Author Topic: Why are the Mainline Churches Declining and What is Their Future?  (Read 1246 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Why are the Mainline Churches Declining and What is Their Future?
« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2019, 04:01:24 PM »
A number of years ago now, when we still lived in the Twin Cities, we attended Christmas day services at an LCMS congregation near us where the Pastor was the son of the Lutheran Hour speaker.  The speaker, whose name I can't remember now was good friends with my inlaws, and was in town as well.  This congregation had some of the best follow up I have ever experienced.  They were welcoming while we were there, and followed up a week later with a gift basket of cookies and information about the congregation, as well as several phone calls; all very friendly.  Were we not ELCA pastors and beginning to transition into our current calls, we would have definitely considered joining based on the follow through.  We don't do anything that formal in my current congregations but individual members have picked this up on their own.


That sounds like a congregation where the members are committed to welcoming and growing members. Too often I've found members who talked about wanting to grow, but also feared the changes that would happen with growth, so they actually worked against inviting and welcoming. For example, talking to other members about the visitors, "Who are they?" with suspicious looks, rather than going and talking to the visitors.
"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]

Dave Benke

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Re: Why are the Mainline Churches Declining and What is Their Future?
« Reply #16 on: December 13, 2019, 09:02:02 AM »
Dr. Benke,

And what kind of results are you seeing from this evangelism approach?  How does it compare with what you have done in the past?

"Past" for a pastor who's been in the same parish for over forty years is a load of memory-unwrapping.  There was a year in the 80s when St. Peter's was in the top 3 congregations in the denomination in new adult member accessions - large immigrant families from the Caribbean.  57 adults plus all the kiddies.  That was nice, and my way of stating it then was that we were operating on all 8 cylinders.  The bad guys were leading the charge in the crack cocaine drug wars, and we promised that if they were at it 24/7, we would be out with the Good News 24/7.  We added staff, transportation options,etc. and the results were a doubling of the worship body and a tripling of the "prospective" list.  Overall we were looking at a dozen new families a year as a mission goal.

In retrospect from my own perspective
a) I was all in all the time
b) I was right there - we lived a block and a half away
c) all of us were highly energized with deep spiritual convictions - a very strong prayer ministry and walking the neighborhood kind of visitation modality

So the change is that for me the spirit is willing but the flesh is 30 years older, and I live a dozen miles away from the nerve center, the church facility.

Plus - the original immigrant groups - 3 or 4 specific Latino/African-based patterns - have changed.  The original migrants moved again for the most part, making their way to Queens or Long Island.  And the incoming newcomers have been predominantly Muslim from Bangladesh (10-15000 near us) - which is in some ways a harder reach than Hindu from our experience over the decades - although we do have Bengali worship once a month; and gentrifying young adults not accompanied by large families, so tougher in both regards.

We're doing OK and have a half dozen or more adults in process of coming in plus their kids.  And I believe we're a welcoming presence as a Body, which is a substantial positive - we'll take 20-25 folks to Kennedy Airport's International Air Terminal (#4)  to sing carols at the arrivals level tomorrow, meaning we're still interested and motivated.  But overall, it's tougher.  On Advent III, however, all we do is rejoice with expectation and hope!

Dave Benke