The three participants in the group on Aging Congregations represented two older mainline ABCCONN churches. They were drawn to the topic because of their fear that their churches are going to die. Two participants were from a church whose youngest participant/member is in their 50’s. They have no children, youth or young families. Their concern was how do we get younger people to stay? They come to visit, but seeing no one near their age, they don’t come back. Their church also has an average Sunday attendance of 10-12. With so few contributing members maintaining the physical plant and sustaining program is a constant struggle. They do see God at work in this situation; they have a supply pastor who has come for ten years, working for supply wages. This is their 175th anniversary and they are going to be in their town’s Bicentennial parade this coming fall.
The third member of our group was from an historic ABCCONN church. While her church has a higher attendance, she also expressed concern about the average age of the congregants & the lack of young people. Town residents see the church as the wealthy church on the hill. While they are on a hill, they are far from wealthy. Yet, she also sees God at work in their congregation, they are deeply committed to outreach and one Sunday each year they don’t have a worship service, but rather go out into the community to work on various projects.
The members of the group expressed their frustration/concern that newer, more conservative churches with more contemporary programming seem to have no problem with attendance on Sunday.
What is God calling us to do? Several great ideas were shared. There was general acknowledgement that our churches have to get “out there” into the community more. One group member decided to attend service at one of the new contemporary churches to see if there are elements of worship that could be brought to her church. There was a renewed commitment by all group members to try to move their churches forward in acknowledging who they are now, not who they were 50 or even 25 years ago.
God was definitely at work in our group; when we started there was a sense of pessimism and defeat, by morning’s end there was a sense of new optimism and hope for the future.