There are trends that support his thesis. Gallup polls reveal that 78% of Americans say that religion is fairly or very important to them. And 75% say that if Americans were more religious, it would be positive for American society. While there remains robust support for religion, apparently the church’s role in this is becoming less important. Church attendance has continued to decline with fewer than 20% attending church on Sundays.
As congregations seek to stem the tide of membership loss, some things have been learned along the way.
People will never be shamed into the pews. They seek the space to explore faith.
Worship service makeovers (bring in the band!) aren’t enough. As Rachel Held Evans wrote, “What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.”
People aren’t looking for churches that are relevant—though intentional irrelevance isn’t helpful! People want to belong to a community that is real—a place where you’re accepted for who you are and where you are in life.
Perhaps the waning interest in congregational life isn’t because of a growing skepticism about faith itself. Maybe it’s because of the character of the communities that have formed around faith. If so, the challenge before is not rethinking the faith. It is the call to reshape our communities so that they better embody the way of Jesus.