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May 07, 2009


David Ewart

Hi Kurt,
Thanks for your response. Preparing the slides left me discouraged too. I'd now say that the data shows that this not just us UCC folks - this is a trend now affecting all churches in Canada and the US. And in a nutshell, there is widespread and deep social change that is too big for each congregation to successfully respond to by itself. We need radical cooperation to address this. And. We also need to learn how to evolve our form of doing church so that we feed from what there is more of in the environment rather than continuously adapting to what there is less of. Which is easy to say - but no one that I know of really has any idea how to do this in a way that is financially and organizationally self-supporting. Our presbytery - Vancouver Burrard - is also looking at exactly the same issues - so share all your good ideas with us!!!


Hi David,

Your work is immensely helpful if discouraging. In our September meeting of Hamilton Presbytery, we were shown a pie-chart of a recent survey just analyzing congregational survivability. 5% were certain to survive, 15% with change, 15% with lots of change, 15% with radical change; 50% with no hope of survival. Very sobering for everybody. The new theme is 'discipleship' which I agree is the solution. What to reject is a 'citizenship' agenda, i.e., rid ourselves of the 40+ year agenda training everyone to be agents of cultural relevance.

Kurt Anders Richardson,
Ryerson United Church, Ancaster, Ontario

David Ewart

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the response and questions.

I have used Excel 2007 for all the graphing, including using the TREND function for the projections - it is a fairly simple "least squares" calculation.

I have done some testing - which I can post later - where I used the data for 1988 to 1997 to project the TREND for 1998 to 2007. The 2007 TREND result and the actual result differed by about 1%.

The Annual Comparitive stats are available as an Excel spreadsheet from the GC Office. I'd be interested in seeing whatever results you might get exploring other possible ways of projecting future trends.

My analysis actually EXPLICITLY said, "if the trend of the past decade continues unchanged."

Personally, I hope the trend does change.

But the questions that must be addressed are:

* What reasonable reasons are there to believe that the trend will change? Simply hoping they will is not a good "reason."

* What long term plans / actions is anyone taking to try and change these trends? I say "long term" because - unlike the stock market - demographic trends do NOT change overnight. In fact, it may take decades before any change is seen. And, as I have said, if the trend of the past decade continues unchanged - we don't have decades.

Thanks for the questions. Conversations make for richer, more nuanced understandings.

David E.


David, it looks like you are using straight line approximations for your projections. Are they statistically valid? If you used regression analysis would you get a different result?

There is no question that the church is in a state of decline according to a number of measures, but your analysis implicitly assumes that no changes will be made. Is that assumption reasonable?

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