Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Church's Search for a Reason to Be..

People attend churches today for reasons previously recognized
as neither significant nor valid. Doctrine, denomination, parental loyalty, or childhood rearing are no longer key factors.

Primary factors for church attendance today include geographic proximity, professional advantage, social opportunities, activities for children, and the personal charisma of the pastor - enclosed within a sense of belonging. But so defined, the church competes with a host of other institutions that promise similar opportunities.

W. Paul Jones, from Worlds Within A Congregation


  1. Thanks for this post. One of the issues I've been exploring at my blog "Calling Ministers" is whether ministerial formation addresses the competencies needed for the expectations/needs of those who are served by UU ministry. Your post certainly speaks to the changing expectations of church shoppers.

  2. I have to remark that people have been going to church for professional advantage and social opportunities for at least 200 years, the impression that a charismatic pastor makes is documented throughout American literature, and geographic proximity has been hugely important, sometimes critical to lots of people in lots of places until the 1950's. It's true that none of that is enough to make a healthy church, but it's not a new issue.

  3. On Politywonk, I've been exploring a completely different approach to reinvigorating the association, using Theodore Parker's concept of the transient and permanent. I suggest we get back to the fundamentals of looking at things closely -- legislative bills, bylaw reforms -- and read them as our forebears read the Bible, closely but skeptically, one line at a time.

    Likewise, overemphasis on social justice goals --from temperance to global warming -- while admirable as political agendae cannot define our faith. It is sheer ignorance to claim we are alone, or that our concerns stem from theological positions unique to our faith tradition. And unless you have a politician in the pulpit, these causes have little to do with worship on Sunday.

  4. I'd like to emphasize two points from the Paul Jones entry. First, brand loyalty to a denomination has lessened dramatically over the years. Some churches have even re-named themselves, excluding the denominational tag, believing it is a negative. For example, St. James Presbyterian Church has become the West Side Community Church.

    Second, many church leaders believe that if they add new programs, growth will occur. But church programs often compete with secular counterparts which may be more effective. You don't have to join a church to work on environmental issues.