Now comes this email from one of our District Superintendents (pastors who supervise districts made up of 60-100 churches and pastors). It appears my sentiments appear to be shared by others:
Last week I heard Lovett Weems at the DS Consultation. He is the head of the Lewis Center of Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. I like him, for like Doug Anderson whom we had a few years ago, he makes mud clear.His answer was (1)get your budgets in order; and (2)attract more people. Hmmmm....I wonder if this is going to save Methodism from a slow, grinding, painful decline? Naa! Where is Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, and Billy Sunday (or, I would add, even Billy Graham) when we need them?
On last Thursday, he had a session on "What's Ahead for the United Methodist Church." It was eye opening. Here is some of what I heard him say. We are in the middle not only of an economic recession. We are also in the middle of a worship recession. Worship increased until 2001. After 2002, there has been a major drop off in worship attendance. The definition of regular attendance has changed from every week to twice a month. How does that definition play in your church?
Looking at the larger context - everything having to do with money has increased since the merger in 1968.
• Net assets increased by 206%
• Giving per worshiper has increased by 178%
• Total giving has increased by 147%
Everything dealing with people has gone down since 1968:
• Churches - 87%
• Attendance - 82%
• Membership - 76%
• Profession of faith - 61%
• Children & Youth - 40%
What this means is that fewer people are giving more. This is where the year 2018 comes in. He calls 2018 the beginning of the coming "Death Tsunami." Deaths are going to increase in the United Methodist Church. First, he depressed me by pointing out that I am now in the category of "older United Methodist ministers." Second he reminded me of what comes after old...which is death. The GI generation is leaving the stage now at 1,000 WWII vets a day. Boomers this year will be retiring at the rate of 7,000 a day which then means we will be beginning the next step, which is the death tsunami. Cheery thought, isn't it?
What this means is that if we do nothing, we will be facing a financial burden that will drive everything else. Just think about your own church. How many people in your active membership are 65+? How much of your budget may be attributed to them? Now, think about that disappearing in the next 5 to 10 years? What will that do to your ministry and what your church can afford in the way of a pastor?
The good news is that we have 7 years to position ourselves to be ready. Some of our churches have less than 7 years. So what is the way out?