Every mainline Protestant institution—churches, denominations, seminaries, publishing houses, parachurch ministries, non-profit organizations—has been dealing with decline for decades. Increasingly, this is becoming the norm for evangelical institutions as well.
I routinely find myself in conversations about this, and I continue to be frustrated by the institutional inertia that holds us back. Our instinct is to preserve some kind of remnant of our former glory instead of reimagining the entire system. We are reluctant to let things go so that new possibilities might emerge.
Earlier this week I had a stimulating conversation with Brian Frick, the PC(USA) staff person for Camp and Conference Ministries. He and Jason Brian Santos are working on some fascinating ways to reshape camp and campus ministries, both struggling or declining mainline Protestant institutions by most metrics.
Coming off yet another conversation about institutional decline, and as I gear up for some consultations with stagnating or declining churches trying to figure out what might be next for them, I’m recalling a video about Kodak that Brian mentioned.
Mainline Protestant institutions spend most of their time managing decline. I’d rather be pruning the tree. Better yet, I’d rather be investing in the new things that might grow in the place of what is dying.