The latest census numbers are out and people are leaving Detroit in alarming numbers. The USA Today reports that the Detroit population dropped 25% during the last decade to a number of 713,777, their lowest number since 1910.
What was interesting to me was why the people were leaving. These reasons are something that all pastors and church leaders should be aware of. Knowing these warning signs may help prevent a 25% drop in your population over the next decade.
- People Doing Something Meaningful – Is it easy to get involved and volunteer at your church? A bad economy forced many out of Detroit as they needed to look for work. People want to do something significant with their one and only life. They want to be productive and make a difference at your church. Not having a volunteer culture or not creating easy opportunities for them to work/serve will force them “to look for work” elsewhere.
- Changing Communities – Are you still doing ministry the same way you always have? A drop in home prices in the suburbs made homes affordable for inner-city residents. If changes in your community are creating a population shift, your church may need to change its style of ministry or even relocate to remain relevant.
- Youth and Children – Many are leaving Detroit because of safety issues and the quality of schools. If your church does not possess an effective Youth and Children’s ministry, you will lose the next generation and not have a sustainable ministry.
- Red Tape and Regulations – Does your pastor have the freedom to do what God has called him to do or does he/she have to work through layers of committees and church Boards? Higher insurance and tax rates have made it difficult to live in Detroit. Unnecessary policy and procedures constrict ministry and life change. It’s as if there is a Ministry Failure Index. The more layers a pastor must go through to do what he/she feels called to do, the less effective ministry becomes.
- Apathy – Many Detroit residents simply don’t care anymore. There’s nothing more they can do. It simply isn’t worth it. Nothing is going to change. Years of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations can result in apathy from the congregation setting in. This is a cancer that can and often does kill a church.
We have often believed that people show their enthusiasm for the church by their giving. While that is a primary indicator, the people of Detroit voted with their feet. They just left.
Are people leaving your church? While it is expedient to blame the pastor, try looking at these 5 items first. Figuring out the solution to your declining attendance issues may be easier than you think.
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