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.
While 94 percent of Protestant pastors believe their churches are safe places to talk about marital difficulties, fewer than half of churchgoers who divorced in the past five years discussed their marriage problems with their church’s lead pastor, according to new findings by LifeWay Research. High percentages of both churchgoers who divorced (77 percent) and those in healthy marriages (79 percent) agreed in principle that their church is a safe place to talk about marital problems. When their own marriages were failing, however, just 48 percent of the divorced sought counsel from their pastor. Smaller percentages spoke to someone else, and 31 percent told no one at church about their marital problems. Half of divorced churchgoers said their church prayed for them after their separation, and 43 percent said their church supported them (Baptist News Global, October 29).