As I return from a ministry trip to Cuba (more on that adventure later), I’m republishing a favorite article from last year for you:
Nationally, about 17% of the American population attends church services weekly, according to the American Church Research Project. In this blog I’ve been spotlighting some characteristics of this shrinking audience.
Today we look at the 5th characteristic–today’s loyal church goers tend to be Auditory learners. They take in and remember primarily through their ears. The contemporary church service suits them because it’s predominately an auditory experience. Simply put, Christian church services are approximately half lecture, and half sing-along. And increasingly, sing-along has become less singing along and more listening along.
So, does this predominately auditory approach give us hope for reversing the trend of shrinking church participation? Well, research shows that 30 percent or less of the population is made up of auditory learners. Most of the population processes information and thoughts primarily in other ways. They tend to tune out when asked to endure a presentation that implies they should sit still and listen.
I suspect that many if not most clergy are themselves auditory learners. Because auditory presentations work for them they assume auditory presentations work for everyone. That’s a dangerous assumption.
The five characteristics I’ve described–Audience-oriented, Anonymous, Authority-centered, Academic, and Auditory–help to describe today’s loyal church goers. For the past hundred years the church has shaped its worship times to appeal to this minority. This architecture is familiar and comfortable to the minority. So, it makes some sense to continue to offer ministry in the familiar ways. But if the church desires to grow beyond its limited impact and reach out to the majority it will need to also offer forms of ministry that look different.
I love the church. And I want to see today’s church become more effective in delivering the Good News. This passion has led me to work on designing some new approaches that fit those people who churches have not been reaching.
A result of this work has been Lifetree Cafe. It’s a new form of ministry that has been designed from the get-go to work with the majority–regular people who grapple with everyday issues and are naturally curious to see how God may be relevant to these issues. We’ve designed it to be a turnkey system that local churches and others can license in their areas. Learn more at www.discover.lifetreecafe.com.