A fresh report from the Barna Group has yielded some surprising results: Mainline churches are not dying! I should be honest with you, nation wide, mainline churches are not growing either. In the past decade, the six mainline church denominations (American Baptist Churches in the USA, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Presbyterian Church (USA); United Church of Christ; and United Methodist Church) have experienced some stability. The Barna Group concluded:
Over the course of the past decade, the number of adults who attend a mainline church on any given weekend has remained relatively stable, ranging from 89 to 100.
In addition, some other encouraging news was reported:
One reason why that average has remained steady has been the population growth of the United States, with the mainline churches attracting just enough newcomers to maintain attendance levels that are similar to the years when the nation’s population was considerably smaller.
Even though these have been tough economical times, signs of finical growth occurred:
… during the past decade the median church budget of mainline congregations has risen substantially – up 51%, to about $165,000 annually.
This is fantastic! Although I am an American Baptist clergyman, I whole-heartily support and have great affection for “mainline churches” (I served in 3 different mainline denominations: ABC, UMC, & PC USA). For years, the mega-church moment has told Christians, “Come here! We are young, happening, and different. Your old corner church is weak and feeble.” Not really. I’m joking, but you get the picture. I have been very clear in past posts that I believe megachurches are not evil and are worshiping, faithful, and Godly communities – but they are not the end-all-be-all of “church.”
What does this Barna report mean for the mainline church? (There is also some bad news)