Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Parish is Perishing (PART II)

Church Culture in St. Louis, MO (2012)

St. Louis, Missouri is an interesting city when it comes to analyzing church data.  It is not necessarily a microcosm of the greater United States, because it is intensely populated with Catholic and mainline denominations.  However it is the context, with which I am doing ministry, thus it is of great importance to have a clear understanding of its churches, demographics, and leadership structures.  

St. Louis has the highest, per capita Catholic presence in the United States.  The St. Louis metropolitan area, which is approximately 2,878,255 residents, is home to 198 Catholic churches ( planning/research/census-reports.cfm, accessed November 19, 2012).  It is also no surprise then to see the next highest church population filled by highly liturgical, mainline denominations (Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.).  One can conclude that when it comes to church attendance, if you don’t fit the Catholic mold, your options are still mostly of the high liturgy style, theology, and structure.  Though there is still a Baptist, Evangelical Free, Assemblies of God, and non-denominational option, these churches remain mostly on the fringes, and do not represent the average St. Louis church.

To accompany this data, it should also be understood that the average St. Louis church is growing older at a much faster pace than it is growing younger.  The average age of a typical St. Louis churchgoer is 61 years old ( 435553/article-1G1-59620360/q, accessed November 19, 2012).  Conversely, the average age of a St. Louis resident is 38 years old ( departments/planning/research/census-reports.cfm, accessed November 19, 2012).  There is a 23-year disconnect.  The average St. Louis church no longer resembles the community, which it exists to serve.  This is a critical flaw that must be studied, understood, and corrected - because the Church is in transition.

CATEGORY                                                                 DATA
St. Louis (Metro), Missouri - Population                     2,878,255 residents
Average Age                                                                 38 years old
Average (churchgoer) Age                                           61 years old
Catholic Churches                                                        198
Mainline Churches                                                       105
Other (Christian) Churches                                           38
Percentage of “churched”                                             43%
Percentage of “un-churched”                                       57%
Table 1.0


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