Are our churches becoming more diverse?

Posted: February 6, 2014 by efenster in Ideas
Tags: , , , , , ,

EthnicYou’ve heard the phrase that Sunday worship in America is the most segregated hour of all.  In a recent article on the subject by Lovett Weems, director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, Weems makes an interesting observation.  Research indicates that the more options a society has for a particular function–in this case worship–the more likely each entity will attract people like themselves.

This is played out in my neighborhood this way.  There is one public high school serving the area and it is extremely diverse, especially racially and culturally.  However, there are numerous churches and they tend to be very monoracial, monocultural.  Youth growing up in the diverse high school, though, question why their churches are so segregated.  Many young people are expecting such diversity where they worship–including my sons.

Weems, in his article, points out that there is a hopeful sign in The United Methodist Church in that regard.  Since 2000, the percentage of UM churches in the U.S. reporting more than one ethnic group in their congregations has increased from 59% to 70% (in 2011).  He also points out, however, that congregations that are multiracial–defined as a church in which no racial group makes up more than 80% of the congregation–has only increased from 1% to 2% over the same period.  So there’s much work yet to be done.

The United Methodist churches of Indiana appear to reflect this reality.  We have  a growing number of churches, though still very few, intentionally striving to reach the racial minorities living around their churches.  Yet, we still have only a handful of multiracial churches.  Very likely this will have to change if we are to reach the younger generations.  What does your church need to do?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development


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