This is not a political post. Well, it’s kind of a political post but that’s not my intention. I don’t want to debate the moral issues of this election or which candidate Christians should have voted for. There’s enough of that on Facebook. I want to talk about the changing demographics of our country and what the church can learn from it.
Most of what I watched leading up to the election thought the Republicans had it won (granted I watch a lot of Fox News). They said their base was more motivated than the Democrats. They figured voters who voted for Obama in ’08 were not as enthused this time around. They assumed the national polls were off base and had underestimated the evangelical vote. The polls weren’t off base and maybe it’s the evangelicals who underestimated things.
In explaining why his predictions were wrong, Dick Morris pointed out the following:
“By the time you finish with the various demographic groups the Democrats win, you almost have a majority in their corner. Count them: Blacks cast 13% of the vote and Obama won them 12-1. Latinos cast 10% and Obama carried them by 7-3. Under 30 voters cast 19% of the vote and Obama swept them by 12-7. Single white women cast 18% of the total vote and Obama won them by 12-6. There is some overlap among these groups, of course, but without allowing for any, Obama won 43-17 before the first married white woman or man over 30 cast their vote. . . Having conceded these votes, Romney would have had to win over two-thirds of the rest of the vote to win.”
Here’s what I see in those stats. Minorities are the new majority. The demographics of our country are changing (or have already changed). Married white folks over 30 no longer represent a majority of Americans. But what does that have to do with church? Well, look around your congregation this coming Sunday. Who’s in the majority? My guess is primarily old white folks.
In many churches, the demographics don’t look anything like the rest of the country. They don’t even look like our own neighborhoods. How many churches have you seen that even come close to percentages reflected in the vote? For example, is 19% of your congregation composed of 18 to 29 year olds? How many African-Americans or Latinos are connected to your church?
It’s a problem. When the church’s membership doesn’t look anything like the communities around us we become disconnected from those communities. When that happens, churches start to die. Just look at the urban church landscape the last 25 years. The ones that survived (or didn’t move to the suburbs) were the ones willing to adapt and change in order to reach a different demographic. Are we willing to do the same in our suburban and rural churches? I hope so. Our future depends on it.
What is your church doing to reach young adults? Is it racially integrated? How can we reverse the trend and become a better reflection of the communities we’re trying to reach?