Statistically there is good news and bad news for the Episcopal Church for the first decade of the 21st Century. It should help us as leaders focus on the challenge for the future.
This past week, I attended the national TENS Conference (The Episcopal Network for Stewardship) at Camp Allen. It was a very good event with keynote speakers and lots of workshops. I came away with a number of good ideas. If you are not familiar with TENS, visit their website www.tens.org and check out the resources.
I also attended the pre-conference for diocesan folks (figured that I qualified as Dean) and heard some very good presentations there too. One of these was by Kirk Hadaway who is the congregational resource person for 815 who keeps up with all those statistics from our parochial reports. I have known Kirk for many years and I have always found his work helpful.
He shared three pieces of information that specifically relate to our work as parish clergy that I want to share this with you. The first has to do with the overall health of TEC. For the first decade of the 21st Century, we have lost 20% of our pledging units. This nearly matches the 19.5% loss of attendance during this same period. What this says is that it is not primarily the economy that is the source of recent financial woes, but the loss of people.
The second significant number is good news. About 30% of our congregations show a 10% growth in membership at this time. This number is up from a few years ago. Unfortunately, this does not off-set the nearly 50% of our congregations that are showing a 10% decline. Kirk added, “Many in significant decline,” to underscore his point.
Kirk, like me, is also concerned about the significant number of Pastoral Size churches that have now declined to Family Size. Remember that Pastoral Size congregations usually have full time clergy while Family Size ones do not. This has a number of significant implications for our community as a whole, but this is a matter for future blogs.
The third piece of statistical information is that after 20 years of increase in pledges by households running ahead of inflation, the past four years show an alarming trend of decline in financial support by current members.
What does this mean for our congregations? One thing is for sure. We will all have to work a lot harder at stewardship in the days ahead. This is where TENS can be of tangible help to many of us.
Here is the great quote of the week that I got from another staff member from 815. It is from Gus Speth, scientist, environmentalist, and former head of the Yale School of forestry and environmental studies. It was directed to faith leaders.
“I used to think the top environmental problems facing the world were global warming, environmental degradation and eco-system collapse, and that we scientists could fix those problems with enough science. But I was wrong. The real problem is not those three items, but greed, selfishness and apathy. And for that we need a spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don't know how to do that. We need your help."
As we say in my occupation, “That will preach!”