I live in Missouri, but I’m a Seattle-ite at heart. One of the big cultural differences between the two is their attitude toward recycling. I’m used to looking at every piece of trash and doing the gymnastics to see if there’s a new use for it. Failing that, I move on to deciding which recycling bin it belongs in. That’s not so much the case with most of my neighbors.

On the other hand, when it comes to church growth in Seattle and Missouri and all points north, south, east, and west, the church has largely been dependent on recycling and reusing for over fifty years.

Let’s be honest … most church growth comes through recycling lapsed churched people. Reaching the unchurched largely means finding and identifying those folks who were raised in the church, or who sporadically went to church as children or youth, and encouraging them to reconnect with their faith history in some way. We’ve been depending on the reality that the majority of North Americans still have some church experience somewhere in their past.

But that’s changing … fast. The younger the adult, the less likely they are to have any significant church experience in their background (according to studies, approximately 20 percent of US adults have no faith tradition in their background … a number that’s rapidly rising). 

What that really means is that those churches still dependent on recycling the formerly churched are going to find it increasingly difficult to “grow” by offering either traditional worship services OR contemporary/modern/alternative worship services.

The only “good news” in all this is that the fastest growing faith-demographic in the US is the religion of “None.” In other words, the church has plenty of “natural resources” to draw from. But depending on increasingly effective recycling as a church growth strategy will soon be no strategy at all.

Question: What changes will your church have to make to shift from “recycling” to reaching the never-churched? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.