Saturday, August 31, 2013

Membership Decline in the ELCA

Yes, numbers don't tell the whole story.  Yes, "membership" is not the best or only indicator of congregational vitality, much less faithfulness.  Yes, for some people this is old, old news.  Yet I continue to find people are generally unaware of the decline we are experiencing in my tribe, and those that have a sense of it don't readily have a sense of scale to go with it.  So, let me provide the visual that has haunted and energized me since I first began to attend to it about 10 years ago.

Primary data from Loren Mead, Transforming Congregations for the Future,
with more recent statistics added.
As a percentage of the US population (which has continued to grow year after year) this shows a trend of decline, unbroken for half a century.

However people may parse the causes and debate the responses, it's been clear to me since the get-go that a response is needed.  And given the "inertia" stored in a system with such a long-term shape to it's life (spanning at least two generations) I've always expected that the response will need to be very, very significant if it is to "turn things around" in any meaningful sense.

My own response has been to explore the possibilities for Christian missional community outside the core conventions of congregational life: pastors, property, programs and presentational (large group) worship.  This led me initially to folks in the house church movement, and more recently to those who are focusing on making disciples per se.  

They have a nifty saying: if you plant a church, you may or may not get disciples.  But if you make disciples, the Church will arise.

So, I am now moving my top ministry priority into directly discipling and equipping leaders.  Not just "church leaders" in the typical sense.  Leaders who will directly disciple and train others.  I am learning how to do this from the folks at 3dm, as I have found their material and approach to be excellent, and their theology to be wonderfully lean and hugely resonant with Lutheranism.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!!

Well, today I am 54 years old and thinking, if I play my cards right, I just might hit my stride in the next year or two.  ;)

I am totally jazzed to share a birthday with my friend Caroline Ticarro-Parker, who is the founder and leader of the Catalyst Foundation.  Catalyst works to build communities in Vietnam to fight human trafficking.  So in addition to sharing a birthday, we share a passion for the people and especially the children of Vietnam - in part because we have both adopted children from there!

Now, someone else who knows and loves Caroline and her work has put up a $10,000 matching grant for a water project in honor of her birthday!  So if you want to help me celebrate, you can invite a thirsty person in Vietnam to join you in a toast by making a contribution to Catalyst.

The matching grant is for today only, so if you're inspired, now is the time to act! Follow this link to the water project on the Catalyst website.
Thanks for your interest in my blog and my journey!  Let's share the joy together!