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Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

Hi there! I'm Kimberly Yow, a passionate journalist with a deep love for alternative rock. Combining my two passions, I've found my dream job. Join me on this exciting journey as I explore the world of journalism and rock music.

Scarcity’s Strange Gifts

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Church attendance is down. Giving is iffy. Ministers are tired. But God is with us in lean times too.

There are many reasons to expect that the Western church, at least, is heading into a long season of scarcity. Much of the European church is already there, and here in the States, we aren’t so far behind: Attendance is down, though there is reason to suspect this trend line may have plateaued. Giving to church ministries was up in recent years, but the group giving the most is aging quickly, and it’s not yet clear that younger cohorts will fill the gap. Ministers, reporting more anxiety and less support, find themselves with fewer relationships and resources to support their work.

This abundance of scarcity will have a long-term impact on the character, health, and ministry of many congregations. Its effects are already familiar to smaller and more rural churches, but this is increasingly a reality shared by large and urban congregations too.

That may seem like a grim vision, but scarcity of time, energy, and resources can be a mixed blessing. For, while long periods of abundance are to be appreciated, they can be deceiving: We anticipate that the good times will not end, and when they inevitably do, it shakes our very foundations. Churchgoing rates in America, for example, have been discussed for years now as a sign of crisis. But these numbers are arguably nothing special in global and historical contexts. The downturn feels like a catastrophe only in light of 80 years of historically high membership.

So, what if we organized our church lives around an expectation of scarcity instead of an assumption of plenty? Behavioral science researchers Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir have examined how scarcity affects the way we make decisions. Summarized in their 2013 book Scarcity: Why …

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