The Local Church Looks to the Future by Lyle E. Schaller

By Lyle E. Schaller

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Is it possible for congregations that have become irrelevant to the neighborhood to become renewed, to reach out to the unchurched, to be a church in mission again? Or do they inevitably disappear? History gives a mixed answer to these questions. Many parishes such as Trinity do eventually disappear. Some merge, others relocate, and many simply die through the process of dissolution. In a typical year an average of at least eight Protestant congregations disappear every day as a result of mergers and dissolutions.

1. How does the traditional training of ministers affect the functioning of cooperative ministries? One of the greatest barriers to the implementation of proposals for new cooperative ministries is that the pastors of some of the churches that should be involved are unwilling to share in such a venture. This should not be regarded as a surprising fact because the entire process of selecting and training men for the ministry tends to attract the "lone wolf" type. The call to the ministry is a highly personal experience.

During the last fifteen years our membership total has dropped from about 525 to 364 members; church attendance is down to about 150 to 175 compared with a dozen years ago when we never had less than 200 at worship. Our Sunday school attendance is about half of what it used to be," continued Mr. Cole. "I know we pay all our bills and pay our apportionments for benevolences in full, but I feel we're becoming terribly ingrown and irrelevant. I am sure that an increasing percentage of our members are in their retirement years, and I know a great many have moved out of the neighborhood and drive back in to attend church.

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