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U.S. Congregations:
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A Field Guide to Presbyterian Congregations:
Presbyterian Myth Traps

What is a myth trap?

Myths are tempting assumptions about congregational life. Just as cheese lures a mouse, myths lure us to beliefs we want to be true. Believing myths is its own reward. Myths allow us to avoid change. Myths permit us to use the same old methods to achieve the same old results. Myths immobilize us and trap us in dead ends, blocking us from our most important question: What is God calling us to be and do as a congregation?

Presbyterian Myth Traps

Myth 1: Congregations grow by attracting new people who have not been attending services anywhere.

Truth: Only 8% of new worshipers in Presbyterian churches are getting involved in a congregation for the first time ever. Almost one-third are transfers from another Presbyterian congregation. Slightly more are "switchers" from another denomination or faith tradition.

Myth 2: Congregations have a hard time adapting to a changing world because most worshipers are not open to change.

Truth: Many worshipers say their congregation is willing to try new things, and more than half believe their congregation is already moving in new directions. What are the real obstacles to boldness in mission?

Myth 3: Most worshipers attend small congregations.

Truth: Most congregations are small, but most worshipers attend large congregations.

Myth 4: Presbyterians travel great distances to attend services.

Truth: Nearly all worshipers in Presbyterian congregations travel 20 minutes or less to attend services.

Myth 5: Most people find worship boring.

Truth: Only 5% of worshipers in Presbyterian churches say they experience boredom in worship on a regular basis.

Myth 6: Because worshipers are deeply involved in their congregations, they aren't very active in their communities.

Truth: Half of Presbyterian worshipers take part in service or advocacy activities either through their congregations or through community-based groups.

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Last modified July 12, 2002 by U.S. Congregations Home Page Manager