In Search of the Unchurched: Why People Don't Join Your Congregation

by Alan C. Klaas. The Alban Institute, 1996.

A two-year study by four Lutheran organizations concludes that (1) we have changed from a churched to an unchurched society, and (2) the best hope for dealing with this shift is the individual congregation. Although large numbers of families are now unaffiliated with any church, most profess a belief in religion and many say they pray or read the Bible. Outreach to them and to all people is what will keep churches from dying. But many congregations, largely because they operate as if belonging to a church and worshiping every Sunday is still what most people do, tend to minister only to their own members and to find new members only in people who know and accept their traditional liturgy and dogma. They cannot survive for much longer. The book examines the transitions entailed by a shift to an unchurched society and provides exercises to help congregations understand these transitions and analyze how well they are making them. Actions to take and ways to initiate such actions are suggested that will meet people on their own ground, proclaiming the faith by caring ministry rather than by theology.