Changing Church for a Changing World: A Fresh Expressions Vision Day
For 35 years, The Kinder Institute at Rice University has conducted a survey of our geographic region. Part of this study surveys the religious habits of those within the bound of our Annual Conference. In 2009, 64% of respondents said they had attended church in the past month. In 2015, only 45% of the residents polled said they attended a religious service in the last month. This is just under a 20 percentage point drop in 6 years.
That marked a major milestone for the region: for the first time in the survey’s 35 year history, the majority of our population isn’t attending religious services regularly.
But there’s an interesting footnote to the story: even though a declining portion of Americans are attending religious service and calling themselves Christian, there doesn’t seem to be a dip in “spirituality.”
Fifty-three percent of Americans called religion “very important” in their lives in 2014, down just 3 points from 2007, according to the Pew survey.
The rise of the ‘nones’ does not mean that religious or spiritual sensitivities are disappearing from our region. Six out of 10 (59 percent) of all area residents in 2016 said that religion is ‘very important in my life,’ a number that has remained unchanged across the 35 years of this research.
Our communities are still interested in spirituality. They are still open to conversations. They are still seeking truth beyond themselves. Many are simply no longer seeking this in our churches. And most are not going to come to our churches, as we know them, no matter how well we do things.
And yet new churches and forms of church remain the very best way to reach new people for Christ. This means we must continue to plant churches as we have traditionally done. But it also means we need new expressions of church.
This upcoming February. February 10, 2017 we will host a Vision Day with the Fresh Expressions Organization for those willing to explore new forms of church.
Fresh Expressions is an organization which comes out of the work of the Church of England and the British Methodist Church. They define “A Fresh Expression as a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church”. This is not to take away from what we are already doing, but rather adds to the work you and I are accomplishing in our local congregations. These new expressions are started through our existing congregations.
600 free books about Fresh Expressions were purchased and placed on the Congregational Excellence table along with a flyer about the upcoming seminar. Registration will be limited so I encourage lay and clergy to get a book and sign up to discover what you can do through your local congregations to start a Fresh Expression of church in your area.
Vision Day Information