Churches in Canada are “grappling with formidable problems that threaten their very existence,” reports a cover story in Macleans magazine (Nov. 29), the weekly Canadian news journal.
Among other problems, specialists point to the most worrisome being that of a 50-year decline in attendance at Sunday services. In a society where 87 percent of the people state they are Christian, only 20 percent actually attend church on a weekly basis. In the 15 to 24 year old age group, only 12 per cent attend weekly. Specialists attribute this largely to the inability of the churches to redesign their programs to meet the major transformations in Canadian society: single-parent households, blended families, mixed marriages,
increasing affluence, new technologies and altered work habits.
The increasing number of wage earners who are required to work on Sunday by their employers has cut into attendance. Also rising maintenance costs have made huge dents in the budgets of urban and rural churches. Aware of the decline, Canadian church leaders are trying a variety of counterprograms, implemented within the existing denominations. The mainline bodies are increasing their emphasis on the ministries generally belonging to the evangelicals.
They accent personal devotions, Bible studies and door to door evangelism. They note that the Pentecostals and other independent bodies are attracting converts with their programs embracing more spiritual energy, personal witness, contemporary music, and less hierarchy. Mainline bodies also are tailoring sermons to attract younger audiences. So far, the article concludes, it is too early to tell whether the new programs among the mainline churches will turn back the decline in membership.
Everyone involved agrees the churches, Protestant and Catholic, can no longer take attendance or support for granted. New, innovative programs will remain for the foreseeable future at the head of all Canadian church agendas.
— By Erling Jorstad