The struggles of the American church have been further documented in a newly released survey of Protestant pastors.
Of the 1,000 surveyed, well over half said they see fewer than 100 people in the pews on Sundays, and 21 percent said it’s less than 50 people in weekly worship, LifeWay Research found.
These are among the latest statistics testifying to decades of decline in religion in the U.S. Surveys consistently show that Americans are either leaving or avoiding organized religion in greater numbers. Even those who identify as religious are less likely to affiliate with a faith-based institution.
LifeWay Research said 44 percent of U.S. churches are staffed by one or fewer full-time persons.
Growth was either paltry or stagnant in other categories, as well, including 3 percent of congregations that added new multi-site locations in 2018.
“Sixty-eight percent say they had no involvement in church planting” in 2018, while only about 12 percent “say they were directly or substantially involved in opening a new church in 2018, including 7 percent who were a primary financial sponsor or provided ongoing financial support to a church plant.”
Border ministries growing with need
A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship minister is leading CBF efforts to help immigrants at numerous spots along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Jorge Zapata, also the associate coordinator of missions and Hispanic ministries for CBF Texas, is coordinating efforts to support churches ministering to asylum seekers from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, Fellowship Southwest said in a recent announcement.
The greatest needs are to establish and operate feeding centers in six Mexican cities, and to build bunk beds for an immigration shelter in Piedras Negras, Mexico, said Zapata, the leader of Fellowship Southwest’s immigrant ministry.
“Our pastors have been working hard to decide the best, most cost-effective way to feed hungry immigrants on the border,” Zapata said in the announcement. “At our feeding stations, we are providing two meals per day, and for $2, we can serve six meals. So, for every $2 contribution, we can feed three people for a day.”
Baptist congregations are feeding around 1,500 people daily in Tijuana, Juarez, Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros, he said.
Fellowship Southwest said it has released $12,500 for shelter, food, clothing, transportation and bunk bed supplies.
Volunteers are needed to work with border congregations to prepare and distribute meals to help build the bunk beds.
Financial contributions may be made online.
Congregations urged to sing a cappella
For congregations unaccustomed to singing without accompaniment, “a cappella singing can be startling and offer an opportunity to reflect on the power of singing together,” the Hymn Society said its announcement.
In not using instruments, church members are often better able to “hear the corporate sound far more powerfully.”
The practice also is a reminder that the human voice is the most important instrument in congregational singing, the organization said.
“As many of our communities prepare for the most sacred celebrations of the year, we extend best wishes for corporate song that ‘shapes faith, heals brokenness, transforms lives, and renews peace.’”