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Challenged churches

Jonathan Hein

“Are we a challenged church?”

One congregation closes every 90 minutes, as Americans continue to walk away from church in record numbers. Five out of six Christian churches are smaller today than they were five years ago. It is not surprising that the term “challenged churches” is growing in use.

Definitions differ. Some will say a church is challenged if worship attendance drops by a certain percentage in a year. Others will talk about a sustained membership decline over multiple years being the lead indicator. Still others claim a church is challenged if its membership does not somewhat reflect the demographics of its neighborhood.

However, I am not sure if, “Are we a challenged church?” is the correct question. Because the answer is simple. Yes. We are part of the church militant, battling against “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). This side of heaven, every congregation is going to face challenges.

Since that is the case, it seems the better question is, “What are the biggest challenges before us?”

When that is answered, we can ask the follow-up question: “What will we do to attempt to meet those challenges?”
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Hein offers insights gained through statistical analysis

Jonathan Hein speaking at convention 2023
Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, offered synod convention delegates a picture of the current state of WELS and opportunities for the future. The basis for his presentation was the 2022 WELS Statistical Summary and Analysis, which contains data from all WELS congregations and schools. Click to view Hein's presentation, which begins at the 2:54:00 timestamp.

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