USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

Developing Thriving Congregations

Many challenges face American religious institutions, ranging from the decline of religious affiliation to the recent coronavirus pandemic and its effect on how religious groups can come together as a community. Not only do religious institutions have to contend with their current inability to meet in person to worship and be together as a community, fewer Americans are involved in congregational life than ever before.

Christian churches are no different in this regard; attendance and membership are both declining, and many see churches as either irrelevant to their lives and to social issues or as pawns of larger political interests.

The USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture’s Reimagining Church Initiative seeks to help church leaders create thriving organizations.

With the current reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, these problems are exaggerated in many ways. To take one example, even for the most ardent church-goer, being kept from physically attending worship services, and instead watching online (potentially several services in one weekend) may lead to a weakening commitment to their own congregation.

The current crisis also presents opportunities to rethink what it means to be a congregation. By bringing together church leaders from a variety of Christian traditions we believe that current challenges can be confronted, and opportunities developed. By collectively confronting the current challenges while simultaneously looking forward to what being church can look like in the future, we believe that a process of reimagining the church can yield stronger, thriving congregations that serve both their members and their host communities.

The Reimagining Church Initiative begins with a series of conversations from August through October 2020.

The Reimagining Church initiative is supported by a generous grant from The Lilly Endowment.

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