My home congregation is in some ways emblematic of the dilemmas facing mainline Protestants. Bethel Peniel Presbyterian Church is located in a small town in upstate New York where Presbyterians were dominant in the 18th century and numerous in the 19th. A century ago, one of its predecessor churches had more than 300 members—as many as the building could hold.
According to a study by Giving USA Foundation, religious organizations reported a 0.7 percent decrease in donations last year—a marked contrast from the 5.5 percent increase in giving reported in 2008.
Southern Baptist Convention president Johnny Hunt has urged members of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination to move beyond their comfort zones as they seek new ways to evangelize and combat declining baptism rates.
The Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard shows that 85 percent of multisite churches are growing. The study of 535 multisite churches released last fall shows that struggling churches’ chances of survival are best when they merge with a multisite church. Megachurches are taking note of the trend. Jeff Bogue, senior pastor of a megachurch in the Akron, Ohio, area, says that multisite churches are a way of taking the church to where the people are, rather than making them come to you. It is a way of relocating the local church (Akron Beacon Journal, April 4).