Characteristics of a Growing/Declining Friends Meeting/Church

https://www.tmatt.net/columns/2016/12/7/canadian-researchers-find-t...

"Canadian researchers find that doctrine really does matter, in terms of church growth." December 12, 2016. No author indicated.

"The bottom line: The faith proclaimed in growing churches was more orthodox – especially on matters of salvation, biblical authority and the supernatural – than in typical mainline congregations. These churches were thriving on the doctrinal fringes of shrinking institutions.

"The people running these old, established denominations didn't actually know much about their own growing churches," said Haskell, reached by telephone. "Either that or they didn't want to admit which churches were growing."

This research study raises lots of questions in my mind about Friends.  Which meetings/churches are actually growing in membership per annum by at least 2% and which are shrinking in membership by at least 2%. For each denomination of Friends, what distinguishes between the two categories of meetings.  Many of you will immediately react by saying that "numbers don't matter," and I think there is some justification for that judgment.  On the other hand, it is a convenient way of dismissing the issue.  One only needs to tour the Philadelphia suburbs with an "insider" guide to see the l0ong list of empty meetinghouses and failing meetings.

Does anyone know of studies of Friends meetings which are growing or declining by at least 2% a year.  I know many of you will say that number of members is not a good indicator of growth/decline.  If you think number of regular attenders is a better metric, feel free to use it instead, but take the basic issue seriously!

Then there is the question of WHY meetings are growing or declining in numbers of members/attenders.  Comment on this too if you have something worthwhile to share.

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Older than the article you cite... in  http://sneezingflower.blogspot.com/2006/09/pamphlet-of-few-years-ag...

"Among the reasons we don't make converts like early Friends: people expect to be told what a church 'believes,' and modern Friends don't work that way. The most widespread consensus among us is probably that we shouldn't work that way. But between us and that Apostolic church, both groups are missing something. Perhaps another chart (or two) will help me understand this better.

..................      faith & connection to God
............................           ^
............................           |
........Apostolic-style      | Friends (& others)
............churches....        | at their best
...........................            |           
doctrinal rigidity<------------------------------> openness
............................           |
typical modern people | most modern Friends
............................           | and meetings
............................           v
.................. .         materialistic world-view


This is good, as far as it goes, but it leaves out some other relevant dimensions.

..................... coherent message and orientation in world
...............................        ^ ............................... |
..................... 'beliefs'     |      process of
..............................          |      learning
..............................          |
...............................         |
fixed doctrine <------------------------------> openness
..............................          |
..............................          | 
................. 'opinions'      |        confusion
..............................          |
..............................          v
..................... being adrift, with no unifying context

On this chart, I would put much of the Society of Friends down in the lower right. That represents a more desirable condition than the lower left, but is not at all where I'd like us--way up along that central axis, living in the tension between 'doctrine' and 'openness,' but with a coherent message for the world and each other.
There must be something we know, can share, and can insist on, without shutting our ears to what else God might have to say. This 'something' would not be a creed or a testimony--for a committee to entomb in a suitable minute--but an underlying, mutually-known sense of God's intentions and our place in them.
Early Friends had this, and we do not. "

------

Political unity ought to follow from this. Without that sense of God's purposes, people come down with ideologies they misname as "Conservative" or "Liberal" (and mistake for 'religion', alas.)

Hello, Forrest!  I haven't yet made it to the end of your "stream of consciousness" post!!  I'll keep working on it, in modest doses.

You have offered what I might call a tangle of ideas, flashes of insight and some serious observations concerning the Society of Friends.  It's hard for me to tell even where to begin a reply.  For the present, I think it best to wait to see what others offer by way of reaction.

To all of the astonished bystanders: you don't need to reply to Forrest in a single, monolithic response.  Instead, pick out a loose thread in his ball of yarn and tell us what you think!!!

Consciousness seems to disturb a lot of people.

That way of mapping the relationship between ideas onto an axis, and plotting where various mixes of them would fit in that conceptional space, came to me via Dan Snyder at Pendle Hill.  I'm afraid I recommend it more than I use it; it does help resolve confusions (when one doesn't find the method itself confusing.)

I should have put the link in a footnote; the part most relevant to your concern is in my comment here.

So far no reports of meetings growing or declining by 2% or more.

Of the two Meetings in my city, one has been suffering attrition-through-deaths, while the other has evidently been growing.

I haven't toted up their respective numbers, because that's a sociology-of-religious-organisations issue, while my interest is in something else: Are they helping people recognize and cooperate with God's work in and around them? [The shrinking (but still hanging-in Meeting) seems to had a strong and positive effect in this direction for at least some people I've met there. Others, if they were influenced at all, have drifted off... but this is very much a city of people moving to and fro in the world. Some of the best new members we get are too soon on their way to other cities.]

In any case, meeting for zoom-worship is more convenient for some -- but feels too much, for me, like trying to worship with a bunch of pictures. We may actually gain some people, meanwhile, but I won't be able to say anything useful about them until we finally gather again!

A further question: do these meetings have any children, young adults, young married couples and singles?  What is done to include them in the meeting?  Or, are they "also-rans" while the meeting caters mostly to over-60s?

Actually, the first question I put to interested readers is indeed a sociology of religious organization issue, but it is also a sociology of communal survival matter.  Avoiding "the numbers" is a cop-out unless the Society of Friends can reinvent itself as an "unembodied" internet discussion group!

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