Are worship styles part of the church's decline?

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  • I don't think it is the case that revivalist or enthusiastic movements somehow escape the 'taint' of older or more traditional forms of Christianity. All they do is develop their own traditions and own tainted approaches. That's not to knock Penties, Salvationists or any other lively and enthusiastic religious movements that we've had so far nor any that might arise in future. None of us operate in a vacuum though and we're all products of whatever's gone before, good bad and indifferent.

    I don't buy into the Year Zero, slash and burn and start all over again view of revivals and revivalism.

    I'm not against the ethos of any of that as such but neither do I have a rose-tinted spectacles view of revival. The Wesleyans exaggerated the scale of their achievements, so has Pentecostalism. That doesn't mean that they haven't achieved a great deal.

    In many ways the movement has 'come of age' to some extent and we're seeing some good stuff coming out of the Pentecostal end of the spectrum as well as a lot of the usual hot air and nonsense.

    Both seem to coexist within Pentecostalism and its more middle class charismatic cousin at one and the same time. Perhaps that's only to be expected. 'Twas ever thus maybe.
  • Mudfrog

    There may be another phenomenon that explains why the transients are drawn to the Church. The Church is offering something that meets the needs of the transients. In which case the future of the Church may be with those on the move. If so we need to stop thinking of Church as something primarily local but something international.

    Certainly, the refusal to engage with the transient population locally because they will be gone tomorrow does nothing but speed up the decline.
  • Interesting points, Jengie Jon.

    A lot has been written and said about 'Liquid Church' and 'fluid' forms of church.

    FWIW, I suspect that the future will be more fluid and transient, that's the world we live in. The trick is how to connect that with things that provide ballast and stability.

    If I knew the answer to that conundrum I'd be a wealthy man from the conference circuit. But then, the moment it's on the conference circuit the moment it becomes a fad ...
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Mudfrog

    There may be another phenomenon that explains why the transients are drawn to the Church. The Church is offering something that meets the needs of the transients. (my bold) In which case the future of the Church may be with those on the move. If so we need to stop thinking of Church as something primarily local but something international.

    Certainly, the refusal to engage with the transient population locally because they will be gone tomorrow does nothing but speed up the decline.

    That sort of chimes in with our experience. FWIW, I know that some of our transients come from Roman Catholic countries (e.g. the Philippines), or from Afro-Caribbean countries where a 'High Church' or traditional form of Anglicanism is the norm. They therefore feel 'comfortable' with our A-C worship (fairly informal these days, but with a Carflick liturgy, 'bells-and-smells', etc.). They may not be with us long enough to sign up for helping with the Christmas Bazaar or what-not, but hey, that's not the most important item on the agenda. To them, and to me (and to our current Ministry Team, such as it is), the Sunday and major Holyday Eucharist is paramount.

    Personally, I'm happy with this, even though it means the statistics on the Archdeacon's Annual Returns look like the FTSE index graph in a bad year. If peeps want a more Charismatic service, we cheerfully direct them to Parish-Next-Door. Equally cheerfully, Parish-Next-Door directs the 'bells-and-smells' peeps to us!

    IJ
  • This is not exactly liquid church. In that, I do not think that it is the fact that society is becoming more mobile and the church needs to adjust. That to an extent leads to what Aisthorp calls the Invisible Church.

    What I see is that the present church offers something that transients want/need. I am not well defining that at present but in one specific case, I think I can. The Chinese Ethnic church in Sheffield and probably the rest of the UK where they settle is booming. This is not that they are Christian at home and therefore seek out a Church of that ethnicity. A large number of them only adopt Christianity when they come in contact with Western Culture. Rather for them, the Church becomes a bridge between their home culture and Western Culture.

    This next bit is speculative. What I think is that many people who are transient suffer from disorientation due to the cultural displacement that moving around creates. This is particularly acute among ethnographers who come to study culture and then find there is so much they do not get. Some, not all by any means, turn to the Church to alleviate this. The old Roman Catholic statement that "the mass, is the mass, is the mass" and is the same regardless of location to some extent addresses this. The ability to engage in a church with people of different ages and background is also part of this.

    Where I differ from liquid Church people, I think is, where they want the Church to become tents that move with the people of God, I am saying that having Caravanserai where people can gather as well is important.
  • And I think I would agree with that last sentence.

    AIUI, caravanserai is actually the singular noun - the plural is caravanserais.

    Sounds good to me, anyhow, and certainly in line with modern conditions. O dear - I can feel a sermon coming on....!!
    :grimace:

    IJ
  • Caravanoceros? Caravanosaurus?
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    O no - those words imply something rather passe, and I'm sure that's not what you (or I) meant!

    Is it?
    :wink:

    IJ
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    The transient nature of the church is due to it being a kind of Nigerian 'colony' in London.
    People come to London study or for short-tern contracts in professional positions, but all have a desire/intention to return home.
    It contributes to the non-assimilation of migrants and overseas visitors into the country.
    Church like these are wonderful and vibrant and affirming of their members but they little as far as influencing and growing English Christianity is concerned.
  • Mudfrog wrote: »
    The transient nature of the church is due to it being a kind of Nigerian 'colony' in London.
    People come to London study or for short-tern contracts in professional positions, but all have a desire/intention to return home.
    It contributes to the non-assimilation of migrants and overseas visitors into the country.
    Church like these are wonderful and vibrant and affirming of their members but they little as far as influencing and growing English Christianity is concerned.

    Nigerian 'colony' ? [*] I would like you to consider what all those 'expat' orientated churches in various spots around the globe look like and have looked like .. I presume they too do 'little as far as influencing and growing' Indigenous 'Christianity is concerend'.

    This is even before the consideration that equally there are Nigerians who have chosen to settle in this country, some of whom transient by force of circumstance. I've seen churches that successfully serve transient communities by an 'equip to serve' model, I've also seen churches that fail or succeed in adapting to the local demographic shifts in their neighbourhoods.

    [*] One of the things missing from the new ship is an eye-roll icon

  • Remember that the West Indian Churches arose from the fact that the Windrush generation was not welcomed into the British Mainline Churches.
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    I hope you are not inferring some kind of racist bent in my posting Chrisstiles.
    When I placed the word 'colony' in inverted commas, I was using it in the Roman sense where a Roman colony in Turkey, say, was 'a little bit of Rome' for those who, having come from there, needed somewhere like home.

    The Nigerian church of which I speak seems to specifically reach out to those who come here short to medium term in order to provide them with that familiar Nigerian-style of worship and community-culture to which they will mostly return in years to come.

    I don't see that as a problem.
    If I were to suddenly be able to retire to Crete, finding myself in need of a church, I would most probably find an evangelical fellowship that owes more to a western European ethos than join the Greek Orthodox Church just so that I felt assimilated more into Greek ecclesial culture.

    I don't see it as a problem for expats not for people coming to this country.
    I didn't criticise the Nigerian fellowship for being a 'colony', I just reflected on the situation as it stands.

    I moved about 4 years ago from a city with a lot of asylum seekers, many of whom I helped.
    I attended a graduation party last week for a young woman where most of the guests were from various countries in Africa but for whom most have found their spiritual home in what they call the 'African Churches'. I really do not see that as a problem.

  • Our Fair City has a number of churches, some of which are as ephemeral and transient as their congregations! If they provide a spiritual home for those who attend them, for however short a time, surely God is glorified thereby, and His Kingdom made manifest.

    The same applies, ISTM, to those transients who find their way to Our Place's little backstreet A-C Parish Mass, or perhaps to the equally small Baptist congregation meeting in the local Community Centre.

    (Yes, yes, I know - maybe we should get together with those Baptists? All I can say is that it has been tried. Maybe, if and when they - and we - get a new minister each, we'll try again!).

    IJ
  • Congregations are ephemeral. It takes a lot of effort to keep a congregation going. I did a fairly simplistic modelling exercise for congregations and it surprised me how much recruitment was required just to keep the numbers static.
  • Mudfrog wrote: »
    I hope you are not inferring some kind of racist bent in my posting Chrisstiles.
    When I placed the word 'colony' in inverted commas, I was using it in the Roman sense where a Roman colony in Turkey, say, was 'a little bit of Rome' for those who, having come from there, needed somewhere like home.

    No. I just thought it was a rather tin-eared way of characterising an entire nation of people - who have a range of experiences in the UK, from the church you mentioned to churches that are definitely more permanent, to people with a range of beliefs who have joined a wide range of existing churches.
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Congregations are ephemeral. It takes a lot of effort to keep a congregation going. I did a fairly simplistic modelling exercise for congregations and it surprised me how much recruitment was required just to keep the numbers static.

    Ain't that the truth! Some churches seem to have a 'glass ceiling', above which numbers rarely, if ever, rise, and it does indeed require hard toil and sweaty labour (along with a certain amount of blood and tears) even to approach that level.

    Yes, I know - numbers are not everything, but a very small congregation is rather more hamstrung as to worship, mission etc. than even a slightly larger one.

    IJ

  • I'd heard this explained with reference to organisational models - that a small church can grow to a certain point beyond which it needs to organise itself like a medium sized church, and similarly a medium sized church needs to change organisationally before it can grow into a large church. This makes sense if you think of a small church that relies on its members knowing each other and staying in touch to make sure things get done. The larger it gets the more you need defined roles and, importantly, subtle ways of keeping track of people. In a large church you might need to have groups within the church than know each other because of the impossibility of knowing everyone. Conversely, when a church shrinks, you have too few people for the number of hats that have developed, and reorganising on a simpler model can help the church turn a corner.
  • There is one URC which for several hundred years has had between 13 and 18 members. They had recently stuck at 13 and just thought it was going to naturally decline and a couple of families turned up taking it back to 18.
  • I'd heard this explained with reference to organisational models - that a small church can grow to a certain point beyond which it needs to organise itself like a medium sized church, and similarly a medium sized church needs to change organisationally before it can grow into a large church. This makes sense if you think of a small church that relies on its members knowing each other and staying in touch to make sure things get done. The larger it gets the more you need defined roles and, importantly, subtle ways of keeping track of people. In a large church you might need to have groups within the church than know each other because of the impossibility of knowing everyone. Conversely, when a church shrinks, you have too few people for the number of hats that have developed, and reorganising on a simpler model can help the church turn a corner.

    Yes, a parish priest once told me that he had found something along those lines to be true n his own experience.

    IJ

  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Whilst we have about 100 on the electoral roll, about 50 turn up on a Sunday, though over the month that might actually mean 70 regular worshippers.
    But only 35 are in any way active in church, and 30 of them are over 65, most between 72 and 83 yrs old.
    So when we are thinking of what we might plan, although that is still a good number to spread the load, there are definite limitations as to what we can physically achieve. It is not just a question of numbers.
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    Double the numbers and our shack is just like Puzzler's. Our demographic is definitely pointing to the older end. The style is largely traditional.

    We are constantly reminded of a nearby church which has mostly under 60s, a similar size congregation to our own. The style is largely evangelical.

    This wouldn't bother me, except that the younger congregation seems so simplistic and naive and I think the leadership takes advantage of that. Not sure if that is terribly healthy.

    Meanwhile, although our congregation is older, we regularly get new members, which are older people who move into the area.
  • "Which"? Are they not human? [Devil]
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    Pedant. [Daemon ]
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Chorister wrote: »
    Double the numbers and our shack is just like Puzzler's. Our demographic is definitely pointing to the older end. The style is largely traditional.

    We are constantly reminded of a nearby church which has mostly under 60s, a similar size congregation to our own. The style is largely evangelical.

    This wouldn't bother me, except that the younger congregation seems so simplistic and naive and I think the leadership takes advantage of that. Not sure if that is terribly healthy.

    Meanwhile, although our congregation is older, we regularly get new members, which are older people who move into the area.

    Rely not upon this. The retiring population (who I imagine your older people moving into cream tea-land are) are more and more becoming the young people of the 70s - a far less church-going generation than the preceding.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    My suspicion is that the leadership of churches like that is composed of people who are also simplistic and naive.
  • Chorister wrote: »
    Pedant. [Daemon ]
    Guilty as charged, m'lud.

  • Gee D wrote: »
    My suspicion is that the leadership of churches like that is composed of people who are also simplistic and naive.

    If I were being uncharitable, nay cynical, I might add 'manipulative' to that list....
    :angry:

    IJ

  • I think the leaders of any church can be manipulative - often with good intent. For instance, I choose my hymns and my prayers carefully so as to underline and add to the message of the sermon, I may also occasionally poetry or recorded music or a video. So that is manipulation to a degree but (and I think this is the important bit) we all recognise what's going on, I don't abuse my ministerial power and I give space for thought and even disagreement.
  • ... I may also occasionally poetry or recorded music or a video...

    I hope you've got the appropriate licence(s) in place to do that.

  • Quite so, but I think BT makes a fair comment, and I see what he means. Anyone leading or arranging worship would (or should) do the same.

    Perhaps I should have qualified my word manipulative by adding for personal gain.

    Let the reader understand.

    IJ
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Chorister wrote: »


    Meanwhile, although our congregation is older, we regularly get new members, which are older people who move into the area.

    Rely not upon this. The retiring population (who I imagine your older people moving into cream tea-land are) are more and more becoming the young people of the 70s - a far less church-going generation than the preceding.

    Not too worried about this as the churches are now grouped under one ministry team. Each church does what it does best - as long as there are churches within the group which work with the old, the young, the introvert, the extrovert, etc. then the group of churches have it all covered. It does mean, though, that the clergy and readers within the team do need to work closely together and be seen to be a united team.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @Chorister, I think what KarlLB is saying is that if you are relying on a steady flow of older people to keep your congregations tanked up and to replace those who move on the next stage of their Christian life on another shore, it won't work any more. You won't be covered. As your older generation get to have been born later and to have become adults later, you'll be getting third age internal migrants who will no longer be like what you're thinking of as the older generation. They will be about as unlikely to join your churches as current generations.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    @Chorister, I think what KarlLB is saying is that if you are relying on a steady flow of older people to keep your congregations tanked up and to replace those who move on the next stage of their Christian life on another shore, it won't work any more. You won't be covered. As your older generation get to have been born later and to have become adults later, you'll be getting third age internal migrants who will no longer be like what you're thinking of as the older generation. They will be about as unlikely to join your churches as current generations.

    I think they'll be less likely to join any church.
  • Except for the people who are retiring to Cream Tea Land is that demographic that is most likely to go to church from that generation. It is the less affluent who left church first.
  • Or, more likely, never went.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Except for the people who are retiring to Cream Tea Land is that demographic that is most likely to go to church from that generation. It is the less affluent who left church first.

    To the extent that is the case it only puts the oncoming problem off a decade. The point still stands.
  • Well, the Gospel reading for the Eucharist on Saturday last mentioned the bit from Isaiah - 'A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoking wick he will not quench.'

    ISTM that those words might well apply today to churches here in 'The West', at least, as they generally contract - yet survive, albeit in a smaller, perhaps different format.

    IJ
  • We're doomed, doomed ...
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    I'm well aware of what KarlLB was saying. But we do need to provide spiritual sustenance for those who already do attend church as well as those who might in the future. A point which seems to be lost to the forward planners.
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Except for the people who are retiring to Cream Tea Land is that demographic that is most likely to go to church from that generation. It is the less affluent who left church first.

    To the extent that is the case it only puts the oncoming problem off a decade. The point still stands.

    But if creamtealand is populated by the elderly, then the elderly is what you have.

    My TEC shack is in what is basically a family suburb, and the church reflects that. We have families with kids, and the kids grow up and go away to college. They don't move back here - we're not the kind of place that hip 20-somethings want to live. So we have very few people between 20 and mid-30s. Then you get the parents (and the occasional couple that doesn't have kids, or doesn't have them yet), move up the age range to the parents of kids who are off at college, or off being hip 20-somethings somewhere, and hit retirement, at which point we lose about 50% of our people because they retire and move to somewhere with a better climate.

    There's no point in us having an outreach program to try and reach millennials, because there aren't any living here. Our typical new parishioner is about 35-40 and has a child or two; sometimes they're a bit older.
  • We had that problem too and eager beavers trying to reach out to the missing generation, without seeing that the children of the people who attended this church moved away for university and/or setting up home somewhere else. And this hole in the demographic was not easily resolved.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Except for the people who are retiring to Cream Tea Land is that demographic that is most likely to go to church from that generation. It is the less affluent who left church first.

    To the extent that is the case it only puts the oncoming problem off a decade. The point still stands.

    But if creamtealand is populated by the elderly, then the elderly is what you have.

    You're missing my point. My point is that a church which replenishes its numbers from incoming retirees is going to find that source dry up over the next twenty years as retirees come from increasingly non-churchgoing cohorts. This will ultimately deplete numbers to the point of unsustainability.

  • I thought your point was clear and we'll made, Karl. Not sure why a number of Shipmates seem to have missed it.

    But then, I think that with a lot of points on a lot of threads.
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Except for the people who are retiring to Cream Tea Land is that demographic that is most likely to go to church from that generation. It is the less affluent who left church first.

    To the extent that is the case it only puts the oncoming problem off a decade. The point still stands.

    But if creamtealand is populated by the elderly, then the elderly is what you have.

    You're missing my point. My point is that a church which replenishes its numbers from incoming retirees is going to find that source dry up over the next twenty years as retirees come from increasingly non-churchgoing cohorts. This will ultimately deplete numbers to the point of unsustainability.

    Unless it builds a policy of working with retirees to attract them into your church. If those in their 60s and 70s have not been part of your church before then that is your opportunity for evangelism. If you welcome people in their sixties, they become the core of your congregation in their seventies and you care for them in the eighties. As long as you are still trying to attract people in their sixties you do not have a problem. Yes, you will need to up your game and switch from Christian literate to Christian unliterate but you are better placed to do this than you are to attract young adults if they are not around locally.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Except for the people who are retiring to Cream Tea Land is that demographic that is most likely to go to church from that generation. It is the less affluent who left church first.

    To the extent that is the case it only puts the oncoming problem off a decade. The point still stands.

    But if creamtealand is populated by the elderly, then the elderly is what you have.

    You're missing my point. My point is that a church which replenishes its numbers from incoming retirees is going to find that source dry up over the next twenty years as retirees come from increasingly non-churchgoing cohorts. This will ultimately deplete numbers to the point of unsustainability.

    Unless it builds a policy of working with retirees to attract them into your church. If those in their 60s and 70s have not been part of your church before then that is your opportunity for evangelism. If you welcome people in their sixties, they become the core of your congregation in their seventies and you care for them in the eighties. As long as you are still trying to attract people in their sixties you do not have a problem. Yes, you will need to up your game and switch from Christian literate to Christian unliterate but you are better placed to do this than you are to attract young adults if they are not around locally.

    Exactly. But if you're just saying (as I've heard in other places) "oh it's fine, older people move into the area and start attending, and locals start attending when they get older" then you're on the path to disappoint. I don't know if that's what Chorister's church does, but those were the vibes I got.
  • Yeah, and I have heard too often work with the young retirees denigrated because that will only keep the church full of old people.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    O how I wish we had some active older people at Our Place! They're often the ones who have the time to attend regularly, pray hard, and help as servers, readers etc.

    Just half-a-dozen would do...our current 'movers and shakers' are mostly middle-aged, with job/family commitments, and usually n/a during the week.

    Our demographic is largely young families (often single-parent), students (mostly foreign nationals), and 'transients'.

    IJ
  • Somewhat to my surprise, the small towns of eastern Ontario have become retirement havens for Torontonians and Montrealers who sell their once-humble bungalows for astronomical sums, and then retire to comfortable condos with a nice nest-egg as well. Clerical friends inform me that they have acquired a good number of active and moderately bored volunteers, who are cheerfully taking over administrative tasks (office work, accounting etc etc), running book groups, staffing visiting teams etc. Some of these new parishioners, I am told, were not churchgoers in the cities, but have become so now either as their interests and goals shift, or just for the social life. As the settled parishioners knew that their churches were soon entering into the life-support phase (and many of them weren't envelope-generous anyway, still putting their $5 per Sunday down as they had since the 1970s), these settled parishioners aren't objecting too much.

    When I asked what will happen to the parishes when this cohort moves on, I was reminded of Patriarch Alexis I's perhaps-mythical response to Khrushchev's similar enquiry, to the effect that they will be replaced by the next generation of older people.
  • So we have the answer: get some Torontonians and Montrealers to retire to Bishop's Finger Land instead.

    It might not be their cup of tea ...
  • O, I don't know. Please to inform us as to what their preferred Cup Of Tea might be, and I'm sure we'll do our best....
    :grin:

    IJ
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