Methodists see clues for growth in thriving churches

NASHVILLE (AP) — It’s the conundrum Protestant denominations with declining memberships and shrinking budgets are desperate to solve: How to stem the decades-long losses and attract new worshippers.

The United Methodist Church, the third largest denomination in the country, thinks it could be closer to finding the answer. It commissioned an ambitious survey of nearly all its 33,000 U.S. churches to find out what its growing memberships are doing to keep congregations thriving.

Of those churches, the four key factors of vitality stood out as “crystal clear findings that are actionable,” according to the survey:

— Small groups and programs, such as Bible study and activities geared toward youth.

— An active lay leadership.

— Inspirational pastors who have served lengthy tenures at churches.

— A mix of traditional and contemporary worship services.

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