Nov 2, 2021

Terminal Churches

6,000 to 10,000 churches die each year in America - and that number will likely grow in the days ahead.

Between 6,000 and 10,000 churches in the U.S. are dying each year. That means around 100-200 churches will close this week. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes.  -Thom Rainer 

Last year, I was visiting a church and I noticed something that was heartbreaking.  There were no babies in the nursery, no pre-schoolers, no elementary kids and no teenagers.  

I thought to myself, "This church is terminal.  Once the few senior adults who attend have passed away, there will be no more church here.  They will have to close the doors.  If they want their church to reach young families with children, then they are going to have make some shifts in how they do church."

If you can't hear any babies that are crying, then your church is dying.  - Dale

Across our country, you will find many churches that are about to close their doors.  

The question is, what causes a church to enter the terminal category?

When a church cares more about tradition than they do reaching the next generation, they will become terminal.  

When a church spends more on choir robes than they do on discipling the next generation, they will become terminal.

When a church refuses to make ministry changes, they will become terminal.

When a church tells kids to sit still and be quiet at church, they will become terminal.

When a church banishes the next generation to the basement (or other bad facilities), they will become terminal.

When a church refuses to embrace technology as a viable tool to reach the next generation, they will become terminal.

When a church continues to do what they have always done, they will become terminal.

When a church cares more about honorary plaques than they do about the coming generation,  they will become terminal.

When all you can see is gray hair, the church will become terminal.

When none of the cars in the church parking lot have car seats, the church will become terminal.

When a church spends more time talking about the glory days of the past than they do about what God is doing now, the church will become terminal.

When no one wants to volunteer to serve in children's ministry, the church will become terminal.

When a church views children as a bother rather than a blessing, the church will become terminal.

When a church sings hymns and worship songs that no one in the next generation is singing, the church will become terminal.  

An unhealthy church only has one generation attending.  A healthy, balanced church has all generations attending. Great grandparents, grandparents, parents, college students, high school students, middle school students, pre-teens, elementary kids, preschoolers and babies are all part of the congregation.

A church that never has a parent and child dedication service is terminal.  

A church that cares more about preserving the past than they do preparing for the future is terminal.

Is your church terminal?  Are you not reaching young families?  

Do you not hear laughter, giggles and kids being told to slow down in the hallway?  

Is the baptistry dry and has cobwebs because kids, students and parents are not being reached and baptized? 

If any of these scenarios are true in your church, I am not here to bash you or discourage you.  

There is good news.  You can reach the next generation.  You can see young families being drawn to your ministry.  You can hear crying in the nursery again.  You can hear kids laughing and giggling in the hallways and classrooms.  

It simply takes you being committed to reaching the next generation.

It takes reaching out for the future instead of boasting about the past.

It takes being intentional about creating environments that will attract and keep young families. 

It takes looking back at the generation that is following you and realizing it's about them a whole lot more than it is about you.  

I pray that as you finish up this year and then launch into a new year, that God will see your heart for the next generation and pour out His blessings upon your ministry.

I pray that the unchurched young families in your community will be drawn to your church. 

I pray that your baptistry will be filled because of people who have accepted Christ and are ready for their next step.  

I pray that instead of being terminal, your church will be life-giving, passionate, multi-generational and reaching for what God has for your future. 

May each church that is terminal or on the edge of becoming terminal, look not to themselves, but to the children and families in their community who are lost without Jesus.

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