Are Church of God Groups Long-term Sustainable?

A very interesting pamphlet was left with me by a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW)group. In it was a tabulation of all the hours of "witnessing" by the JWs worldwide on a country by country basis and a compilation of the global effort in "hours". (All good JW members spend time visiting neighbors, preaching their groups doctrines in an orderly fashion.) Also the amount of converts to the church were listed as well. I took my calculator and did a quick marketing analysis:

It took about 4000 hours of witnessing to get one new JW convert. (This group is more similar to the COGs in both culture and belief than most of us would ever want to admit!)

Giving a dollar value of the witnessing at an extremely conservative $10 an hour ($50 an hour is a typical skilled US labor rate) we can conclude that the cost of the new convert came at a minimum of $40,000 in "Sweat Equity".

I hate viewing the Work of God in a business sense, yet these numbers are fascinating! Back at WCG, it was taking about the same amount of money in advertising marketing to obtain one new member. Somewhere around $40,000. So the choice for growth becomes one of, or combination of either "Shoe Leather Sweat Equity" or "Buying your Equity".

Since historically we in the COGS are unfamiliar (and I believe unwilling) to work with others one-on-one, we are forced to use expensive "slick paper" marketing, this will lead to our eventual demise as a people.

The reason is that we do not have the economic financial asset base to be able to reproduce ourselves! Let me give you the hard facts... The COGS are demographically much older than they were 30 years ago. The average member is past his peak earning years and is in or heading towards retirement. An aging and retiring ministry will add to the economic burden of the Corporate Churches and limit the assets available for growth. The average "half life" of our membership because of the older median age now of our memberships is probably less than 15 years. This means we have to double our membership in the next 15 years just to stay the same size we are now and not shrink. We are not going to be able to do it just by throwing money at the problem , because the money is just not there!

Let me demonstrate this in the micro economy of UCG. Historically it took a circulation of the PT of about 40 times the size of the membership in order to maintain that size of membership and modest growth. (In other words, it took a circulation of 4 million PTs to have a membership of 100,000 and maintain about 10% growth). In order for the UCG to maintain a long-term member count of 12,000 with a 10% growth, it will require a Good News circulation of at least 500,000 copies! The most ambitious and hopeful plans for future UCG expansion are for just 160,000 circulation. This 1/3rd level circulation will probably not make up for attrition and deaths in the UCG!

We are an old and aging and dying church! At age 40 and 34, my wife and I find ourselves at the "young" end of the church demographic today! Amazingly, just 25 years ago, men like Ted Armstrong and Rod Meredith were called "Veterans of the Work" at the same age as myself right now. But today, I am still considered one of the "kids", having been baptized 23 years ago!

We must change our attitudes about evangelizing or we will die out! One-on-one or "belly to belly" evangelism is free and can never be shut down. Corporate overhead must be eliminated and most of the ministry must become unpaid. The days of comfort have ended. We must either accept necessary changes or watch all that we have had disappear and die out. We as individuals cannot afford to be shy and reticent anymore about the hope that lies within us! We need to ask the Eternal to show us effective and workable personal evangelism techniques and to quit hiding our lights! It is not that hard; it worked in the first century. It can be done now in an easy-going and friendly manner and we can reach millions!

There is no gain without pain!

—Bill Lussenheide, Menifee, California

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