In their (totally awesome) book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath explain how to bring about organizational change. One of the key principles is to “identify bright spots.” That is, find things that work and learn from them and celebrate them.
Even in the generally dismal state of affairs as the mainline church shrinks into insignificance, there are bright spots. The Methodist Church, in its otherwise disheartening statistical report, noted that the Greater New Jersey and the Kentucky conferences both grew this year: New Jersey for the first time in 45 years.
Leaders in both New Jersey and Kentucky have embraced an adage from church-planting circles that it’s easier to make babies than to raise the dead.
“You don’t grow an annual conference by trying to revitalize existing churches,” Davis said. “I think some can be revitalized. But I don’t think we’ll ever revitalize enough churches to reverse the attendance and membership trends that we’ve seen over the last several decades.”
That’s triage at work, and it sounds harsh. But it holds out the possibility that existing churches can look to their younger, more vital sister congregations, and copy the things that work.
(Aside: what is it about denominational web sites that makes them pick link-unfriendly CMSes? The article itself is hidden behind a Flash(!) “headline,” so it took me three tries to figure out how to link to the article. It’s almost as bad as the PC(USA) web site.)