Alert! The Church Is in Serious Decline

Did you know? More adults don’t attend church versus the ones who do for the first time in United States history. I recently read the book “The Great Dechurching,” and I can’t recommend it enough. I am appropriately concerned by its accessible and applicable statistical study about the church’s dire straits, and also, its hope.

I read the book because I was aware of the number of people leaving churches coupled with the number of churches closing their doors. Around the week that I learned of this book, a church from a former call reached out to me to consider serving there again. I was honored. Over ten years ago when I had been their associate pastor, the church had two other full-time pastors plus a Christian Ed Director. Now, the church is looking for a solo pastor position. I was saddened to hear of its loss of staff and congregant numbers. 

While I was aware of the decline in churches, especially since COVID, I had no idea that it was as bad as it was. Did you know? 40 million people have stopped going to church, largely in the last 25 years. People are walking away from almost every branch of Christianity. This mass migration out of the church is the largest Christian movement in United States history. Of further note is that the other three sizable Christian movements were awakenings, which added numbers to the church.


As a pastor, I care about this loss. But as a mother, I do too. 


This mass exodus from the church is producing the first generation of largely unchurched youth in United States history. And this unchurched generation is growing up at precisely the time when the world feels more lonely, anxious, and depressed.


My sense is that the two are in fact causal rather than unrelated. Studies document the health benefits of regular worship—it has the capability to decrease depression, loneliness, and even heart issues. The Great Dechurching mentions these findings as well. I have seen the health benefits of persons igniting faith connections in real time while serving for two years as a hospital chaplain. At the hospital, spirituality and pastoral care were regarded as integral to the healing process, especially when other modalities simply could not produce the desired outcomes in the patient. 


Our children are not only lacking the health benefits of regular worship, but they’re lacking the formal formation of a spiritual rudder in a world with more options and pressures due in part to the mass accessibility of the Internet. You and I might take any rudder we have for granted. After all, we were likely raised in the church and are at least aware of what we are walking away from. This is not the case for our children. 


It’s time for well-meaning Christians to care. Jesus didn’t live and die only to live on in our hearts. It’s not enough. Simply scanning the news shows me that the world needs the light of Christ and people who take this transmission seriously (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Along those lines, I want to leave you this week with three questions to consider with me:


What will be your part in transmitting the faith to this unchurched generation?

What are you doing to support regular worship for your family?

Does your child feel spiritual supported and connected?


For great ideas to support faith at home, please review my site for great faith book suggestions! I just received a new one courtesy of the publisher Zonderkidz called Managing Your Emojis: 100 Devotions for Navigating Your Feelings. It's for children ages 8-12. Such a cute title by two authors I respect and have had on my show!


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