Declining Church Membership – Do Something Different

lock door

Prevent the Padlock

My friend and I were sitting in a standing room only church hall filled with preachers and lay people. The bishop of the United Methodist Church Conference began to speak about “The State of the United Methodist Church.”  In particular, he addressed the topic of declining church membership.

He rattled off all sorts of statistics.  It was no surprise to hear that membership was declining.  This is something we had heard about with all churches across the United States.

UMC Statistics

To our surprise the bishop mentioned that we had 650 churches in our particular region and that of these churches . .

  • 40% (260) have less than 50 members.
  • 75 churches had 11-25 members
  • 81 churches had 26 to 35 members
  • 91 churches had 36 to 50
  • 4 churches with less than 10 members

I had read stats from groups like PEW Research Organization and the Barna Group that church memberships across the board regardless of denomination or non-denomination were in decline; however, the UMC statistics were alarming.

Face Realities

The survival of the United Methodist Church or any church for that matter have to face some realities, for if over time a church can no longer pay its pastor, its musician, its utilities or its mortgage, closing is inevitable. And just like those dinosaurs, we could look up and face the fact that our church has become extinct, and there is a padlock on our doors.

The message that the bishop told preachers and laity was to take some risks and to do somethings differently. Our survival depended upon it. If your church is barely making it, struggling to keep members and finances are just not enough to cover expenses, you have NO other choice but to explore OTHER options.

Go Visiting

Visit some churches outside of your comfort zone, even visit some churches outside of your own denomination. Visit some large churches.  While you are there, objectively evaluate how they do church. How long is the preacher preaching and what kind of songs is the choir singing? What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What is the energy like? How do the people seem to you? How do they attract new members? How were you greeted when you entered the church. How do they acknowledge visitors?  I am sure you will be surprise to learn that not everybody does church the same way.

Check out online resources, magazine and websites

The Internet is filled with resources to help us do church better.  There are church and ministry magazines you can subscribe to in order to keep you abreast and get ideas.  The whole premise is to obtain ideas and credible solutions to enhance ministry, encourage community, and move toward your vision.

Here is a list of people I believe that will give you a great start.  Go ahead and click on their names and peruse their sites.:

Rick Warren, Thom S. Rainer, Ed Setzer, Michael Hyatt, Kent Shaffer

Recommended Books Include:

Church Growth

Go BIG: Lead Your Church to Explosive Growth – Bill Easum * Bill Cornelius

Church Growth6

The Creative Leader – Ed Young

Church Growth3

The Purpose Driven Church



 next level. Where You are Won't Get You There next level. Where You are Won’t Get You There

Recommended Magazines Include:


Leadership Journal

Ministry Today


Christianity Today


There really isn’t any point of re-inventing the wheel when there are resources available at your finger tips.  Applying a few tips can be what will make a difference in turning your services around.  Let’s learn from one another.  We are all on the same team.  It’s about the Kingdom.

Can you  think of any church leader or pastor who would benefit from this post?  If so, please share.




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