Will the Church of the Nazarene survive the Next Decade? Part I: The Challenges

The upcoming decade could be a make or break decade for the Church of the Nazarene. 94% of the funding for the Church of the Nazarene comes from the USA/Canada church, but that region is in decline. As we move into the 2020’s, here’s my attempt to predict the future state of the Church of the Nazarene (Hint: It’s not pretty).

Disclaimers before reading:

  1. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. Unlike Amos, I am not even a fig grower.
  2. The new and improved (in many ways) Nazarene website has removed (or at least, I couldn’t find much of the) past statistical information– which greatly hindered some of this analysis.
  3. I am bad at predicting things. i.e. Every year I predict the Lions to win the Super Bowl. In other words, take the following for what it’s worth.

To understand and predict where the church will be in 2030, one must understand the current reality.

Pastors are old and getting older. In 2016, the Pensions and Benevolence Office published a graph relating to the age of the Nazarene Pastors Age in the USA. It listed 4,155 pastors (clearly there are more ordained and licensed ministers in the USA than 4155, so I am not exactly sure how this number was ascertained.). Of those pastors listed in in the P&B report, by 2030, 2,242 will be above the age of 65 (54%). Some of those ministers will still be preaching in 2030, but many, many will have retired or gone to their eternal reward.

Churches are smaller and giving is down. In the last decade, per capita giving is down in the USA church by 3.1% and attendance is down 5.8%. It appears that we are on the downside of a slippery slope. The numbers will accelerate as more churches close and members die off. In fact, the 2020 report may look rosy compared to the coming numbers in 2030. In other words, the situation is more critical than the current numbers indicate.

The church isn’t just getting smaller and giving less, look around any District Assembly in the Church of the Nazarene and you will determine it’s not just the pastors who are getting older. The church is full of old people. The greying and dying off of the faithful members of the 2010-2020 church, will greatly impact the 2030 church.

Many churches will close by 2030. A quick perusal and an educated guess of my district’s churches (Eastern Michigan District) would indicate that possibly half of the churches will be closed or on serious life support by the end of the next decade if nothing changes. I don’t think my district is atypical.

Closing Churches will help the clergy ageing crisis. Less churches means less pastors are needed to fill those churches. But the closing of churches will also affect the district budgets and more directly general church funding (WEF).

Districts will survive the next decade, only because the monies produced by the selling off the properties of the closed churches goes into the districts coffers. Giving to the general church will see a sharp decline (they don’t get monies sold off of real estate).

With less money from apportionments; less students in the marketplace; less loyalty of Nazarene students attending Nazarene institutions; a changing culture regarding Christian education; and the strong possibility of the changing of federal funding to Christian institutions, it would not be surprising if two or three of the Nazarene Universities in USA/Canada will not survive the next decade.

As the USA/Canada church shrinks, there will be a drastic reduction in general church giving (WEF) from USA/Canada (again 94% of the Church of the Nazarene comes from USA/Canada). This will mean drastic global changes will be necessary such as:

  • Less missionaries.
  • Five year General Assemblies (or General Assemblies done with video conferencing and electronic voting on the regions instead of gathering in one location).
  • Less travel for the General Superintendents and others
  • A leaner GMC staff from their already reduced staffing.
  • With reduced staffing and support available, the selling of the currently two thirds full GMC building and using the funds to sustain critical ministries.
  • Less monies available for the global regions, will mean less education institutions globally, less support for other projects and less funding for compassionate ministries. In other words, the regions will need to learn to survive with much less WEF funds available.

With the decline of the USA/Canada Church, the global Church of the Nazarene will face greater challenges than at any time in our history. I don’t want to be “that guy” that points out the problems and offers no help. In tomorrow’s blog, I will offer some possible solutions to help stave off the coming storm.



24 thoughts on “Will the Church of the Nazarene survive the Next Decade? Part I: The Challenges

  1. Charles Baker

    Rob, Your projections are chillingly observant. In truth they apply to much of the Evangelical Church in general.
    I am waiting for your “remedy” post.
    My personal opinion, the church needs, not a revival, but an awakening. The noticeable loss of our message (Salvation and personal Holiness) and it’s replacement with a sort of Service Club focus will doom the organized evangelicals unless it is reversed.
    Our reason for existence is the gospel message. We have become so busy with peripherals that we are in danger of losing our reason… An AWAKENING is the answer.

  2. Gerald Moran

    I think we all know the problem, but knowing what we can do to advance the institutions of the denominations is the challenge! Looking forward to suggestions.

  3. Mike Jones

    The future has looked “dimmed” for years in my opinion. Not something I like saying. Our daughter pastors a Nazarene church with one member besides her husband and two children. Our church is small but steady and things are looking up some what but not leaping in the air celebrating yet.
    I have wondered for many years if we are heading into the days the Bible talks of when no man can do the works. It sure seems like the last days but even if so, we are charged with continuing to offer Christ and his redemption, no matter the responce, positive or negative.

  4. fletcher tink

    Your predictions ignore the large percentage of the Church which exists outside of North America and, for the most part, is growing in numbers and influence. This in itself will create a much different CON which needs to be held together by a common ethos, a common commitment to doctrine and mission. Whether this will happen is open to discussion, or maybe there will be breakaways, as national churches find their own identities.

    1. Rob Prince Post author

      Thank you for your input Fletcher. The point I was trying to make is not that the church outside the USA is not growing and influential, it is. But that the church outside the USA is financed (to the tune of 94%) by the USA/Canada churches. If those USA/Canada churches die, then the financing of these exciting and growing areas will be hindered. Tomorrow’s blog addresses how we might stave off this coming storm with less available monies from the USA/Canada region.

    2. Barbara martin

      I miss the old hymns of the church. The ones that when things get a little unsettling you sing. The younger generation won’t have the opportunity to seek comfort in them because the church no longer sings them pity!

      1. dadraypa

        Being relatively new to the Nazarene church (2012, when our independent local church closed admirably), we are flabbergasted by all the concerns, but, as I commented here 2-8-22, we were fatally disillusioned as our “new” Nazarene church shed all appearance of ministering to the established [old] generations in an effort to go where the future seemed to be.
        From one extreme to the other is not a good plan! With you 100 X, Barbara Martin!!

  5. Daniel Edward Whitney

    Rob-I enjoy your blog. I think your predictions are too generous. I think our social positions will tear us apart by the end of the coming decade, adding to the rest of what you said. Like much of society, we have lost the ability to talk kindly to one another about contentious and frightening problems, so we are unable to honestly confront and resolve issues . . . issues of leadership, organizational structure or evolving theology. Non sequitur. I think of your parents often. When I preach holiness messages I often use them as an example, based on their ministry in Detroit.

  6. Jim Franklin

    Awakening and revival are the foci of my prayers along with obedience to the leadings of the Holy Spirit are what my vision for the future for our denominational family are and likely I wont be here by 2030.

  7. Wayne R. Harris

    The decline of the Christian church in America will not, unfortunately, escape the church of the Nazarene. I am a Nazarene and can easily see this decline, most importantly the church is not attracting the millennial generation. I do not know what the solution is for this. Our congregations are rapidly aging; most of the membership in my church, may very well have passed on by the year 2030, myself included. I truly believe the Nazarene church must find a way to connect with those within their sphere of influence/

  8. Rodney Amos

    Appreciate this article and as a 30 year pastor both bivocational and full time, our future concerns me as well. I’ve been contemplating that there needs to be some kind of financial reorganization because of the stress placed on the local church.

  9. John

    We recently moved next door to a large Church of the Nazarene that has female pastors, a Dungeons and Dragons group, and seems eager to do things that will draw a crowd. It is nothing like the Nazarene church of my youth. So if the Nazarene church survives, it will be in name only, just one more crowd-pleasing evangelical organization that has very little connection with Christianity’s historical roots.

    1. Rob Prince Post author

      Not sure where you are John or what church you are referring to– but I will say that the Church of the Nazarene has always had female pastors (in fact, I believe in our earliest days, 20% of our pastors were female). I believe the first female ordained (Antonette Brown– if my 57 year-old-brain remembers seminary correctly) was ordained in the holiness movement (pre-dating the CotN) in the 1870’s. All this to say, we’ve always had female ministers. That is not “crowd-pleasing” that is who we are. There is plenty to critique the modern church upon, female ministers isn’t one of them. Thanks for your input. I hope you find a church where you can grow in the Lord. Many blessings.

  10. Clyde

    Politics entered the Nazarene Church about 8 years ago. The Nones of all three generations are turning away from the church as they is no longer see the need for salvation as currently preached by the church today. It is entertaining and reflects a political slant instead of salvation. Yes, the decline is coming.

  11. RAY

    Our pastor is trying to skip the “seniors” [read that, “faithful older generations”], and revise everything to attract the “current” generations, whom we also love.
    From remodeling completely, to eliminating any hint of reverent structure and tradition in ALL worship “services,” the seniors are being thrown under the bus. We hear what y’all are saying about drawing in the new generations, but we must now look elsewhere than this RADICAL “contemporary” mayhem.

    1. Mark

      I’ve become convinced that it is our “model” of church in Western culture which is declining more than anything. The local church has existed in a particular style in local communities. They planted, built buildings, hired clergy, and attempted to grow in their parish. In the 1950’s -1970’s leaders would have probably assumed we would always have more churches, people, and funding. The early church was a movement. John Wesley started a movement with no intention of founding another church (loyal to the church of England until his death). So — it appears that our model and structure need to change to fit the mission of the church.

  12. Tameary Connard

    I follow Scripture, therefore I think that women preachers should not be allowed to preach or teach in male settings, I went to a Nazerine Church and there was a female teacher leading a service, a male Christian made a comment and she told him,” I disagree with you”, that goes against all Biblical teaching!!!

  13. Stephen ray north

    I am a 65 yo man that was raised in the CON and feel so blessed to have experienced what I did as a kid. Church was our life. It made a profound impact on me. Revivals, old rich hymns, Sunday School, prayer meetings, Sunday night church, alter calls and more. I left the church and basically went deep into sin. I’m desperately trying to get back into right relationship with God. But I’ll tell ya – today – you are on your own in the CON. I sought out several Nazarene churches in my city and having been gone for 40 years I’m absolutely shocked at the modern church. Sunday am church with music that has no depth. Banging and pounding on drums and guitars and screaming the music . Can’t tell if I’m at church or a dance bar. No alter call – ever. No prayer meetings – ever. No Sunday night service – ever. No beautiful rich hymns – ever. Never ever will you hear about a revival – ever! I’m stunned at how watered down it has all become. I can’t believe nobody else notices it. I basically gave up and now I attend an Assembly of God church. I overlook the speaking in tongues. They preach like I remember. They still have a Wednesday night prayer meeting and the pastor emphasizes how important that is. There will be 500 people there on Wednesday nights praying their hearts out. The church is packed and growing and people’s lives are being changed. I have cried over the Nazarene church and what it has become. It breaks my heart to see it so dead and ineffective.

    1. Rob Prince Post author

      Steven I don’t know where you live, but our Nazarene church still has a service with choir and hymns (we have a band service too); still have prayer services (we have and entire week where someone is in the building praying 24/7); still have altar calls; still have revival; lives are still be changed. I’m glad you found a church that you enjoy and that is preaching the Word. There are still Nazarene churches that do too! God bless!

    2. james M ross

      I have shared your experience in a half dozen or more different Nazarene churches in Tennessee.
      They are a shell of the Church I knew growing up.

  14. Pingback: Why the Upcoming General Assembly is the Most Important One in Decades (maybe ever) | Rob Prince's Blog

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