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THE HIGH-TURNOVER SMALL CHURCH

Sometimes it feels like this isn't a congregation but a bus depot.

Sometimes it feels like this isn't a congregation but a bus depot.

"How big is your church?"

My standard reply: "It's a church of 1,000, in successive groups of 100." In my small, New England flock, every three years the membership turned over.

The normal attrition rate for church members is 10 percent per year. Ours was 35 percent. Each time a church directory company offered their services, I refused. In our case it would be church history by the time it reached us.

We struggled with two sources of instability:

First, due to the large Naval Air Station nearby, one third of our congregation, located in Bath, Maine, was comprised of active and former military personnel. Many of these military families had only two or three years to belong to our church.

Second, during the 1980s a large shipyard in our town boomed economically, which brought skilled workers to our area. We rejoiced when several of these families attended our church. However, when this boom ended in the 1990s, the flow of people ...

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