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Fri Jul 27, 2012, 01:11 PM

The end of the world as we know it

Has anybody out there noticed that church attendance has been lower lately? The church budget is stretched thin because fewer people are giving? You can’t get a commitment out of people who are so busy they are already making summer plans -- for next summer? Welcome to the reality of church decline.

There has been quite a bit in the media lately about the trending decline of the institutional church and ongoing conversation about what strategy might ensure its sustainability. Countless observers of American religious life have noted that the church, all versions, is struggling. What they mean by decline is that fewer people are attending church, churches and denominational entities are getting organizationally smaller and there’s less money to go around.

This decline is not a suggestion or a guess but a fact. Even with the occasional mega church on the corner or some communities where these symptoms of decline don’t seem to be readily evident, they are there, just beneath the surface, or they are coming soon.

As a result, some church professionals are feeling a growing panic. What do we do with a church that looks different than it did, say, 50 years ago? It looks smaller and less popular. It has less influence on society as a whole. It seems to have lost its place at the center of most peoples’ lives. And we don’t know what to do.

http://www.abpnews.com/opinion/item/7648-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it#.UBLLMchWlAo

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Response to SecularMotion (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 01:15 PM

1. Maybe this is signaling a shift in religious conciousness.

Perhaps religious beliefs are becoming more "personal" and people feel no need for the institutional dogma found at church, as it simply does not match up with reality.

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Response to SecularMotion (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 01:16 PM

2. I appreciate the author's optimistic conclusion here:

"I think it’s an exciting time for the church. Society has handed us a reality we’d hoped we’d misread, but instead of lamenting our plight or struggling to get things back to the way they used to be, think of all the possibilities that await us."

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Response to SecularMotion (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 01:20 PM

3. I stopped going to services this past year

because I felt that nobody in the congregation cared about my struggle with being unemployed for the past 3 1/2 years. We're in the Type A, busy, busy, busy DC metro area. I guess the thought of unemployment was too difficult for these folks, many of them with secure federal jobs, to contemplate. All I wanted was for people to ask how I was doing, call once in a while, etc.

I wouldn't be surprised if this is why people have left other churches around the country -- because of a lack of empathy for those who have lost their jobs. Some congregations do help out members in this situation, and that is wonderful.

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Response to LiberalEsto (Reply #3)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 01:25 PM

4. I think you may be right.

Even those still with jobs are often feeling the financial stress of this crisis.

I hope you find a more empathic congregation....

and a job real soon.

So, how are you doing?

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Response to cbayer (Reply #4)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 02:32 PM

8. Much better, thanks for asking

Still not employed, but hoping that a Democratic takeover of Congress in November, and an Obama victory, leads to reasonable job-creation bills.

The more people working, the more likely I can find freelance writing assignments.

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Response to LiberalEsto (Reply #8)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 02:42 PM

10. Ah, freelance writer. So is one of my kids.

Really struggling, but keeps working at it. She just got out of grad school and is kind of carving a niche in environmental/medical issues.

But it is really tough.

I wish you the best of luck, LiberalEsto. I also hope that the election will lead to brighter skies for many.

You can come around here for an arm around the shoulder anytime.

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Response to SecularMotion (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 01:29 PM

5. I think it is the political nature of worshiping that is causing people to turn away....

Look, I am a liberal and the only place I feel at home is either the UCC or the UU.

I feel uncomfortable at the UCC because I don't believe in a god who keeps score and who "threatens" punishment if I am deemed immoral by the person occupying the pulpit.

I left the UU because a church that professes to believe in basically everything really believes in nothing.

An example, I was on the board at the UU church and since I am an accountant, I was assigned to the finance committee. One of the first things I noticed was the church portfolio was heavily invested in GE. I brought up the little fact that GE is one of the largest weapons manufacturers in the world and that we shouldn't be invested in that company because of it's tie to war.

I was shot down almost like that...

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Response to WCGreen (Reply #5)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 01:45 PM

6. I wonder whether your experience is atypical (the GE investment by your UU church).

I'm pretty sure that would not be the response at the UU congregation that Ms. eomer and I are members of. Having spent a lot of time with our current President and other congregational leaders, I'm pretty sure our church would have agreed with you and would not be invested in GE. But you raise an interesting question and I'll ask about our investment policy next time I have a chance.

On the larger issue, maybe we're just contrary. We joined at our UU about a year ago after being away from church for some years. I wouldn't say the UU believes in nothing but rather that the UU believes in the truths that are universal while staying away from all the specific claims that are without foundation (in my opinion) yet the other churches damn each other over.

Here are the UU principles:
  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

That seems to me a pretty good list to believe in.

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Response to eomer (Reply #6)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 02:11 PM

7. I stuck around for several years and I know the core of the church...

But those principles seem to me to have been cobbled together by committee.

I do have to admit working in the background I saw how the whole organization operated including the national office left a bad taste in my mouth.

That's all I will say.

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Response to WCGreen (Reply #5)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 02:38 PM

9. I belonged to a UU congregation too

I still support UUism, but I think our congregation was affected by the hiring of a new and very inexperienced minister. I've been in good congregations, and not-so-good ones. Even in good congregations, things tend to shift from year to year, minister to minister.




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Response to SecularMotion (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 03:50 PM

11. Zynga is in trouble too. Remarkable how similar the business model is. n/t

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Response to SecularMotion (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 03:57 PM

12. This is the Associated Baptist Press.

It sounds like the author, a Baptist pastor, is addressing other Baptists.

It may not hold globally.

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Response to SecularMotion (Original post)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 01:12 PM

13. The old church ladies are croaking and us young folks are less and less religious.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #13)

Sun Jul 29, 2012, 01:39 PM

14. That's debatable.



World Youth Day 2011.

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Response to SecularMotion (Original post)

Mon Jul 30, 2012, 05:17 PM

15. I know a lot more people who have to work weekends now

I find schedules are less flexible, and bosses more demanding of time. I could see how more people being employed by large corporations, and how that corporate culture could be detrimental to one's spiritual life may contribute to such a decline. Of course I don't know if my observations have any statistical fact, but it's something I'm curious about.

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