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.

 

 

11 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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
    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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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/

    Reply
  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.

    Reply

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