There is a secret inside many churches. According to researchers Scott Thumma and Warren Bird, most churches – mega-sized and small, black and white – are actually run by 20 percent of the congregation. The other 80 percent, they say, tend to act like spectators: they are minimally involved and attend infrequently or not at all.
A National Congregation Survey shows the Southern Baptist Convention had a membership of 16,160,088 people in 2008, but a yearly attendance rate of 38 percent. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had a membership of 4,542,868 in 2009, but the yearly attendance rated rested at 28 percent.
Though many churches are struggling to boost attendance and participation, Thumma states, pastors and church leaders rarely address the issue.
"So many pastors that I've talked to recognize the problem, don't know what to do about it and then instead of trying to tackle it, they kind of put it aside," described Thumma.
He and Bird traveled to 12 different churches, interviewing congregants to learn why some are involved in church ministry and others are not. Thumma said they found that "almost all congregations were operating below their potential because they (the churches) weren't finding ways to invigorate and keep their own membership interested, involved and committed."
In the book The Other 80 Percent, the researchers use their findings to help church leaders find the root of the problem.
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