Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation on the campus of Freed-Hardeman University. The Christian Higher Education Foundation, representing colleges and universities affiliated with Churches of Christ, commissioned Dr. Flavil Yeakley to study the post-high school years of our young people related to their spiritual growth. (Dr. Yeakley’s presentation, along with his PowerPoint slides will be made available for download on Freed-Hardeman’s website in the near future).
Dr. Yeakley presented several interesting facts that I wish to share with you. Not only did he share information about our young people, but about churches of Christ in general. Here are some of the statistics that he shared:
- Churches of Christ constitute the 12th largest religious group in America.
- Churches of Christ are the 6th fastest growing church in America.
- Churches of Christ rank 4th in the nation in total number of congregations.
- Churches of Christ rank 5th in the nation in number of counties in which there is a congregation.
- Churches of Christ rank 1st in the nation in distribution of congregations.
- Churches of Christ rank 1st in the nation in weekly attendance among its membership.
That’s a far cry from the gloom and doom propaganda that some have been preaching. So much for the talk that we must embrace certain innovations if we want to grow and be remain relevant.
Another interesting tid-bit from Dr. Yeakley’s research was that the greatest retention rate of young people following graduation from high school comes from congregations who are described as “middle of the road,” whereas the worst retention rate of young people comes from congregations who are described as “much more liberal.”
Friends, while we certainly have room for improvement, these statistics prove that we’re doing some things right. While we need to be warned and sometimes criticized, we also need to be encouraged, strengthened, and patted on the back. Take a child from the time he is old enough to understand words, and give him constant criticism. Tell him how he is no good, and how other children are better than him. Tell him that he is worthless, and that he has not and cannot achieve anything worthwhile. What impact do you think this would have on the self-image and productivity of that child?
Likewise, take a church, and for an extended period of time, do nothing but criticize it. Tell it how it is no good. Tell it how other “churches” are better than it. Tell it that it is irrelevant, legalistic, and graceless. Tell it that it cannot achieve anything worthwhile. Now what kind of impact do you think this would have on the self-image and productivity of that church? I would suggest the same.
These statistics aren’t given so that you will have something about which to brag, but rather are given to encourage you to “keep your hand to the plow” and help you to realize that you are making a positive impact in the world.