Sunday, May 17, 2009

To stay alive, churches are making changes

From Kentucky-

Across Jefferson County, small congregations in older urban neighborhoods have faced the stark reality of declining membership. By 2006, for instance, St. Peter's Evangelical United Church of Christ in the Russell neighborhood was down to 15 active members, most of them elderly or commuters from elsewhere.

Endowment funds left by deceased members, which had kept the church solvent, were running out. The church, with its rich history, had to decide if it was willing to accept a radically different future - or no future at all.

One-third of Americans and Kentuckians do not attend church regularly, according to the Barna Group, a religion research group. And half of Americans who do are now concentrated in just 10 percent of all congregations, according to the National Congregations Study, a research project conducted by a consortium of universities and religious research organizations.

"Some (smaller) churches will catch on, grow and do a lot better, and some will be planted new, and frankly, some will die," said Louisville Area Bishop Lindsey Davis of the United Methodist Church. "You either change and adapt, or you die."

St. Peter's decided to change, The Courier-Journal reported recently.

Under its first African-American pastor, it began reaching out to people it rarely encountered before - residents of a public housing complex across the street. In the past three years, the church also has offered after-school activities for children, substance-abuse recovery programs and Saturday morning food distributions accompanied by optional worship services.

More here-

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