QT4CM Episode 06

church growth Nov 22, 2016

Dr. Joel Thiessen again shares insights on the dominant trends of religion in North America.

Europe and North America are moving in a progressive and increasingly secular direction. Secularization is a dominant narrative.   Click the green play button to listen to Dr. Joel Thiessen: The rise of people who say they have no religion represents one in three teenagers, one in four  adults. It's the fastest growing "religious" group in the modern western world. For example in Canada:

...one in two Canadian teenagers never attend religious services today. One in three Canadian teenagers say they have no religion. If you want to know where a religious group is going, you look to your young people. It is very rare that people convert later on in life. It doesn't mean it's impossible and we would all think of anecdotal stories where that's happened. On the whole, you look to your young people. Another trend pertains to Christian identification. Christianity is the lead religion in Canada. When you ask Canadians, "What religion do you identify with?" 67% of Canadians say, "Christianity." However, over the last decade this has diminished over 10 percentage points. I think the take-home point here is that Christianity is the lead religion in terms of identification, but it is waning. What does that mean for local churches then when fewer and fewer Canadians in your neighbourhoods, in your cities and your communities have even a passing reference to Christianity? A generation ago we could take for granted that people would know who Jesus was, who denied Jesus three times, all these kinds of things. There isn't that cultural memory relative to Christianity. I think that's an important trend to grapple with.





JOEL THIESSEN, PhD  Ambrose University

Associate Professor of Sociology & Director of Flourishing Congregations Institute

Dr. Joel Thiessen is a sociologist of religion who specializes in religion in Canada. His academic interests developed as an undergraduate student at Nazarene University College. He obtained his MA and PhD at the University of Waterloo before heading to Ambrose University (Calgary, Alberta) in 2008 where he currently serves as Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Flourishing Congregations Institute.

The Flourishing Congregations Institute is a new institute set up at Ambrose University to explore and understand what makes congregations thrive. Where are there signs of life, and vitality, and health, and what can we learn from those signs of life and vitality? What are the catalysts — the contributors to flourishing congregations? In this episode Dr. Joel Thiessen points to five things that are emerging as starting points for entering this study of "flourishing congregations".

  1. Congregations that have a clear self-identity. They know who they are, they know what it is they're trying to do, and where they're going.
  2. They have a committed leadership. They equip and empower leaders, they have leaders who stick around for the long haul, and leadership is a central part of how and why congregations flourish.
  3. They have a desire to grow numerically, but they also desire to grow spiritually and organizationally. They measure. They count. They are accountable in various ways for the kinds of things they're doing at a congregational level.
  4. They are a hospitable community. These are places that receive people well, that are warm places that people feel connected to, that they feel loved, and embraced, and these kinds of things.
  5. They have a vibrant spiritual life among leaders, among congregants, across a congregation.

Dr. Joel Thiessen also points to other determinants in the DNA of flourishing congregations:

  • Embrace risk and try new things
  • Stewardship — not just of money — of resources, land, volunteers
  • Intentional discourse on "what are we leaving to the next generation"?
  • Ability to navigate conflict well
  • A strong outward-facing presence in the community

  Follow Dr. Joel Thiessen on Twitter, his website, or The Flourishing Congregations Institute.   And read his intriguing book: "The Meaning of Sunday"    "Fewer Canadians identify with a religion, believe in a god, or attend weekly religious services than in past decades." "What explains higher and lower levels of religiosity? Is secularization a myth or reality? What impact does religiosity or secularity have on a society’s social and civil fabric?" "In The Meaning of Sunday, Joel Thiessen addresses these questions by weaving together narratives from interviews with members of both religious and secular communities. Exploring the meanings and motivations behind people’s religious beliefs and behaviours, the book features discussions with three groups of people: those who attend religious services weekly, those who attend services mainly for religious holidays and rites of passage, and those who do not identify with any religious group and never attend religious services. Interview responses show that religiosity levels correlate to one’s personal experiences with the supernatural, religious organizations, and social ties with those who either encourage or discourage religious identification, belief, or practice." "The Meaning of Sunday provides in-depth qualitative research on people's "lived religion" and contributes to a major ongoing debate concerning the nature and importance of religion in contemporary society."

Summary from Amazon.




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