Is Your Church Diverse Enough to Survive?

A couple of months ago, OnFaith shared a story titled “Are Millennials Really Leaving the Church? Yes — but Mostly White Millennials.” It got considerable social media exposure, likely because anything nodding in the direction of a doomed church is exceptionally shareable. The piece featured a few statistics, including the following:

White Christians make up only a quarter of younger Americans. There are more Nones — those with no religion — than white Christians in this age group.

Yikes. Young white folks, the so-called Future of America, or more likely to have no religion at all than they are Christianity (to say nothing of other religions). The alarm is reasonable. After all, without a young, white, upwardly-mobile congregation, how can any church expect to survive?

Simple: Get with the program, and increase diversity.

That very same week, OnFaith ran a piece called “New Church Growth Strategy: Intentional Ethnic Diversity.” If the first post stated the problem, this was the answer, or at least an answer. And yet, while people (thousands of them) shared the first article, but only a handful shared the second. That’s a shame, because Helen Lee’s expose on intentional diversity is a lot more instructive.

The piece shares several success stories, but what they have in common is this: Churches, faced with aging, dwindling populations, saw the writing on the wall and understood what needed to be done in order to survive. It’s not about tokenism, either – it’s recognizing the ways the community in which you operate has changed, and forging genuine relationships with those people:

On Wednesdays, FCC opens its doors to children and youth in the community for tutoring, rehearsals in one of the many musicals the church produces in conjunction with the local public schools, and a free hot meal. Eighty percent of the people present in these mid-week ministries are non-Anglo.

If your congregation is beginning to look less and less like the community it serves, keep in mind that the primary function of any church is to, y’know, serve its community. While it’s tempting to view change as a hardship or burden, remember that nailing shut the doors of a failed church is likely much harder labor.

It’s important to spread the Word of God, yes. But, you can’t spread the Word to an empty chair.