Super Duper Ueberblogger Kendall Harmon offers a discussion of truth in advertising – using the fuzzy statistics from the Episcopal Diocese of Montana as a case study.
So, we figured we would look in on the Diocese of South Dakota. At their website, they boast 92 Churches .
But, if you investigate their Average Sunday Attendance (ASA), you find it was 2238 in 2005(the last reporting year), down from 2583 in 2004, and THAT was down 10.1% from ’03…
92 congregations sharing 2,238 folks per Sunday yields an average of just under 25 per congregation (and falling).
The largest ASA is 170, at Calvary Cathedral in Sioux Falls. But, as blogger Sarah discovered, that's down from 260 in 2000 - a 34% loss over five years. And that’s in a growing city with some robust economic stuff in play.
And in case you didn’t catch it on another thread, the Diocese of South Dakota is subsidized to the tune of almost ¾ of a million dollars by the General Convention of TEC, and so can probably exist on paper for awhile. And, no worries! The Diocese of South Dakota now boasts a very vocal chapter of Integrity, the Episcopal Church club for LGBT (lesbi/gay/bi/transexual) entitlements. That's sure to bring vital new energy to the churches.
Now, on a serious note, there are many small communities and South Dakota really is a place where towns just go out of existence from time to time. We are not denying the potential for small but healthy churches (and that is the defense often mounted by TEC loyalists around here - "Growth isn't the only measure of success").
But the numbers from the Diocese are not about small, healthy communities. The numbers show decline - in many cases precipitous. And the historic Reservation Missions are vitually empty save for funerals and drive-by baptisms. We still hear TEC folks from other places boast about how "We have a diocese where over half the members are Native Americans!" Yeah, guess that's true on paper. But in terms of vital Christian community, well, you really need flesh and blood - regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
Just for fun, we looked in on Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls, a church teaching the Biblical Gospel and emphasizing prayer and strong lay ministry. Their ASA went from 42 in 2004 to 85 in 2006, and they report that Sundays this year frequently have more than 100 at worship.