HTS Theological Studies
On-line version ISSN 2072-8050
SCHOEMAN, W.J. (Kobus). Behind the numbers are believers, congregations and the church, a practical theological reflection on membership. Herv. teol. stud. [online]. 2014, vol.70, n.1, pp. 01-10. ISSN 2072-8050. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/HTS.V70I1.2677.
Churches, especially mainline churches, reported the past few years a decline in their membership numbers. This trend of declining membership deserves attention and asks for a practical theological reflection. Behind the declining statistics are believers, congregations and churches that should be part of a broader reflection. Membership not only describes a static and geographic relationship, it can also be described as dynamic and fluid. The purpose of this article is to discuss this declining trend of church membership from a practical theological perspective. This phenomenon is discussed for the church in general and then the specific situation of the Dutch Reformed Church is described in more depth. The latest Church mirror data (an empirical survey in the DRC) is used as a quantitative lens. Against this background it is clear that the relationship between member and congregation exists within a dynamic and changing context, which can no longer be described in simplistic terms. Membership should be seen as a fluid and variable concept that describes the relationship with the congregation. The challenge is to develop a new ecclesiology with new terms and metaphors to describe this relationship.