Author Topic: ELCA Membership Numbers  (Read 35944 times)

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 45544
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #180 on: September 01, 2006, 05:14:05 PM »
Safe to say though, that "slavery" per se, during Bible times, was not necessarily a bad thing, unlike our understanding of the word today, which is indeed necessarily bad (short of stretching it...).
The "not a bad thing" is also true in our understanding -- to a point. We talk about being slaves/servants of God. We talk about our worship being "a service". We often end the liturgy with, "Go in peace. Serve the Lord." In the Greek, doulos, and related words did not distinguish between a "slave" and a "servant," between "being in slavery" and "serving". The opposite of doulos was a person who was free. Even people who are paid for their work can feel like they are slaves to their employers -- just ask the many people who have to work over this holiday weekend.
"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]

hansen

  • Guest
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #181 on: September 01, 2006, 05:25:33 PM »
The "not a bad thing" is also true in our understanding -- to a point. We talk about being slaves/servants of God. We talk about our worship being "a service". We often end the liturgy with, "Go in peace. Serve the Lord." In the Greek, doulos, and related words did not distinguish between a "slave" and a "servant," between "being in slavery" and "serving". The opposite of doulos was a person who was free. Even people who are paid for their work can feel like they are slaves to their employers -- just ask the many people who have to work over this holiday weekend.
I tried to circumvent "going there" by saying "unless you stretch it...". 

Short of further explanation, the word "slave" is negative, and evokes images of black slaves in early Amerca:  people who are captured, "owned" by someone, and forced to work for them.   I.e., not much different than how farm animals are treated (albeit, even then, some slaves were treated very well by their 'owners', George Washington being one of them).
« Last Edit: September 01, 2006, 05:43:24 PM by Don Hansen »

Steven Tibbetts

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 10213
  • Big tents are for circuses.
    • View Profile
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #182 on: September 01, 2006, 10:11:13 PM »
This comment posted in two forums here:

I appear to be the only one in this "discussion" operating from certain assumtions, namely;

Well, Charles, it rather hard to respond to this well when you post this comment on 2 completely different threads.  But it seems more appropriate to do so here than in the thread on the Archbishop of Canterbury.  So,

Quote
1. That the ELCA is not rushing headlong towards heterodoxy or heresy.

I don't know about the ELCA.  But I listen to and read what the Presiding Bishop and other leaders of the ELCA say about where they intend to lead the ELCA.  I am glad that, despite the PB's frenetic energy level, the ELCA is unable to "rush headlong" into anything.  That said, judging by the press releases, program initatives, and what comes out of our publishing house, the ELCA certainly has little interest in offering a distictly Lutheran voice.

Quote
2. That we do not have the final word from Scripture or from God yet on all matters of sexuality.
3. That disagreements on matters of sexuality are not necessarily divisive of fellowship.

Those statements are both stated vaguely and broadly enough that just about anyone could agree with them.  However, on matters of sexual immorality a New Testament precedent established by St. Paul himself (1 Cor. 5) is to break fellowship until the parties can be reconciled.   

Quote
4. That our ecumenical agreements were properly reached and are blessings to our fellowship with members of the Anglican, Reformed and Moravian communities.

I disagree.  This is in the case of both the agreements I find satisfactory and the ones I find unsatisfactory.

Quote
5. That we should honor our commitment as members of the ELCA to support the programs of our church.

Agreed.  Of course, I realize you do not mean to lockstep follow all of them, but that healthy critique can benefit and strengthen the ELCA.  If I thought this commitment wasn't an important one, I wouldn't be so concerned about what our church's programs said and did.

Quote
6. That our leaders take their calls seriously and we should respect them as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

And in agreeing with you, that is also a two-way street: brothers and sisters in Christ are going to disagree, sometimes strongly, on certain matters.   

Quote
7. That the purpose of discussion and dialogue is to find the common ground of the Gospel, not require uniformity in all matters of ethics, customs or church order.

I think you've set up a false dichotomy here.  I don't see anyone seeking to "require uniformity in all matter of ethics, customs or church order," though it is a nice way to dismiss those who disagree with you on particular matters.  On some matters, we in the ELCA no longer have common ground, in Christ or in anyone else.

Quote
I think I'll turn to other things.

You've been writing that on ALPB Forum Online for months.  I'll believe it when I see it.

Fraternally, Steven+
The Rev. Steven Paul Tibbetts, STS
Pastor Zip's Blog

Dave_Poedel

  • Guest
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #183 on: September 04, 2006, 12:01:09 AM »
To keep things "fair and balanced" (can you tell I am a Fox News type?), here is an email i received recently:


Latest statistics show drop in LCMS membership
 
If there's a bright spot in the Synod's statistical report for 2005, it's that "back-door" losses -- the number of adults removed from congregational rosters (not counting deaths and transfers) -- have declined by 2,453 members.  That figure dropped from 44,219 in 2004 to 41,766 in 2005.

But LCMS membership and contributions from members to congregations also declined, as did the number of baptisms, confirmations, and Christian education programs/students, according to 2005 congregational statistics reports.

Baptized membership fell from 2,463,747 in 2004 to 2,440,864 in 2005, a drop of nearly 23,000 members.  And confirmed membership in 2005 was 1,870,659, a decrease of 9,554.

LCMS Senior Research Analyst Dr. John O'Hara attributes the loss of members to a "continuing trend" that is affecting most mainline Christian denominations.

In the 1950s and '60s, churches saw a "natural increase" because families were larger, O'Hara noted.  Today's families are much smaller, and societal norms regarding religious participation have changed, he said.

"The expectation that you went to church [every Sunday] isn't as prevalent as in the '50s," said O'Hara.  "You have to work harder to get the people in the front door."

The downward trend in membership and Sunday-school students -- in spite of a rising U.S. population -- also is a sign that "we're not reaching as many people as we could reach," he said.

Membership figures for 2005 were based on reports from 81 percent of the Synod's 6,144 congregations.  Nineteen percent did not provide information on membership, so figures from their previous reports were used to compile the data for 2005.

Also down are contributions from members to congregations, which fell $10,945,272 -- from $1,307,764,010 in 2004 to $1,296,818,738.  Those figures do not include contributions members give directly to LCMS entities.

The shortfall of nearly $11 million in 2005 is due primarily to the "under-reporting of contributions," says O'Hara, who estimates that some 29 percent of congregations did not provide that information.

LCMS Secretary Dr. Raymond Hartwig, who supervises the Synod's Office of Rosters and Statistics, which compiles the information, says it's "less than helpful" when congregations choose not to report -- a phenomenon that occurs every year.  And, he says, "it's a little puzzling, since we've simplified the forms to the extent that it would only take a few minutes to complete them and return them."

Every three years, the Synod's national office asks district staffs and circuit counselors to contact their own congregations in an effort to get the forms returned because "delegate representation at the coming convention depends on the statistics we receive," Hartwig said.  "Our [return] goal is 100 percent, and one of these years we're going to get there."

According to the 2005 report, of the nearly $1.3 billion congregations received in contributions, they gave $120.2 million for work beyond their own ministries.  This "work at large" total includes money forwarded to the 35 LCMS districts, which then send a portion to the national and international work of the Synod.  Congregations sent $3.2 million less for "work at large" than in 2004.

In 2005, the Synod had 6,144 congregations served by 5,343 pastors.  The number of congregations declined by seven, while the number of active pastors increased by 20.  Average attendance at weekly worship services was 164.2 in 2005, compared with 173.6 the previous year.

The number of baptisms, confirmations, and Christian education programs/students all fell between 2004 and 2005, according to congregations.  But the number of adults gained by "profession of faith" grew -- from 12,878 to 13,114, an increase of 236.

Among the official acts reported:


31,701 children were baptized (down 1,150).

24,572 teenagers were confirmed (down 753).

18,684 adults were confirmed (down 469).
In the Christian education category:


3,922 weekday religion classes (down 230).

184,934 students in weekday religion classes (down 13,120).

24,078 non-members in weekday classes (down 2,582).

3,804 vacation Bible schools (down 181).

5,106 Sunday schools (down 224).

423,958 enrolled in Sunday school (down 27,456).
Membership and attendance statistics for 2005 will be included in The Lutheran Annual for 2007, available from Concordia Publishing House by year's end.


Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 45544
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #184 on: September 04, 2006, 02:11:37 AM »
LCMS Senior Research Analyst Dr. John O'Hara attributes the loss of members to a "continuing trend" that is affecting most mainline Christian denominations.

In the 1950s and '60s, churches saw a "natural increase" because families were larger, O'Hara noted.  Today's families are much smaller, and societal norms regarding religious participation have changed, he said.

Somewhere I remember reading that the Church practices in the 50s & 60s were an anomaly in American Church history. The percentage of the population attending church went up dramatically during and after WWII and continued through the Korean conflict. As I recall from the essay, the percentage of Americans attending church in the 90's is closer to what it was prior to WWII -- and, I believe, families were even larger back then.

Someone with greater historical resources than I may be able to confirm or deny my recollection of some article.
"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]

J. Thomas Shelley

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 4420
    • View Profile
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #185 on: September 04, 2006, 09:59:36 AM »


Somewhere I remember reading that the Church practices in the 50s & 60s were an anomaly in American Church history. The percentage of the population attending church went up dramatically during and after WWII and continued through the Korean conflict.

There may be some truth to that; many congregations embarked on large buidling/renovation projects during that time only to find the new space greatly underused.

Throughout my ministry I have found the greatest frustration, if not occasional outright antagonism coming from those who came of age during those "glory years" and who forever lament the days when Sunday School was full, etc.   Often blame would be placed on one merger or another, or one new hymnal or another.  And I sure that will continue.
Greek Orthodox Deacon -Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

ROB_MOSKOWITZ

  • Guest
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #186 on: September 04, 2006, 12:55:51 PM »
To keep things "fair and balanced" (can you tell I am a Fox News type?), here is an email i received recently:


Latest statistics show drop in LCMS membership
 

Membership figures for 2005 were based on reports from 81 percent of the Synod's 6,144 congregations.  Nineteen percent did not provide information on membership, so figures from their previous reports were used to compile the data for 2005.

The shortfall of nearly $11 million in 2005 is due primarily to the "under-reporting of contributions," says O'Hara, who estimates that some 29 percent of congregations did not provide that information.


Im not sure what kind of facts could be taken from this report based on these qualifications.

Rob Moskowitz

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 45544
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #187 on: September 04, 2006, 01:11:45 PM »
Throughout my ministry I have found the greatest frustration, if not occasional outright antagonism coming from those who came of age during those "glory years" and who forever lament the days when Sunday School was full, etc.   Often blame would be placed on one merger or another, or one new hymnal or another.  And I sure that will continue.

Sometimes they can be quieted when asked, "Where are your children and grandchildren attending church?" Or "How active are your children and grandchildren in a congregation?" However, they are still likely to blame the church for their grandchildren's inactivity -- rather than the grandchildren.

Or, less confrontational, especially if you know that their offspring are not active in any church, "What might we do to get your grandchildren involved in church?"

Another frustration related to this is when they believe that doing things exactly the same way as they did in the "glory years" will bring back those glory days. In some cases, the demise of congregations happened because they held on to those old ways of doing things too long after their effectiveness in bringing in and holding onto new people waned. "Wrecked by success" is a motto in the business world (from a systems perspective. Holding on to whatever brought about success in the past, when it is no longer effective, is what can kill a company. Things that were not successful are quickly dropped.

Related to this, many in the church (and some in businesses) live by the motto, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." However, another motto for progressive companies I read some years ago is, "It doesn't have to be broke to get better." (Or, similarly, I don't have to be sick to get healthier.) In more recent years, there is a business book with the title, "If it ain't broke, break it," (Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler).

In skimming through that book again, there is a chapter that stresses playing to win rather than playing not to lose. He relates, and I've seen it, how individuals or teams when they start playing "not to lose," are more likely to lose. A slogan given in the book for unconventional wisdom is: "If you are worried about losing, you most likely will." I wonder how often that affects congregations and pastors. We become worried about losing key members, so we don't "play to win". We don't really dream about numerical growth and set goals and plans to make it happen. Rather, we worry about what "they" might say or do if we try this new program or style of worship that we believe will attract new people. It seems that in every story I've read about really large congregations, there was a group of people who left.  That was true with Robert Schullar when he decided to proceed with his indoor/outdoor style worship. (This was before the Crystal Cathedral.) It was true of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa when they started reaching the beach people and their ministry grew into, among other things, Maranatha music.

Dan Southerland in Transitioning: Leading Your Church Through Change writes:

"When I share about our trasitions at Flamingo Road, I am invariably asked, 'did you lose any peple as you made your transitions?' What do you think? Yes! As far as we can tell, we have lost about 300 people over the last nine years who could not handle our changes. About half of the original 300 people who were here when we began our transitions have left us over the years; others that came on board as we were changing later left when we continued to transition. We have lost 300 people -- and gained 2,000. We have lost three hundred that were already committed to Christ -- and gained two thousand, most of whom were unchurched , lost, and going to hell. Do you ever want to lose epople whom you love? No. But wold we take this swap again today if it were offered tous? In a skinny minute." (pp. 127-128)

My addition: according to what he writes elsewhere in the book, when he started the transition, there were about 300 attending worship (which has grown to over 2000). Related to what I quoted above, it would seem that about half of those original 300 worshipers left over the nine years of transitioning. How many of us would be willing to risk half our worshipers with changes designed to reach the unchurched and increase our membership?
"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]

peter_speckhard

  • ALPB Administrator
  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 20228
    • View Profile
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #188 on: September 04, 2006, 01:35:27 PM »
The problem with these business models is that they assume the call is to the institution of the congregation. In other words, a pastor using these models will do what he can to make St. So-and-so's into a larger and more financially far-flung operation. But is that his call? If chucking 300 people overboard allows him to take in 600 more, what about the 300? Why not start a totally new mission to the 600 and let the 300 attend the church they grew up in and supported. Sometimes I think the problem is one of polity-- a pastor has to have a congregation in order to be a pastor, so he takes whatever congregation he has and tries to turn it into the kind of congregation he wants. A lot of the big "success stories" involve church bodies that are really more like parachurch bodies, wherein the sem grads go out and make something happen as basically free agents, accountable to nobody, guaranteed financial support from nobody, and so they approach their ministry like entrepenuers. Some are successful, many are not. But Lutheran (and I would say Biblical) polity doesn't lend itself to this sort of free agent entrepenuerism, whether it works or not. 

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 45544
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #189 on: September 04, 2006, 07:16:23 PM »
The problem with these business models is that they assume the call is to the institution of the congregation. In other words, a pastor using these models will do what he can to make St. So-and-so's into a larger and more financially far-flung operation. But is that his call?

It is certainly the call of all believers to go and make disciples of all nations. And Jesus says that we do that by baptizing and teaching -- the word and sacramental ministry to which pastors have been called. When membership figures of the two largest Lutheran bodies in the U.S. are going downward, shouldn't we consider the possibility that we aren't doing something right (or rite)?

I agree with you that pastors are not to be lone ranger, entrepenuers. At the same time, I've seen Lutheran clergy called to congregations who have said that they want reach out to people and grow, but then the congregations block nearly every attempt the pastor makes to try and change the church "club" to an outreach mentality and actions and programs. One congregation I served was very clear, because I asked the council, that they existed to take care of their members. 

Quote
If chucking 300 people overboard allows him to take in 600 more, what about the 300? Why not start a totally new mission to the 600 and let the 300 attend the church they grew up in and supported.


If those 300 are attending a church and not reaching out to others with the gospel, is it really a Christian church? Some have been arguing that evangelism is not a program of a congregation, it is the reason why congregations exist -- to spread the gospel. (I would say the same thing about Worship -- it's not a program of the church, Word and Sacrament are the core reason why the church exists.)

Also, Dan Southerland's Flamingo Road's Transition not only was growing a church from 300 to over 2100, but during that time they also started sixteen missions that average another 3000 in worship. He recognized that new congregations had to be started to reach new groups of people, e.g., a Spanish speaking ministry. He also reports that 60% of those joining the congregations were unchurched before coming.

Quote
Sometimes I think the problem is one of polity-- a pastor has to have a congregation in order to be a pastor, so he takes whatever congregation he has and tries to turn it into the kind of congregation he wants.


Is it wrong for a pastor to have a vision of what a congregation should be and then work towards that vision?

Dan Southerland begins his introduction to the book Transitioning: Leading Your Church Through Change with this illustration.

Travis and Garrett are each given a bock of wood and a knife. Both boys immediately begin whittling. Both are working hard. Both are serious about their work. Both are enjoying the task.

When they are finished, the two boys have quite different results. Travis has carved a boat. Garrett has whittled his wood away into a pile of shavings.

What was different about the two boys? Travis had a vision -- which meant he could see the end result. He also understood transition -- how to get from where he was to where he wanted to go. He had a purpose, a target, and a strategy. Garrett -- while working equally hard -- was just whittling. [p. 13]


Your mission (and mine, too,) is often to go to stagnant and declining congregations and somehow help them see the vision God has for them of reaching the world with the gospel. Sometimes it seems like an impossible mission.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2006, 07:19:19 PM 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]

Iowegian

  • Guest
Re: ELCA Membership Numbers
« Reply #190 on: October 30, 2006, 12:44:59 PM »
Throughout my ministry I have found the greatest frustration, if not occasional outright antagonism coming from those who came of age during those "glory years" and who forever lament the days when Sunday School was full, etc.   Often blame would be placed on one merger or another, or one new hymnal or another.  And I sure that will continue.

I'll jump in and resurrect a thread - interesting reading!

There is one thing that I've noticed in my journey that has gone unspoken here:  the migration of the general population from being rural to urban.

My hometown church is one that did a roll cleaning in the past few years, because it was in a rural community in Iowa that still listed a membership of 600.  After the roll cleaning, the membership of the church was a more accurate 300, because former members had either moved and never told the church, died without informing the church (often in long-term care closer to children that had moved - one example showed that the oldest 'member' would have been 115!), or were children confirmed in the church that moved to larger urban communities.

On my few visits to my hometown church, most of the Sunday morning conversations are about children and grandchildren that have moved elsewhere.  (Myself included.)  I can name approximately five churches that will likely be removed from the rolls in the next 15 years or so, because the membership will simply cease to exist.  (The Norwegians in the area liked the model of 'building many small churches in the countryside' that are slowly vanishing.)