Author Topic: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures  (Read 743 times)

Mark Brown

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Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« on: May 05, 2021, 12:47:38 PM »
The LCMS Website has posted the latest membership totals for our Synod.


2020.........1,861,121 Baptized members

2010.........2,310,235 Baptized members

This is a net loss of 449,106 members which is about one half million members.
This  quick glance at the LCMS might help us understand the big picture that
faces our two seminaries.

So 2030.........1,300,0000 Baptized at the current rate.  Except the rate is going to accelerate as the result of even less baptisms and schools and even more deaths, so maybe 1.1 million. My aim is to be there to witness it at age 84.  Some of the statistical folks try to plug in a way that this all levels out.  That seems more like wishful thinking. 

Of course, you can check out those numbers through other denominations, and get the same sinking feeling.  We are not alone.

Seminary-wise, let's say the new goal is 100 per year from both seminaries in all programs, so 1000 per decade, and let's say by 2030 there are 5000 congregations left in various states of repair or disrepair.  Is that enough fresh energy?   Maybe it is.

Dave Benke

It is getting harder and harder to find information to do the math, but the above exchange from another thread brought up two question I'd like to pose.  But first some of that data and some assumptions.  It was not very long ago (2008) when we were baptizing around 30,000 per year.  The most recent Annual I have 2019, which is 2017 data, which says 21,087 baptisms. We confirmed 15,512 that year.  I believe I saw a reported number of something close to 20,000 baptism in the past year.  Let's make some heroic assumptions: 1. We stabilize at 20k/yr, 2. We confirm 85% of them for 17K/yr. 3. Adult entrants over a lifetime more or less equal those who walk away.   Yes, these assumptions are in line with the Harrison "have more babies" approach.  They also happen to be optimistic based on the recent past.  If you stabilize at 17k/year, and let's take 78 as the typical lifespan, that makes the Synod in steady state 1,326,000.  Again, given birth trends, steady state is optimistic, but let's lean into it.

How many congregations are needed to cover 1.3M?  Let's assume that the 1.3M are a little more serious about their faith and attend at a 60% rate.  Any given Sunday 780K are in church.  Which you will note we are already below that number as typical attendance I saw reported at ~680K.  Let's then stipulate that to survive financially as a congregation you need a minimal budget of $160K.  US median household income in $68K.  Now we know that churches are funded on 80/20 rules.  80% of the money comes from the 20% of the population the tithes.  But what it works out to on average is 2% of gross.  Since we are assuming these hardy folks are a little more serious, let's assume 3%.  Which would mean the "average" giving unit gives $2K/yr.  So, you need 80 giving units per congregation to support the budget.  Each giving unit is a family, and since we are leaning into steady state, let's assume that is 4 people.  So a congregation would need about 320 member to really be viable.  1,326,000 members divided by 320 per gives you 4,144 congregations.   Baring a large movement of the Holy Spirit, that is probably best number would could hope for.  The reality is the we are 2000 congregations over that.  The number of congregations that have a solid 320 members is much smaller.  So unless you develop a way to share people and money across congregations, you will be closing more than that. I'd guess that you end up around 3000 congregations.

But this gets to my deeper question.  What happens if 2600 of those 3000 congregations are all in the Midwest?  I serve in a place where there are 14 local congregations.  Of those 14, I'd only place good money on 3.5 of them limping through. What if the LCMS becomes, as a friend of mine on the west coast says, an midwest phenomenon with the coastal regions treated as foreign missions?   Added complication to this, what happens if 3 of those 3.5 congregations are basically American Evangelical Non-denoms?

Please, somebody, tell me where my heroic assumptions are clearly off?  (I will accept that the Spirit will move, but if you are asserting that, we just stop talking and wait for His movement.) Or, somebody please tell me how that configuration is institutionally stable?

My list:
- We move people back to tithing which makes congregations of 100 viable
- Evangelical Non-Denom does move into an acceptable "foreign missions" expression
- Average people in the US become even wealthier
- The movement of the Spirit moves many more people into the LCMS than who leave - "Come Home to Missouri"
- The people of the Synod start have much larger families
- We create a structure that overcomes congregationalism and is willing to support smaller parishes

Of all of those, what sounds like the most achievable?

Dave Likeness

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2021, 01:19:22 PM »
Your list includes #5,  LCMS  members start to have larger families

In the year 2020, America had the lowest birth rate since 1979.
There were 3,605,201 births marking a 4% decline from 2019.
2020 was the 6th straight year of decline in the birth rate in U.S.

I know it, you know it, and the American people know it, the LCMS
members are not going to reverse the birth rate trend in America.

Weedon

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2021, 01:29:42 PM »
Am not sure what #2 on your list means, Mark. Put it into English, por favor!

Pr. Likeness, our parish has become known as the ďTransitĒ church. Thatís because we have a number of families that have to drive those behemoths due to the number of children. Our pastorís family just welcomed child #5. We have families with six, seven, even eight children. Not much compared to years ago, I grant. But when it comes to little ones, weíve got them aplenty, thanks be to God! I think Iím seeing a generational change for some folks on this, including in my own family. They place a premium on the gift of children and give up many material advantages in order to welcome more. I canít believe weíre an isolated instance of this.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 01:37:04 PM by Weedon »

Jeremy Loesch

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2021, 01:36:31 PM »
#1- the one about tithing seems the most doable, for it strikes me as a matter of teaching and modeling. 

#6- about overcoming congregationalism and supporting smaller parishes is the one I'd like the most.  Having served in two smaller parishes and now being in that is still small but is over 100 in worship, I have a heart for the small, typical, average churches. 

Good list.  Thanks for drawing it up. 

Jeremy
A Lutheran pastor growing into all sorts of things.

Weedon

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2021, 01:37:33 PM »
Also #1 is already part of Von Schenkís Kingdom Plan.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2021, 01:47:26 PM »
Every year when we do the Table of Duties in class I ask the kids what they want to be when they grow, whether they want to get married, and if, at what age they would prefer it to happen, and how many kids they see themselves having. Some years it has been downright depressing. This year, though, out of 22 kids, all but one wanted to marry and all wanted children, and all but one wanted more than one child (the one who doesnít want to marry wants to adopt one child). The class has a high percentage of intact, churchgoing families compared to some previous classes, but I think there is some element of a trend at work of young kids starting to value family more. Hopefully.

Dave Likeness

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2021, 01:55:38 PM »
Pastor Weedon.......Congrats on the Pre-marital counseling at St. Paul Lutheran in Hamel, Illinois.
Just got an e-mail from the Village Clerk in Hamel, she said that the large number of infant Baptisms
at St. Paul, have put a tremendous strain on the Village Water Tower.

Charles Austin

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2021, 02:34:47 PM »
....the large number of infant Baptisms at St. Paul, have put a tremendous strain on the Village Water Tower.
I muse:
What? Are they baptized by immersion down there? Or is it a very small water tower?
Retired ELCA Pastor: We are not a very inter-Lutheran forum. Posters with more than 1,500 posts: ELCA-6, with 3 of those inactive/rare and 1 moderator; LCMS-25, with 4 inactive/rare and 1 moderator. Non-Lutherans, 3; maybe 4 from other Lutheran bodies. 3 formerly frequent posters have gone quiet.

Mark Brown

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2021, 02:35:04 PM »
Am not sure what #2 on your list means, Mark. Put it into English, por favor!

Pr. Likeness, our parish has become known as the ďTransitĒ church. Thatís because we have a number of families that have to drive those behemoths due to the number of children. Our pastorís family just welcomed child #5. We have families with six, seven, even eight children. Not much compared to years ago, I grant. But when it comes to little ones, weíve got them aplenty, thanks be to God! I think Iím seeing a generational change for some folks on this, including in my own family. They place a premium on the gift of children and give up many material advantages in order to welcome more. I canít believe weíre an isolated instance of this.

My second possibility ("Evangelical Non-Denom does move into an acceptable "foreign missions" expression") is slightly tongue in cheek along with my west-coast buddy's snark that "the Synod needs to treat the coastal districts like foreign mission territories".  We all know that foreign missions are both loved and given broad leeway as far as worship expressions.  I don't see a liturgically renewed midwestern LCMS being institutionally stable with a rump of coastal Evangelical Non-Denoms which right now would be 3 of the 3.5 survivors of my local 14.  The only way it would be stable would be if the core midwestern group saw and treated that coastal group as "foreign missions".  They were loved and the AC24 type complaints against them today were dropped because they were treated as a different cultural group.  You could even establish a Coastal Studies Institute to train pastors for this strange territory.

Dave Benke

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2021, 05:11:04 PM »
Am not sure what #2 on your list means, Mark. Put it into English, por favor!

Pr. Likeness, our parish has become known as the ďTransitĒ church. Thatís because we have a number of families that have to drive those behemoths due to the number of children. Our pastorís family just welcomed child #5. We have families with six, seven, even eight children. Not much compared to years ago, I grant. But when it comes to little ones, weíve got them aplenty, thanks be to God! I think Iím seeing a generational change for some folks on this, including in my own family. They place a premium on the gift of children and give up many material advantages in order to welcome more. I canít believe weíre an isolated instance of this.

My second possibility ("Evangelical Non-Denom does move into an acceptable "foreign missions" expression") is slightly tongue in cheek along with my west-coast buddy's snark that "the Synod needs to treat the coastal districts like foreign mission territories".  We all know that foreign missions are both loved and given broad leeway as far as worship expressions.  I don't see a liturgically renewed midwestern LCMS being institutionally stable with a rump of coastal Evangelical Non-Denoms which right now would be 3 of the 3.5 survivors of my local 14.  The only way it would be stable would be if the core midwestern group saw and treated that coastal group as "foreign missions".  They were loved and the AC24 type complaints against them today were dropped because they were treated as a different cultural group.  You could even establish a Coastal Studies Institute to train pastors for this strange territory.

a) I think you're too optimistic at 1.326 million.  I believe my 1.1 is more the real number.  But what the heck, give or take a couple hundred thousand people, why argue?  When in doubt, blame COVID and the progressive regression/repression machine.
b) Which is why your point about a "foreign mission expression" makes sense.  As we/you/whoever's left huddles for warmth in the Midwest, the outlier ENDers(evangelical non-denom adherents) wherever they're located (which by the way is not so much in the Northeast) and the outlier geographical zones can and probably should be given room to exist, and the way to do that is to grant "mission status".  Why not?  They have basically zero influence in the denomination at the national level, hold down zero seats of importance nationally, and having been excessed are just doing their own thing at the district/regional level anyway, which you may agree or disagree with at the local level, but does keep them in place.  Plus (and this we need to do in a whisper, not a shout) they tend to have most of the numerical growth numbers in terms of both accessions and child baptisms.   If they all boogied, there would be a major statistical oops moment.
c) In this part of the world, we actually have a weird but true thing - pent-up demand for baptisms.  COVID, man.  You just have to scratch your head and order more baptismal candles.

Dave Benke

Robert Johnson

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2021, 07:23:27 PM »
They place a premium on the gift of children and give up many material advantages in order to welcome more. I canít believe weíre an isolated instance of this.

The overall statistics suggest that you are indeed an outlier.

Weedon

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Re: Crystal Ball Gazing - LCMS futures
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2021, 07:32:37 PM »
They place a premium on the gift of children and give up many material advantages in order to welcome more. I canít believe weíre an isolated instance of this.

The overall statistics suggest that you are indeed an outlier.

An outlier, perhaps, but Iíd wager there are MORE of these families today than in the past in our Synod, since maybe the 1940ís. I means, maybe Rolf Preus can tell us how many grandchildren heís up to at the moment. Iím a pure novice; Iíve only got 10 (and yes, theyíre all Lutherans).