Fellowship At The Ranch

Ed Jones

In its Dec. 8, 2022, report, the PEW Research Center stated that about 4 in 10 U.S. adults believe humanity is “living in the end times.” One would think that with such a prevalent belief extant in America that church attendance would be soaring. Yet the opposite is also found in a March 2021 report by the same center.

The article is titled, “U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time!” Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend.

They continue the report by stating that U.S. church membership was 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and remained near 70% for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21st century.

According to PEW, the cause of this decline is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference. Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years.

As would be expected, Americans without a religious preference are highly unlikely to belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque.

Most of the rest of the drop can be attributed to a decline in formal church membership among Americans who do have a religious preference. Between 1998 and 2000, an average of 73% of religious Americans belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. Over the past three years, the average has fallen to 60%. The report also explores the differences between generations, with the largest deficit among millennials. Of course, the pandemic greatly exacerbated the problem.

I’ve questioned other pastors to determine what can be done to reverse the trend. Remembering that no one person can do this work alone, here’s what we do at Fellowship At The Ranch:

1. We Meet in Small Groups. Small groups have always been at the heart of the church. Jesus conducted the first small groups as he called disciples and then sent them out as apostles. His small group lasted a mere three years, but all of His students became teachers of new classes after he died and was resurrected.

2. We Keep it Short. Spend time together, but keep your offerings short and sweet. People’s attention spans have shortened, and their lives have gotten busier. My men’s study is 45 minutes.

3. Mix Social and Spiritual. Intentionally combine the social and the spiritual to create a stronger community. Our monthly Fellowship Lunches and other functions fill this bill.

4. Rely on the Robson Community. True to Robson’s community nature, our congregation is all about doing life together. Our goal is to “bring intentional community back to the neighborhood.”

5. We Pray. There is no substitute for intentional prayer.

My prayer and hope is to see you in church this Sunday.

Ed Jones pastors Fellowship At The Ranch Church at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. For information, visit Fellowship’s website www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.com.