01: Because church leaders and laity come out of atypically large churches they are often unprepared for ministry in the more common small congregations that dot the U.S. The National Congregations Study (NCS), one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, finds that although most congregations are small, most people go to large congregations.
The average congregation has only 75 members, but the average person attends a church with at least 400 regular attenders. In the Lilly Endowment’s newsletter Initiatives in Religion (Winter), Mark Chaves, head of the project, explains that the disparity means that most seminarians and prospective clergy come from large churches and may be unprepared to serve in congregations that are much smaller than their home churches. .
Another finding from the study concerns the differences between newly established congregations and older ones. Newer congregations are more likely to use contemporary services than older institutions and they are also less likely to build bridges between the congregation and groups in the wider community. Newer congregations are less likely to engage in social service and are more inward looking than older ones. A more worrisome finding from the study is that the vast majority of congregations have a hand-to-mouth existence, with only five percent having an endowment or savings that total twice their operating budget.
(Initiatives in Religion, Lilly Endowment, 2801 North Meridian St., P.O. Box 88068, Indianapolis, IN 46208-0068)
02: Recent figures from Germany suggest that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are losing members in that country.
In 2001 the number of active JW members (or missionaries) decreased by 1,500 to 161,440, according to the German evangelical newsletter Idea (April 23). The Protestant Church’s Information Center for Ideologies (EZW) in Berlin cites the official Jehovah’s Witness’ bulletin, the Watchtower as showing the number of baptisms has likewise gone down by 320 to 3,177. The EZW concludes that with an assumed death rate of one percent, about 3,000 members must have left the community in the past year.
“There is probably no other community in Germany that has lost so many members, compared to its total numbers,” according to the EZW. The center also notes that the decrease in Germany is becoming typical of other industrialized nations. In “most all West European countries,” but also in Japan, Canada and the U.S., membership is either stagnating or decreasing.
(Idea, P.O. Box 1820, D-35528 Wetzlar, Germany)