Can Our Church Live?: Redeveloping Congregations in Decline

by Alice Mann. The Alban Institute, 1999.

Can waning and dying congregations actually live again? The author paints a picture of cautious but energizing optimism. Demographics, says Alice Mann, have not been friendly to mainline churches, but other factors can reverse a church's decline and give it new vitality. First, there needs to be a faith-based sense of purpose that extends beyond church walls, rather than a focus on survival and maintenance. To become vital, a church also needs a clear and positive identity, ongoing attention to nonmembers in the community, congregational harmony, positive relationships between clergy and laity, and small group programs where people can form deeper ties to one another and connect their faith with daily life. This study provides excellent theory, contextual case studies, and inspiration to allow leaders of congregations in decline to struggle through their wilderness and to imagine new possibilities for a more faithful and vital future.