I F WE TURN TO GOD FOR ANSWERS, WHERE DO CHUR-CHES TURN WHEN THEY’RE IN NEED? Many look to a comp-any called Percept, a demographics firm that provides churches with neighbor-hood profiles—the kind of data Gap and Starbucks use to pinpoint areas in need of more khakis and Frappuccinos.

Church attendance is down nationwide; twice as many people check the “no religion” box as did a decade ago. Meanwhile, Percept’s client list has grown to 260 regional and national churches, most of them Protestant. “We’re looking to identify communities that may be good places to start congregations,” says the Rev. Richard Magnus, executive director of national outreach for the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Such statistics indicate whether to tailor services to younger worshipers, say, or to an ethnic group. One Chicago congregation was withering until Magnus realized the Anglo programs weren’t connecting with the neighborhood’s newcomers. “We brought in Latino leadership and English as a second language programs,” he says. “Now it’s thriving.”

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