Half of all United Methodist Churches in the United States …

This entry is part 34 of 118 in the series Diagnosis, Dialogue, Decision: A DMin Project

This is a very ambitious statement; the greater challenge will be to overcome resistance to change in the cultural system that is the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.

            Half of all United Methodist Churches in the United States have an average annual worship attendance of fifty-one or fewer; forty-three percent of these churches did not receive a member by profession of faith in 2004.[1] The total number of large congregations with average attendance greater than two hundred has remained constant, numbering 4,221 in 1972 and 4,222 in 2001, although 806 more of these congregations were found in the Southeastern or South Central Jurisdiction in 2001 than in 1972.[2] Rising compensation costs have changed the minimum church attendance necessary to retain a full-time and fully credentialed pastor from 45 attenders in 1930 to 75 attenders in 1950 to 125 attenders in 2003; less than 25% of United Methodist churches today are that size or larger.[3] Over half the congregations present in the predecessor denominations in 1900 or organized since no longer exist.[4]






[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at www.disciplewalk.com/Resources.html. In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through CreateSpace.com.

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

[1]The United Methodist Newscope 33, no. 7, (February 18, 2005). “Many Churches Do Not Receive Members By Profession Of Faith,” UM Men, Fall 2006, 9.

[2]Lyle Schaller, “What Should Be The Norm?” Circuit Rider, September/October 2003, 16. The shift to the southern jurisdictions indicates a decline in participation in large congregations in the northern jurisdictions. Experts expect this trend to continue. John H. Southwick, ed., “The Overlooked Migration,” Background Data for Mission 16, no. 12, December 2004, http://gbgm-umc.org/ researchoffice/bdm/ 2004%20PDFs/December2004.pdf (accessed May 1, 2007).

                The decline in membership cannot be blamed entirely on shifting populations, however, because population in the North Central Jurisdiction is increasing while the number and percentage of United Methodists is decreasing. A rising tide does not float all boats. The 2006 Congregational Development Report to the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference indicates that population in the North Central Jurisdiction has increased 24.2% from 1980 to 2000 while United Methodist presence has decreased from forty-two to twenty-nine per one thousand persons, a percentage decrease of 31%. Attendance decreased 2.8%. Illinois Great Rivers Conference, Official Journal-Yearbook 2006 (Springfield, IL: Illinois Great Rivers Conference, 2006), 283.

[3]Schaller, “What Should Be The Norm?” 16.

[4]Ibid., 17.

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