USA (MNN) — Barna Group has released research for their State of the Church report, finding decreased church attendance among American adults since 1993.
In the third century, Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, said, “No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the Church for his mother.” His words are applicable today as Barna Group reports church attendance is dropping in the United States while Bible reading and prayer hold mostly steady.
Greg Yoder of Keys for Kids Ministries pinpoints a problem in Christian families in America: a lack of Christ-centered training for kids by parents in the home. Christians schools, he says, are no substitute.
Declining church attendance
Barna Group states one-third fewer Americans are attending church than in 1993, with many finding churches irrelevant. Yoder says, “My challenge to parents is not just to teach kids it’s a priority to go to church. Because I think most kids know that it’s a priority to go to church. But teaching our kids to see the church not just as a place of worship, but a place of love. A place to express love to other Christians.”
And that is what draws people to Christian churches. Not tradition, or structure, or even “love” in a general sense, but the love of Christ as reflected by His people.
Yoder talks about one church in the New Testament that had this kind of love. “You know, Paul talked about this in Second Thessalonians and he talked about it as brotherly love. Now, the Thessalonian church was great. It’s showing brotherly love. Paul, in fact, encouraged them to keep doing what they were doing, because they were really good at it. I mean, these new Christians were amazing, showing love overflowing.”
“I think many churches today have haven’t really done a great job of loving on people.”
Because there are so many churches in the United States, people have tended to hop between churches looking for a better experience in a new place.
Barna found that while church attendance has dropped off, Bible reading and prayer has stayed largely the same for a decade. How can this be, and is it an encouraging sign for Christians?
The love of Jesus through the Church
Not really, because reading the Bible without any connection to the church can be dangerous. The United States has seen countless cults rise up claiming to revere the Bible but having lost any connection to the Church.
Yoder points out that merely consuming scripture won’t change anyone’s life. “I think once you’re involved in a local church, not just sitting in the pews consuming it, but actually involved, that’s when this whole thing changes,” he says.
Keys for Kids Ministries’ two devotionals, Keys for Kids and Unlocked, feature daily readings for kids and teens that connect the Bible with the historic teachings of the Christians church, and that focus on the love of Christ for his people.
United Presbyterian Church of Shedd, Oregon. (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)