Crisis, Challenge, or Opportunity: How do you see it?
Someone once wrote, “Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.” We can be on the floor ready for opportunity by becoming informed, making preparations, and having a plan to act when the opportunity arrives.
At the PBA Executive Board meeting on May 20, I reported on some highlights of a current Ministry Area Profile of Parker County. Our office makes these profiles available to churches as a way to understand the demographics of their local communities. This profile covered the entire county, and I listed some highlights from it along with some information from the last five years of Annual Church Profiles.
You can see the entire Ministry Area Profile by clicking here. I’ll bullet point some highlights that I shared with the Board.
- The population of Parker County has grown by 56.4% (49,916) since 2000. By comparison, the population of the U.S. grew by 17% during that same period.
- Between 2019 and 2024, the population of Parker County is projected to grow by another 7.9% (10,977). For comparison’s sake, that number is almost double the average worship attendance in all of PBA churches on a given Sunday morning.
- The largest generational segment of the county population is between the ages of 38 and 58 (27.8%), with the age group 17 and under next at 24.1% (33,299). By 2024, Generation Z (those born 2002 and later) will be the largest generational segment at 29.7% (44,436).
- 75% of the population of the of Parker County is under the age of 59.
- Baby Boomers (age 59-76) are 20% of the population. Larger than the national average (18.2%) this generational group has the time, skill and resources available to make a significant difference for the mission of Jesus.
- I often hear conversations about Millennials. Did you know that the oldest members of the Millennial generation are now 37?
- In addition to these numbers, a report from the Association of Religious Data Archives from 2010 states that 52,364 residents of Parker County claim no affiliation with any religious body.
Before I offer some highlights of our survey of Annual Church Profiles from the last five years, I want to be careful to say that we have some amazing ministry taking place in many of our churches. We would love to tell those stories as a way to encourage one another of how we can all make a difference for Christ. The details listed below are not meant to criticize, but to give as accurate of a description as possible.
- The median worship attendance in PBA churches on Sunday is 50. That means that there is an equal number of churches at 50 or below as there are at 50 and above. The average attendance in all churches is 130.
- In our best effort to obtain numbers for worship attendance, we can identify 9 churches that have increased in attendance over the last 5 years.
- Of the churches that reported during the last 5 years (11 have not reported at all), the median number of baptisms per church for all five years is 12.
Statistically speaking, with a median worship attendance of 50, we would need to start 220 new churches in the next five years in order to reach the increased population. This is not feasible, of course, and not entirely accurate. We pray that a combination of new churches and existing churches would meet the spiritual needs of those moving to the county as well as those already living here who are not connected to faith in Jesus.
How can we frame a response to these facts?
- We can wish that they were not true. Our taxes are going up. Our roads are becoming more congested. Our communities are becoming more divided. Our way of life seems to be under relentless pressure to change. The easiest path is to retreat as much as possible into whatever safe environment we can find.
- We can focus on the challenge. The population growth is a challenge to government leaders, school district leaders, business leaders and to church leaders as well. These facts raise a lot of difficult questions that have to be addressed. This is not easy for anyone who does not like a challenge.
- We can embrace the opportunity. If we believe that God is always on the move working out and effecting his purpose, then we have to consider whatever changes and challenges we encounter as opportunities provided by him. He is granting us an opportunity to participate in meaningful Kingdom ministry.
The mission of Jesus
We are called to glorify God and to go into the world to make disciples of Jesus. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would empower us to be his witnesses beginning in the places closest to us and extending to the ends of the earth. If we want to be ready for the opportunities that God gives to us, then we will have to be committed to the mission of Jesus. How can we best bring glory to him and help people to know and follow him?
Every church is planted in a context, blessed with capability, and provided with leadership in order to fulfill an answer to that question. We need to pray that the mission of Jesus would be our heart cry. We need to prepare ourselves for whatever sacrifice that mission requires us to make.
I love listening to a small child with an active imagination. They can think of endless questions and dream up infinite possibilities. I love to watch craftsmen at work who develop imaginative solutions to create beautiful work. Unfortunately, most of us allow the pressures of life to rob us of our imagination and creativity. We find comfort and safety in routine.
But if we want to be ready for opportunity when it arrives then it will require all of the Spirit-guided imagination and creativity that we can offer. Every church will find in its own collective giftedness a way to serve Jesus in its own unique context. Churches are not required to do everything the same way. Each church can be obedient to Christ and still find unique ways to fulfill his mission in their context.
John F. Kennedy once stated in a speech, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
I know that some people tend to view any change as dangerous, and I understand that perspective. But we can also see change as an opportunity to embrace the mission of Jesus and serve him with gladness. We cannot wish it way, and I pray that we will not shrink back from the challenge.