A denomination is dying near you

The Episcopal Cafe had this headline a couple of weeks back, but it referred to the Presbyterian Church of the USA, from an article that appeared in Christian Century.

One of the comments on the Episcopal Cafe’s post pointed out that there had been many articles about the “dying church” in recent months on the Cafe.

There’s another one today, written by George Clifford. Clifford gives all of the statistics: the high percentage of over-60s in our pews and on our membership lists; the number of churches in small towns or rural areas where population is declining; the overall decline in Average Sunday Attendance.

But he also has some hopeful things to say, including this:

Yet, we in TEC have some cause for hope. The Episcopal congregations most likely to have experienced numerical growth in the past decade are large and very liberal congregations, according to the 2010 Faith Communities Today Survey.

Clifford argues that perhaps the most important key to growth is creating a vision and agenda for change, something we don’t work on very much. Instead, our attention seems focused on organizational and structural issues.

I read his piece shortly after reading the weekly email from the Alban Institute, which has some very similar things to say in an essay entitled Determining Ideal Board Size. The author, Susan Beaumont, begins with the observation that:

Effective boards in every size congregation must tend to three types of work: fiduciary (tending to the stewardship of tangible assets), strategic (working to set the congregation’s priorities and seeing that resources are being deployed in accordance with those priorities) and generative (problem framing and sense making about the shifting environment of the congregation).

The important takeaway from both her article and Clifford’s is the need for strategic and visionary thinking. We, clergy and lay leadership, often get so bogged down in the day-to-day running of the church, that we have no time or energy to think creatively about the future and how we need to change to meet the needs of a changing world.