Rise of the Unaffiliated

Dear Church Family,

The other night about twenty members of the church sat together at the home of Jim and Leigh Walker. It was the third “meet and greet,” informal meetings in homes where Christy and I share a little about ourselves and get to know Grace folk better. Thanks to everyone who hosted! If there is still some interest from those unable to attend one of the previous three meet and greets, we are happy to schedule more. Anyway, after the usual talk things seemed to be wrapping up. It was close to 8:00. Then we began a surprising, in depth discussion of where we saw the church going.

We talked about the decline in worship attendance over the last two decades or so, how to reach younger generations, and what to offer new people when they come to Grace. It’s my belief, and I think this is backed by research, that offering the latest and greatest programming, making our services hip and cool, whatever that means, or offering one style of worship over another is not effective in reaching unchurched people. The truth is: more and more people don’t even consider attending church. It just isn’t a priority. Religiously unaffiliated folk are now a majority in the US. Check out this chart:

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And specifically for young people:

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So the challenges the church faces are astronomical. People are not more likely to be atheist; people are more likely to consider religion unimportant. The last two generations in the US were largely raised outside of the church. The typical, “I was raised in the church, fell away when I went to college, and now I’m back because I am married with kids,” isn’t an automatic response anymore.  So when people asked the other night how we should reach younger people, I didn’t have an answer. There just isn’t an easy answer. The best we can do, I said, is to be ready when they show up. Here’s the good news: Grace has great opportunities for young families. The newly redecorated nursery is lovely and welcoming and is staffed with ladies who love Jesus and kids. We have hands on ministry opportunities that appeal to people who want to serve the community. We have a variety of worship styles.

How could we improve our outreach to folk without a church home? The first step is to remember to invite friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors. The FRAN Plan! Who fits that description in your circle of influence? If all your friends already belong to a church it’s time to widen your circle. The data above shows that the odds of finding an unchurched person close to you is highly likely. This is the work of every Christian. Every member and friend of Grace. This is our responsibility. We’ve been welcomed by God and Christian friends into a wonderful fellowship. Now we must welcome others in the same way.

Which brings me to the picture directory. Please, if you haven’t already, sign up to have your picture taken! Think about it in terms of newcomers. If we can hand them a book full of smiling Grace faces, they’ll sense the warmth and love our church family has to offer. If we all show up, new folk will see that our church reflects several generations. It’ll make it easy to learn names and welcome others. If we are to reach out to new people, at times we have to make sacrifices. This is a little one, but the benefits could be important. Click here to sign up! And if there are any other opportunities to help others find Christ, please participate in those too-- even if it’s not your favorite thing; even if you are not the intended audience.

Grace UMC is a special place with great people and amazing opportunities to grow in Christ. Thanks for making it such a place! It’s a joy to be your pastor. Now let’s turn our focus outward and share the love of Jesus with others.

All Grace Is Amazing!
Peace and Joy,
Pastor Frank

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