I just had a birthday. Many things have changed as I have aged. I now have cheaters. I am starting to get more salt than pepper in my hair coloring. It takes me longer to recover from mowing the lawn and other physical activities. Cheese and ice cream are no longer my friends. Lastly, my doctor's appointments have changed.
First of all, I have to visit the guy more often. My wife questions whether I see him for a check up or to socialize with him. Secondly, my prognosis has changed. When I was younger, the doctor would say, "You're healthy. See you next year." Now, I hear, "You're healthy, but let's keep an eye on ....." Although I am healthy, my doctor is aware of health conditions that can quickly spiral out of control if I do not monitor them closely. I need to be aware of this and be ready to go see my doctor if these symptoms pop up.
Our church is in a similar situation with its health. I am not implying that our church is unhealthy. But, we need to pay close attention to symptoms that could spiral out of control if we ignore them. During my term on Session, we had discussions about the similarities between our church and some of the churches that we feel that would be closing their doors soon. One of the symptoms we needed to monitor was demographics.
In reality, demographics have become a problem in most mainline denominations. Congregations are getting older and the younger generations are not joining churches. In fact, these generations are not even identifying themselves as Christians. I recently read an article that the current political environment has lead these generations to believe that the church is a Republican institution. Instead of messages of love and peace, our youth are getting messages of political banter and arguments.
During worship, when you look around, like my hairline, we are graying as a congregation. There are not as many families with children as there was in our past. The numbers in our Sunday schools are down. Although First Friday Friends is popular, Sundays are not seeing the transition of families to our regular services from that event. Yes, we are healthy as a congregation, but we have to start paying attention to changes with the demographics in our church. When I was a part of Session, we were monitoring the situation. Maybe it's time that all of us take stock in what is happening and where this could lead.
I have no solutions in this blog. I don't think there are easy answers to this issue. What I do know is that when you are willing to recognize a challenge, it becomes something you can begin to solve. What I also know is that God often takes these challenges and changes them into blessings. If we invite the Holy Spirit to lead us, solutions will come. We just need be willing to see the issue and listen for the answers no matter how out of the box it maybe.