ways only to now find themselves having to revisit many of the same conversations they were having in the 80's.

  BTW, the "why aren't they staying?" question has been around since the early 70's.  Boomers left in their 20's and not as many of them came back when compared to earlier generations.  It's continued to grow since then.

Brian

Dave Benke

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #66 on: August 17, 2008, 08:46:12 AM »
There's a converse side to the statistic of decline/advance referenced by SW and LLL that is an urban loss leader - the use of the "less Lutherans" logic.  There are less Lutherans in New York City (let's say) than there used to be.  They've all moved to Long Island, the Hudson Valley, Florida or Heaven.  I heard and hear that all the time.  And my response was and is, "So all those homes are now empty?  Or purchased by Catholics?"  No, the logic trails on, but they're not Lutheran.  And when they do join, they don't give like all the long-term members we've lost to Florida.  My response - a) Florida owes us money   b) then bring in more new people. 

The LCMS is having a rural churches conference in the midwest (Nebraska?) this fall, SW.  There will be one attendee from the Atlantic District (to date) from one of our two rural congregations.  You should try to catch that one.

Dave Benke

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #67 on: August 17, 2008, 09:29:55 AM »
Even after I pointed out to him that holding even in the face of a general decline in population was actually "better" (in terms of numbers) than growing at half the rate of the general population, he couldn't get it.  And we were still told that to reach folks we had to change to be like those "growing" churches.
A more significant number is the percentage of the population that attends church. (Info for counties, 1980, 1990 & 2000, can be found at http://www.thearda.com/.)
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Lutheran_Lay_Leader

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #68 on: August 17, 2008, 02:53:51 PM »
Why is it a "bad advertising idea"?  What criteria beyond "like it" or "don't like it" do you use?  The folks that put it together certainly didn't think that it was a bad idea, and it cost quite a bit of money.  When asked about it on TV (see, there's the dust it kicked up -- the local television station interviewed the pastors), they were able to make an additional plug for their church.  As did the multiple news stories and follow-ups in the papers.

But it's a serious question.  Why do you call this real-world, actually performed mass-marketing idea that brought together billboards, TV, newspapers and internet attention a "bad advertising idea"?  It seems to have made use of multliple media in a single shot.

I call it "bad advertising" because the ads were too generic, and too vague. Any religion, not just a Christian denomination, could have run those commercials and substituted their own taglines. It's extremely common in advertising. Check out back issues of Advertising Age magazine at the library sometimes. They're full of articles about ad campaigns where the clients over-ruled the professionals and ended up with glitzy, glossy, professional looking ads that had almost zero effectiveness.

Check the ads themselves out with the links below. None of them show the viewer what it is that makes the Methodist church any different from the Presbyterians, Muslims, or Scientologists. For that matter, they could be ads for some secular new-age self-help retreat program.

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/HMsiPt687OU&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/HMsiPt687OU&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/aMIpnH4g5HI&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/aMIpnH4g5HI&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

After viewing those commercials, if you didn't already know what made the Methodists Methodist, would those ads have educated you?

There may have been more commercials in the series. Though I am an enthusiastic couch potato and watch far too much television, I don't have any memories of any other UMC spots.

The point of effective advertising isn't how much buzz in generates about advertising executives, or how it integrates media. Effective advertising gets across one's message. I'll soon be 57 years old. I haven't seen this commercial since it was aired, often, in the early 1960's. But I can quote this from memory. "Crest has been proved to be an effective decay preventing dentifrice that can be of significant value when used in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care." I did not look that up. That's the power of an effective ad.

An effective ad links an idea in the viewers mind. If someone asks where to go to have a hamburger your way, most people would answer "Burger King". If someone asks "which church says that you're saved by Grace alone?", most people should answer "That's the Lutherans". An effective advertising campaign would embed that idea in people's minds. That's step one. It's not the end in itself, it's a means to an end. The next step is getting more people to attend Lutheran services where they can hear the Gospel preached and receive the means of Grace. The Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting. The Holy Spirit will have the responsibility for reaching those people once they are exposed to the Good News. Our job is to serve as the Holy Spirit's servants, as the Holy Spirit works through us. And that work starts with getting people to come through the doors.


Brian Hughes

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #69 on: August 17, 2008, 03:25:45 PM »

The Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting. The Holy Spirit will have the responsibility for reaching those people once they are exposed to the Good News.


  I can appreciate your desire to create a mass marketing approach to evangelism.  I think several here have noted that statistically the most effect evangelism is when someone is invited by a friend. 

  From a different angle, if it's true the Holy Spirit has the responsibility for reaching those people ... what does it mean when the Holy Spirit appears to be sending many unChristians to places other than Lutheran congregations?

Brian

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #70 on: August 17, 2008, 04:06:51 PM »
Brian, I am perplexed as to how you drew any inference of 'show" in my previous post. Indeed, the Proclaimation of the WORD of GOD is not a matter of show, but of faith. And yes, i would agree that there should be more "shouting from the mountaintop....and out to sea, people everywhere just gotta be....." more committed to living the Gospel and sharing the Good News. Sometimes in shouts, sometimes in hushed whispers, sometimes not using words at all.
bob
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Lutheran_Lay_Leader

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #71 on: August 17, 2008, 05:07:15 PM »
can appreciate your desire to create a mass marketing approach to evangelism.  I think several here have noted that statistically the most effect evangelism is when someone is invited by a friend. 

First, no one has done any such thing. There are statistic that demonstrate that being invited by a friend works better than doing nothing at all. There are statistic that demonstrate that being invited by a friend works better than poorly executed evangelism methods. There are no statistics that compare the effectiveness of a well-written, well-crafted media advertising campaign with any other means of evangelism because there hasn't been and well-written, well-crafted media advertising campaigns ever conducted to draw more people into church. How, pray tell, can one compare the results from something that has been done to something that has never been done?

But there's another, and far more sinister problem with relying only on "friends inviting friends". Like it or not, there is still a tendency within America for people to make friends mostly with people with whom they share common cultural backgrounds and values. I'm sure the participants in this forum can list dozens of anecdotes about how many people have a diverse portfolio of friends. That's how exclusive country clubs remain exclusive. When membership is be invitation only, the membership can be counted on to recruit mostly new members who would fit right in because they're so similar to the people inviting them.

Anyone who is honest about reality has to have observed that despite the fact that people might have a more diverse collection of friends than was common a few decades ago, for the most part, when Lutherans invite their friends to their church, they're mostly inviting more people of European ancestry. And before anyone assumes I'm thinking the worst, I'm also taking into account the modern aspect of American culture that says "respect other peoples' religious beliefs, and don't push your own beliefs on them". Too many Lutherans (and Methodists and Presbyterians and Catholics and members of all the other denominations) think that it would be "offensive" to invite someone who probably as a result of their racial or cultural background is already a Baptist or Catholic or something else.

In today's world of "political correctness" gone amok, expecting people to be proactive about inviting anyone, let alone people of diverse backgrounds, to a Lutheran church is expecting something that just isn't going to happen in large enough measure to prevent the ELCA (and LC-MS and WELS and even the tiny little synods on Pastor Zip's website) from shrinking to near nothingness.

From a different angle, if it's true the Holy Spirit has the responsibility for reaching those people ... what does it mean when the Holy Spirit appears to be sending many unChristians to places other than Lutheran congregations?

It means that we Lutherans are shirking our responsibilities and ignoring the Holy Spirit's call. It means we're spending so much of our intellectual resources on maintaining the purity of our denominational identity and clinging to past practices that don't work as well in the 21st century as they did in the mid 20th century that we have little left for implementing God's Great Commission.

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #72 on: August 17, 2008, 08:40:42 PM »

An effective ad links an idea in the viewers mind. If someone asks where to go to have a hamburger your way, most people would answer "Burger King". If someone asks "which church says that you're saved by Grace alone?", most people should answer "That's the Lutherans". An effective advertising campaign would embed that idea in people's minds.


I'm trying to imagine what might happen if, say, those Lutherans who work for advertising agencies and/or in the media, were prevailed upon to design such a campaign?  And what it would take to get Lutheran churches (congregations and judicatories) and ministries to pay for such a campaign?

I vaguely recall the ELCA Identity Project several years ago.  AAL was a major funder for it.  (Its legacy is found at www.sharingfaith.org.) I also know that when we started looking at the possibilities of drawing upon that project here in Peoria, the initial cost of just one newspaper ad scared the bajeebers out of us.

George, come to Peoria.  Let's see what we can do.

Pax, Steven+
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Keith Falk

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #73 on: August 17, 2008, 08:52:45 PM »

An effective ad links an idea in the viewers mind. If someone asks where to go to have a hamburger your way, most people would answer "Burger King". If someone asks "which church says that you're saved by Grace alone?", most people should answer "That's the Lutherans". An effective advertising campaign would embed that idea in people's minds.


I'm trying to imagine what might happen if, say, those Lutherans who work for advertising agencies and/or in the media, were prevailed upon to design such a campaign?  And what it would take to get Lutheran churches (congregations and judicatories) and ministries to pay for such a campaign?

I vaguely recall the ELCA Identity Project several years ago.  AAL was a major funder for it.  (Its legacy is found at www.sharingfaith.org.) I also know that when we started looking at the possibilities of drawing upon that project here in Peoria, the initial cost of just one newspaper ad scared the bajeebers out of us.

George, come to Peoria.  Let's see what we can do.

Pax, Steven+

And then we'll finally know the answer to the question, "Will it play in Peoria?"   ;D
Rev. Keith Falk, STS

deaconbob

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Re: ELCA Statistics Show Decline
« Reply #74 on: August 17, 2008, 09:00:01 PM »
You win Marshall !!!! Now how does this impact the thread? Each of us comes from and are shaped by our experiences. Some of mine are a bit hazy (70's), points of reference vary, yet are all legit and valuable and can be useful. In my area of the Kingdom, an opportunity may be offering itself in a joint ministry with the Episcopal Church which will be without a rector, Reformation Day. The Lutheran-Episcopalian population has diminished, but like the good Bishop said, "are the houses now empty or bought by Catholic's"? Yet the unchurched are visible, why do I know this,because the ball fields and walking paths are full during 'traditional" worship times. And yes the homes have been sold to Albanians, those in dress which would indicate Moslem, BUT the Gospel is still to be proclaimed. And as far as the Bishop'sobservation that lutheran's have moved to LI, that was 30 yrs ago....they've left here too, to NC,SC, Upstate NY, TN, AL and Georgia.
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