Alwyn shares his thoughts.
In the first few months that I have been with the Church of Scotland, I have heard the concern about the decline of member numbers and parishes in Scotland. Looking at member numbers on the Church of Scotland website, the Kirk in Scotland is indeed in a serious decline over the last few decades. The Kirk in Scotland is however not alone in this phenomenon. This is the trend in all churches all over the Western World from the early 1980’s. It is also not restricted to a certain group or denomination – all are affected in much a similar way.
Because of the international flavour of this phenomenon, a lot of research as to the reasons why, has been conducted by church groups. This research also formed part of my training in the USA and it was viewed as extremely important. The future of the church was in the balance and steps had to be taken to curb the decline and stimulate growth. The research showed remarkable facts that are common denominators all over the world,
This is where the good news comes into play. Yes there is a way to stop the decline and get the Church growing again. If we take into consideration and work with what we have on the table, growth can be stimulated and people would return to the church.
I would like to share with you a concept (action plan) by which this can be achieved. It would take self-examination to steer the boat to plentiful waters again. It will however take a combined effort from every member of the church. How do we do it?
We must recognize 2 factors which plays key roles in our strategy to accomplish growth:
(a) New Audience
There is no common culture among people. That is also true with Scottish people. Everyone tends to have their own way of doing life, We must take the necessary steps to address this new audience.
(b) New Geographical Areas and New Size
There are no geographical boundaries. Everyone goes to where it is comfortable for them. Mega Churches are out of trend and small Churches are in. People like the personal touch. We must create and nurture our own Parish.
(c) New Identity & Affiliations
Churches are not denominational driven anymore and more driven by Church being able to assist in daily struggles. We must provide that support to our communities.
(d) New Ways of Communication & Presentations
This is at the heart of the changes—ways of communicating must be more interactive.
(e) New Methods
Methods must address the feeling of belonging to—people want to be part of something alive and vibrant. The tendency to move away from formal programmes.
(f) New Structures
Less control, monitoring and reporting back. The axis must lie with decentralisation and empowerment of the parish/community members.
(g) New Threats
We live in utterly dangerous times—destabilising of the Middle East and the re-emergence of Russia to name a few. The world will never be the same again. Remember it was never easy for Christians.
(a) Church has become a Toxic Area
Too much say of the wealthy into Church affairs. Open to manipulation by individuals. Too much structure from above—looks like a mushroom rather than a pyramid. Top executives manipulate the system.
(b) Irresponsible actions by the Church brought Church into Disfavour
Too many court actions. Internal struggles within Kirk Sessions and members against one another. This is seen in a very bad light by those outside and inside the Church.
(c) The World has become a Toxic Area
All about money—not about efficient products, but all about quantity. Public services have become a joke—nearly every day there is an apology to be made by another dysfunctional decision or action.
We must consider the above mentioned conditions that influence the church today. Adjustments must be made in order to neutralize the threats or learn the skills to cope with a changing world.
How do we do that in a practical way?
We incorporate 4 critical turning points that contains 10 live giving systems into our churches.
Critical Turning point 1 – Generate Spiritual Energy:
Critical Turning point 2 – Development of Effective Leaders:
Critical Turning Point 3 – Increase the People Flow:
Critical turning point 4 – Charter the Present Midst in all the Change:
Lots of Churches have adopted this 4 Critical turning point strategy into their way of thinking and doing. Some of them had to adapt small changes that is particular to their local circumstances. Those that did it whole heartily and successfully, are indeed growing. They report great growth in younger couples with children. Older people also find it a fresh approach. The exact way of doing this is up to the local parishes and members.
It is my only desire to stimulate conversation and thinking with this article, as we still have the chance to stop the decline. I am aware that the National Assembly of 2018 has given the task to charter the way forward and report back to the National Assembly in 2 years’ time. This is also what the research has showed looking into churches worldwide and are not particular to Mearns Kirk, the Church of Scotland or the UK. This is just to get us to start thinking of how we can adapt in order not to only survive, but grow. While going through the live giving systems, you will also discover that Joe and the Kirk session have been doing much already.