The largest American parliamentary survey confirms what the church consultants – Baptist News Global – told you

For anyone who has not yet received a message: American communities are changing fast, and the old ways don’t work. The type of rapid adaptation seen in response to the coronavirus pandemic illustrates a new type of thinking that will be needed to sustain life in the community.

Any parliamentary counselor in America could utter this speech by heart, but there is now a huge pile of data to support such claims.

In what is considered to be the largest national congregation survey ever conducted in the U.S., the Faith Communities Today 2020 survey includes results from more than 15,000 congregations that responded. The study was a joint effort of 21 denominations and a religious group that developed a 180-question survey. Questions were usually answered by the primary leader in the assembly.

The survey is customized for individual religious groups and has been translated into Cantonese, French, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish. The answers came from 80 religious denominations and traditions.

“Traditional ways of worshiping, serving spiritual needs, and organizing the work of congregations no longer function adequately for many religious communities,” the study summary said. “Many factors outside the religious community contribute to this reality, so the situation cannot be entirely attributed to a lack of general imagination and adjustment. However, research is clear that this moment requires real change if a large percentage of religious communities will survive the next 20 years with spiritual vitality and service effectiveness. ”

The research is also significant because it spans two decades and includes footage of U.S. assemblies before and after the coronavirus pandemic.

“Much has been written about the possible consequences of the pandemic on society, indicating the intensification of already existing trends,” the summary explains. “If this will be the case in the reality of the congregation, then this moment clearly requires institutional change. Religious leaders must be willing to advocate innovative visions and new ways forward, just as they have done for the past 18 months.

“These adaptive leaders will have to maintain this energy and passion to convey the need for change, devise a way forward, gather the will of the assembly, and then mediate in the conflicting moments that will inevitably arise. ”

The Executive Summary lists these key findings:

  • Before the pandemic, many assemblies were small and getting smaller, while the largest ones constantly have more and more visitors.
  • Despite a general decline in visitor numbers, about a third of congregations are growing and are spiritually vital.
  • The size of larger assemblies offers certain advantages, but each group has certain advantages in terms of size.
  • Congregations have continued to diversify, especially in terms of racial composition.
  • The dramatically increased use of technology can be seen in the last two decades, even before the pandemic.
  • The fiscal health of the assemblies remained largely stable.
  • There is a clear and demonstrated path to vitality with characteristics that are consistent over two decades of survey efforts.

Before the pandemic, the religious communities of America were “older, smaller and, by many measures, less vital,” the report says. “At the same time, there are signs of hope that it can endure and is vital in a solid percentage of religious communities.”

One of the significant differences previously reported in other surveys, but revealed by new data, is the following: Among 350,000 to 375,000 American congregations of all religious traditions, only 10% have more than 250 people. Yet, 70% of Americans who attend religious services attend a congregation of more than 250 people. The vast majority of American congregations are small, but the vast majority of Americans visit congregations that are not small.

The number of small assemblies in America is growing as larger assemblies used to shrink, research has shown. “In the past 20 years of this research, the average size of visits has decreased by over 50%, from 137 to 65 participants in weekly worship services. This means that at least 175,000 religious communities (half of the 350,000) in the country have 65 or fewer people present any weekend. ”

Furthermore, the percentage of religious communities is below 100 the presence “has only gradually changed in the first decade of this century, but there have been rapid changes in the last 10 years,” the report adds. “It remains to be seen what the post-pandemic situation will bring, but the first indications are that this trend is likely to accelerate in the next decade.

Between 2015 and 2020, half of all assemblies refused to attend by at least 7%. “This is the first time in 20 years of research that the average five-year rate of change in attendance has been negative,” the report said. “In addition, only 34% of religious communities grew by 5% or more between 2015 and 2020 – meaning an average of 1% growth per year.”

The survey shows this portrait of the “average” U.S. Assembly in 2020:

  • 65 people attend weekly.
  • Seating capacity 200 people in the worship space.
  • 88% offer programs for children.
  • 70% offer music programs.
  • 17% host other assemblies in their facilities.
  • 30% is offered by the Ministry of Social Justice.
  • 77% describe their worship as a “thought provoker”.
  • 77% describe their worship as “informal”.
  • The average annual income is $ 120,000.
  • 58% of that money now comes from giving online.
  • The average age of a pastor or leader is 57 years.
  • 10% of the assembly leaders are women.
  • 53% of pastors or leaders are the only priests who serve their communities.

This is the first in a series of articles on the results of the Faith Communities Today survey.

Related articles:

America 2021: I have a church and a bell tower, but where are the people? | Opinion of Bill Leonard

They don’t come back. | Opinion of Rob Dyer

The SBC will lose another 435,000 members in 2020

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