Canadian researchers are revisiting a hotly debated sociological question: Why do some churches decline while others succeed?
Since the 1960s, overall membership in mainline Protestant Christian churches has been dropping in both the U.S. and Canada.
But some congregations have continued to grow, and a team of researchers believes it now knows why. It’s the conservative theological beliefs of their members and clergy, according to researchers from Wilfrid Laurier University and Redeemer University College in Ontario.
In the end, we didn’t choose a house in the sprawling metropolis that is Waterloo. We took a home in a small rural town just outside the city. It reminds me of rural Pennsylvania: quaint, quiet, with lots of room for the kids to run and play. We can walk to school, the library, and the downtown shops. Kids run our streets playing ball hockey, riding bikes — all unattended by adults.
My friends in this town groan about the fact that due to the new practice of locking school doors, they can’t walk their kids all the way into the building anymore.
“I miss being able to help Olivia take off her coat, hang up her bag, and get her ready for class,” Kirsten tells me.
I nod respectfully, but I’ve never gotten to know what they’re now missing.
I want to be smart about my relief. I know there are certainly many ways my children can get hurt, even here. Still, I’m so grateful that my friends don’t know what I’m missing from life down in the States. I’m so glad that when I drop Noelle and Nathan off at the school doors each morning, I leave un-haunted.
Author Malcolm Gladwell may not be known for writing on religion. His New York Times best-selling books “The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” “Blink” and “What the Dog Saw” deal with the unexpected twists in social science research. But his newest book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” also includes underlying faith-related themes, and not just in the title.
Gladwell said that while researching the book, he began rediscovering his own faith after having drifted away. Here, he speaks with RNS about his Mennonite family, how Jesus perfectly illustrates the point in his new book and how Gladwell’s return to faith changed the way he wrote the book.