Sunday, March 18, 2012

Celtic Model: An Answer To The Meltdown Of Mainline Finances

WE HAVE THREE YEARS TO FIGURE IT OUT reports on Episcopal Diocesan Executive as quoted in a webside called Knightopia. He takes an insightful look at the financial stewardship problems all churches face when the generational shift moves from the Baby Boomers to Generation X.  He writes that we have three years to plan for "the major generational shifts that are happening in the Church and the radical impacts they will have on faithful communities in the future."  Here is what he says.

The primary years that Episcopalians pledge and give to their church are between the ages of 50 and 70.

Around 2015, the oldest Baby Boomers will begin moving out of the 50-70 age range, and the oldest Generation Xers will begin moving into that age range.

There are far fewer GenXers than there are BabyBoomers and older, so there's no way they can "replace" those who will stop giving based on population numbers alone.

Generation X is the first generation that will no longer give to support anything based on affiliation (e.g. "I'm an Episcopalian/Disciple/Lutheran/Methodist/[fill in the blank], therefore I'll give to my local [fill in the blank] church."

The Diocesan Executive concludes that "churches for the first time ever will need to really earn people's participation and financial support, rather than simply expecting the members to remained engaged and cover all the costs.  The average small church requires about $220,000 to exist with a clergy person, and I am not sure that Generations X and Y are willing to pay the bills required for their wedding photos to be well-staged.  I love our churches...but I think the future of the church will be house-churches which us the church building as a meeting house."

Episcopl national statistics show that giving trends have been moving steadily south since their peak on 2007 as demonstrated in decreasing pledge and plate receipts.  In addition, 58% of all congregations in US Denominations are financial stressed, and 72% of Episcopal Churches are feeling the pinch.   Finally, congregational giving to Dioceses peaked in 2008 and then has fallen off sharply since then.

Our Diocesan Executive may be right in suggesting that house-churches are the wave of the future.  I also like the idea of shopping center churches too.  Whatever the form the future takes, the house-church or the equivalent is perfect for the Celtic Model.  Here is why.  Before long many congregations won't be able to support their buildings.  Already many can't afford full time clergy.  But the house church/shopping center model is perfect for the Celtic Circle.  There is no building to support.  With that burden lifted,  paarticipants worship with chairs in a circle and the altar in the middle.  The Presiding Elder/Bishop sits in the circle, not above it.  The liturgy is designed in such a way that all of the senses are involved.  In the circle, worshippers experience The Word while mystically seeing Christ in the other person.  Transformed though sensory and sacramental liturgy, worhsippers go out into the world seeking Christ in society.  Everyone is Jesus.  The Creation is Jesus.  The poor and rich alike are Jesus.  Then and only then can a true servant ministry become more transformational than it ever has.

1 comment:

  1. Bob, there is underneath the scary statistics,hope, as you suggest, by looking at the Celtic model of radically local and focusing on relationships as events to discover the presence of the divine, the Christ. There is hope that we might also recover serious liturgy as both intimate and personal as well as occasional truly massive liturgies that would be well orchestrated and seriously organized at times of great celebrations such as Easter. As it is mediocrity has come to be the norm in local congregational liturgies where insufficient financial and human resources and talent bring forth drab and poor worship events and wherein few, if anyone, is inspired. Let us look forward to authentic worship that can be both intimate and truly grand as the context demands and the appropriate resources are available.