Dwindling church attendance has another wrinkle. A growing number of people who do attend are spreading their attendance among multiple churches.
Mom and dad may like the ambience and friends at First Church, but their teenage kids like the youth ministry at Second Church. So the family attends both churches at different times. Their neighbors have a slew of other reasons for playing “musical chairs” among various churches.
Is this a bad thing? Apparently, if you check with church leaders. Steve Hewitt at American Church magazine surveyed pastors on their churches’ rules concerning membership. He found that 71 percent of churches prohibit their people from joining other churches.
Why do you suppose that is? Is it a fear of mixing a dangerous theological cocktail? Is it contributing to the dreaded consumer mentality? Is it a concern about diluting the home church’s volunteer pool? Is it a sign of paranoia over church comparisons? Or is it simply a resistance to dividing the tithe?
What subtle message does this jealous rule send? That one’s faith should be exercised in only one location? Might it be healthier to be thankful, especially in these days of declining church involvement, that people choose to plug in somewhere–or multiple somewheres?
Like denominationalism, exclusive church membership will continue to slide. Whether we like it or not. People today are culturally less likely to join or reserve their loyalty to any organization.
Perhaps this is the time for the church to shed one of its man-made rules. And show the world what it means to belong to the Body of Christ.