July 10, 2019
Understanding Church Growth
I have been a PCUSA Minister of Word and Sacrament (a Teaching Elder) for more than 30 years and I have worked in all kinds of churches—large, small, urban, rural, suburban, racially diverse, and monoculture (mostly white!). Some of these churches were growing, some were declining, and some were holding their own in terms of membership and worship attendance. All of these churches had a certain amount of anxiety about their futures—"will we continue to grow? Is our decline permanent? Will our children stay in the church?”
There are also all kinds of “myths” (that never seem to die) about what makes a church “grow” numerically, like: hiring a young dynamic Pastor (usually male) who will attract young families with children, or having a “contemporary” worship service to attract those same young families with children, or developing “programs” designed for young families with children, or we need to copy what those “successful” evangelical churches are doing. 
But the “truth” of church growth is somewhat less “sexy” and interesting. It largely has to do with the “demographics” of local communities; i.e. “Is the population of an immediate area growing due to new home building and development? Or is the population stable or declining due to economic change in the area or people aging in place?
In other words, where a church is situated in a community and the changing demographics of that community over time are largely responsible for church growth and/or decline. So, pastors serving churches in communities that currently have an influx of new people moving into their community often look like church growth “geniuses” (if they aren’t doing anything to get in its way!) and pastors and church members located in communities that have a stable or declining population are constantly wringing their hands about the need for “church growth” (see “myths” above).
Here is a practical example. “Church of the Resurrection” was a new church development of the United Methodist Church that was founded about 25 years ago in a rapidly growing suburb of Kansas City (Overland Park—my hometown!). The church quickly grew from a small handful of people to more than 10,000 members over the next 20 years. The growth was driven largely by the steady influx of new people into the community and new home building due to job growth provided by several large corporate employers. The growth also made the pastor, Adam Hamilton, look like a genius and a superstar (he happened to be in the right place at the right time!). 
But Overland Park is now completely built out and the population has stabilized and aged. And Church of Resurrection’s growth has come to an end in recent years and they have posted membership losses and worship attendance declines for the past three years. This is all driven by demographic change—not what the church is doing or not doing.
And note that this reality applies to all kinds of churches and religious groups—liberal, moderate, and conservative—population growth or decline affects all kinds equally.
The best contemporary example of this is the nationwide membership and worship attendance decline in evangelical churches over the past 10-15 years. Many of these congregations were built in new suburban areas (and exurban areas) in the 1970’s and 80’s, but these areas, too, have been built-out and matured. This is the same thing that happened to mainline protestant churches in the 1960’s and 70’s whose congregations were largely located in small towns and rural areas (which have been losing population for more than 100 years) and inner ring suburbs that were built out after WW II.
Add to all of this the fact that most “Anglo” congregations of European heritage continue to be mostly “white” in terms of membership and culture due to segregated housing patterns (which have actually become more segregated in recent years) at a time when the country has become much more racially diverse, and it’s easy to see why most white congregations are not growing.
So, what do we do? The first thing to is to stop the blaming (Presbytery, General Assembly!) or scapegoating others—change is inevitable, and it’s largely driven by demographics. 
The second thing is to stop wringing our hands about the “good old days” (which weren’t very good for a whole lot of people for a variety of reasons!) and to accept and understand the different cultural and demographic context we are presently living in: family sizes are much smaller (people are marrying at a later age and have financial challenges unlike previous generations; i.e. the burden of student loans and salaries that have not kept pace with the increased costs of housing, medical care, and transportation), many more people are single than in previous generations—in some large metropolitan areas 50% of the population lives alone, most two-income families are stretched for time and the “luxury” of attending church on Sunday morning is not available to them when it is the only time to catch up on household chores and family obligations, and young people (the “spiritual but not religious” folk you likely have heard much about) have lead the exodus (primarily) from conservative churches because of theologies that are considered to be anti-science, anti-gay, anti-women, and (sometimes) racist.
Mainstream Christianity—which the Presbyterian Church USA represents along with many others—is a middle path between secular rationalism, on the one hand, and religious fundamentalism, on the other. Unfortunately, because fundamentalist Christianity (and evangelicalism, it’s “softer” cousin) have been the “pubic face” of the church in recent decades (even though they represent only 15% of the overall population), many people today are not aware that inclusive, mainstream Christianity even exists. And that is a significant problem for us. 
My experience is that when people stumble upon us (often by accident) they are thrilled to find churches that take the Bible seriously, but not literally, celebrate and work toward the equality of men and women, welcome all without reservation (including people of color, and gay, lesbian, and transgender people), believe in science, advocate for the common good of all people, and work toward the healing of the planet. This is what Jesus called “the kingdom.”
Friends, the questions that people in Western societies are asking today, are: “How can I live a meaningful life?” and “How can we create a more just and equal world?” and especially for young people: “Do I have a future? (as a result of the Climate Crisis). [Not, “how do I get to heaven?”—as in previous generations]. And they are carefully observing religious institutions to see if we have anything to offer to help them answer these questions.   
This, in my view, is the future of the church—some congregations will joyously live into this—and some will not. But regardless, the outlines of the “future church” are already present. I am excited about this and it gives me hope—and it is why I continue to enjoy serving all of God’s people through the church (everyone—we’re all in!).
Scott Kenefake
Interim Pastor
P.S. If you are wondering where I got all of this information, go to: the website for the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and/or pick up a copy of the insightful book, The End of White Christian America, by the CEO of PRRI, Robert P. Jones. This book explains in detail how we arrived at the strange 
Worship for the Next Two Weeks
This Sunday, July 14 th, in my sermon, “Are We Samaritans?”, we will take a deep look at the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37—a story so familiar to many that its radical message is often missed. We will consider its deeply Jewish context and meaning, and struggle with answering the question, “Can an enemy also be a neighbor?” I will also be reading the text from a wonderful new translation of the New Testament, by David Bentley Hart, which I commend to your attention!
Then, on Sunday July 21 st, in my sermon, “Look Who’s Coming to Dinner!”, we will consider two readings that deal with the theme of hospitality: Genesis 18:1-10a, the story of three divine visitors who were invited to share a meal with Abraham at his tent by the Oaks of Mamre, and Luke 10:38-42, the story of Martha and Mary hosting Jesus for supper at Bethany. Again, these are familiar stories to many, but their familiarity can hide their subversive nature . Stay tuned!  
The Discussion Continues
Last evening 17 people JOINED THE DISCUSSION about the possibility of adding a Communications Coordinator to our staff to give our church a stronger social media presence. An easel and tablet paper with sticky notes attached will remain in the back entry of Fellowship House for the next three weeks. Please come & view what others have said and add your ideas, suggestions, and hopes to this important discussion about the ways our 21st century church could share our mission and our vision with our congregation and community. 
First Presbyterian Church Habitat for Humanity Build 2019
Our Habitat workday will take place this Saturday, July 13th, from 8:00 a.m. until early afternoon at 684 Magnolia Crossing Circle, Concord. We need work volunteers. Everyone who volunteers should sign up prior to showing up on the work site. This allows for planning for food partners. Please click here to complete Habitat's online registration and liability form as soon as possible.
Everyone who volunteers should sign up prior to showing up on the work site. You will receive a confirmation email once registration is completed. 
Montreat Youth Meal Sign Up
Are you looking for a way to support our youth who are going to the Montreat High School Youth Conference on July 21st? Is cooking one of the ways that you share God's love with others? If so, then consider signing up to share a Montreat Meal! Feel free to sign up with a friend and cook together! Click here to sign up. You can find all the information about providing a meal in the link to sign up and you can contact Rachel Vogado with any questions.
"The Church that Weeds Together, Feeds Together "
On Tuesday evening June 25, members spent several hours trimming, weeding and planting around the church grounds.
At a Cabarrus Brewing Company table afterward are (clockwise from left) Jim Holloway, Jerry Otteni, Susan Otteni, Kay Wall, Gina Goff, Dave Goff, Corky Johnson, Mary Ann Johnson, James Garmon, Jim Wall, and Wade Holland.
Others who also put in sweat equity in the clean-up but did not "feed" at Cab Brew were Kathy Pilkington, David Harrison and Kevin Garrison.
Red Cross Cabarrus County VIP Blood Drive
Monday, July 15th in Davis Hall
2:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Please call 1-800-RED-CROSS or visit and enter Cabarrus VIP
to schedule an appointment.
Volunteers Needed for Habitat Workday
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Sunday, July 14, 2019
Rev. Dr. Scott M. Kenefake preaching

Friday, July 12
9:30 a.m. Adult Literacy Tutoring
Saturday, July 13
8:00 a.m. Habitat for Humanity Build
Sunday, July 14
9:00 a.m. Summer Choir
10:00 a.m. Worship
Monday, July 15
11:30 a.m. AA
2:30 p.m. Red Cross Cabarrus VIP Blood Driive
Tuesday, July 16
10:00 a.m. Adult Literacy Tutoring
Friday, July 19
9:30 a.m. Adult Literacy Tutoring
Sunday, July 21
Montreat High School Conference
9:00 a.m. Summer Choir
10:00 a.m. Worship
Monday, July 22
Montreat High School Conference
11:30 a.m. AA
Tuesday, July 23
Montreat High School Conference
10:00 a.m. Adult Literacy Tutoring
Wednesday, July 24
Montreat High School Conference
7:30 a.m. Men's Bible Study
Church Report
Worship Schedule
Our summer worship schedule will continue through September 1st. Our worship service will be at 10:00 a.m. each Sunday .
Summer Choir
If you are interested in singing in our Summer Choir, please come to the choir room on the 3rd floor of the Education Building from 9:00 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. Summer Choir is open to children, youth, and adults of all ages. We would love to have you!

The Banner Newsletter
During the summer the newsletter will be printed on the following dates:
July 24, August 7, August 21, August 28
Congratulations to Kathleen and Brad Tweardy on the birth of their son, Jackson Michael Tweardy, born June 20, 2019, in Raleigh, NC. Grandparents are Steve and Nancy Ferguson.

Congratulations to Emily and Scott Ninmer on the birth of their son, Luke Everett Ninmer, born July 2, 2019 in Charlottesville, VA. Deborah and Ken Mesimer are the grandparents .

Chuck Bibby - Families in Need
Nancy Craig - Families in Need, Lunch Bunch
Sue Davis - Building Endowment, Lunch Bunch, General Endowment, Fellowship House, Backpack Program
Terry West May - Todd and Betsy Hobbie Scholarship Fund
Roberta Jane Sturdevant - Program Endowment

The sympathy and condolences of the congregation are extended to Elaine Blackman and her family whose mother, Terry West May, died on June 21, 2019, in Hendersonville, NC.

The sympathy and condolences of the congregation are extended to the family of Deborah Moore Johnston who died on Tuesday, June 25, 2019.
July 10 - Gabriel Tibor Chikes, Ashlyn Harkey, Betsy King, John McCoy, Hugh Morrison
July 11 - Laura Young Alley, Jim Davis, John Eapen, Tony Dale, Jane Pegram
July 12 - Connie Bauman, Claudia Dugan
July 13 - Scott Connelly, Rob Steel
July 14 - Deacon Garmon, Caren McBride, George Patterson III
July 16 - Kathy Carpenter, Plase Christenbury Jr., Sarah Macaluso
July 17 - Shirley Brannan, Anna Ruth Morrison
July 18 - Julie Cannon, Sara Dobson, Nan Ellis, Josh Hitt
July 19 - Nicki Bryant
July 20 - Adam Burke, Gray Cannon, Nancy Ferguson, Will Rotan
July 21 - Lindsay Hitt, Scott Verner
July 22 - Debbie Brannan, Karen Byrd, Mary Margaret Campbell, Max Gould, Maggie Teague
July 23 - Paul Liles, Jordan Rotan, Phil Smith
Scott Kenefake
Interim Senior Pastor 

Associate Pastor 
for Care and Mission

Associate Pastor
for Christian Formation
Director of Music and Organist


Suzanne Russell
Church Administrator

Financial Secretary
Heath Ritchie
Maintenance Superintendent

Director of First Kids

Church Hostess

Wedding Director
Contact Info
First Presbyterian Church

70 Union Street North
Concord NC 28025 

Mailing Address: 
PO Box 789 Concord NC 28026-0789

Church Office Hours: 
Monday - Thursday, 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Closed Friday
The Commons Prayer Room Summer Hours:
Monday: Closed
Tuesday/Thursday/Friday - Open for Scheduled Groups
Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday mornings for FPC

Memorial Garden:
(980) 621-0719
36 Spring Street SW
Concord NC 28025
Garden Hours: 
Tuesday - Saturday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Closed Monday