As Grace Church looks to the future, let’s take a look to the past to refresh memories on some insights to consider.
We’ve been down this road for a while now. It’s been a long road. What’s changed? And what has remained the same?
Our friend George Churchgoer covered this topic four years ago – so how do these thoughts below still matter? Or maybe they matter now more than ever…
It’s an interesting question – why do you come to church?
Ask 10 people that question and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. No two people are quite alike.
But then let’s re-phrase the question – what makes you come to church?
For those of us at a slightly more advanced age, the answer was once that “my parents brought me.” There was no question that the family all came to church together. Mom and Dad demanded it.
Sadly it isn’t that way anymore for many families. The commitment just isn’t there like the old days.
And the numbers in recent times show this lack of commitment.
A story in 2018 from the Church Leaders website stated that only around 18 percent of Americans now attend worship at a Catholic, mainline or evangelical Christian church on any given weekend.
And that was using statistics from 2004 – the percentage has probably slid even more in the years since.
Now to be fair, there is research all over the place on this issue.
Another study claimed that church attendance actually climbed from 1996 to 2006. Bible reading increased from 2000 to 2006, they say.
And one interesting report says that nearly one quarter of Americans get their “spiritual nourishment” from meeting with a group of 20 or less people each week. Interesting that only 20 people attended church at Grace on Sunday.
Clearly the Christian church environment in America has changed greatly in the last 20 years.
Reasons? We could probably list a page or two of items. Here’s one - what about the rise of social media in the last 15 years? Has social media led to a more disconnected society interested instead in tapping away at their mobile device morning, noon and night?
After all, why go to church? Why can’t Jesus come to me via my smartphone or tablet? There must be an app for that.
And if there isn’t such an app, give it time – there will be. Probably dozens of them.
And while people have their noses stuck in their mobile device they sure do enjoy their entertainment. Online videos of cute kitties or outrageous gaffes or this week’s hottest celebrity or sports highlights are now at everyone’s fingertips.
So why shouldn’t church be a lot more “entertaining” like a Broadway show or a rock concert?
One company catering to churches is marketing a “motion background starter kit.” Screens around the sanctuary are set up to display all kinds of colors and movement. “Make your worship services look great,” the sales pitch says.
Is this what it takes to worship in the 21st century?
It’s hard to argue. Some successful and expanding churches out there now have their own house bands, videos as part of the service, plenty of volume and doses of excitement.
And who doesn’t want star power? Megachurches like those of celebrity minister Joel Osteen are thriving. He even has his own satellite radio channel – tune in anytime you like.
Now let’s zoom all the way back to little Spring Mills, PA. Small town America, small population, quiet with no glitz.
What is the hope for little Grace UCC to not only survive but thrive this year and into the future?
No big budget. No house band. No cameras and projectors. No celebrities. And now a retiring minister.
What does it take to worship in the 21st century?
It’s an interesting question as we plan for the future. Should we change greatly or stay the course?
But back to the initial question – why do you come to church? What makes worship meaningful for you?
Or why to a certain church? Think about that for a moment.
Do you just come to church on automatic pilot? The doors open and you’re there. You’ve always come to church from childhood to now and you always will.
Do you come because you like the minister? You get some meaning from the Sunday morning sermons and you just like them.
Do you come because it’s the church down the street? Easy to get to, you can walk there.
Do you come because it’s just comfortable there? Friends are there, you don’t feel like an outsider.
Or is it something else? It’s something to think about as we plan our future.
We all want a church that is active, meaningful, full of life and serving a purpose.
As we proceed into 2022 – don’t be afraid to share your thoughts with the Grace UCC family.
Let’s make meaning and vitality and growth part of our goals for Grace Church’s future.
From George Churchgoer
And for an interesting read, click below to check out the article from the Church Leaders website which was referred to above...