Tough Times Mean A Return to the Black Church
Unemployment, stress and personal growth lead people to find faith
The traditional black church has been at the core of the African-American community historically for hundreds of years. Whether Pentecostal, Baptist, AME, Christian Methodist Episcopal, etc. the black church has not only served as a place where believers can fellowship, but where they can come together for psychological help, financial guidance and sometimes even shelter. Churches in the African American community have often always offered support to anyone seeking to better themselves through a relationship with God. However, these services didn't translate to a full congregation. Until recently, black church attendance across the country has been on the decline. Many have speculated that the reasoning behind the attendance picking up again is due to not only difficult economic times, but to those seeking new church experiences as well.
“Unfortunately tough times and trends is what it sometimes takes to bring people to church again,” Pastor Alexander Butler of Perfect Order Church in Baltimore, Maryland told the Loop 21. “We as leaders find our selves thinking of different methods to get people to come to church all the time, you have too.”
According to the Washington Post, more than 40% of electric guitars or drums are now used during religious fellowships in churches across the country to make a traditional service more exciting. The number is up from the 29% in 2000.
“We constantly remind our members and especially our young members that church is not just a Sunday morning religion,” expressed Minister Nicholas Pearce of Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Illinois. Church is here to give you opportunities to grow, opportunities to serve and opportunities to go. It’s important that you come to the house of God, more than just during tough times.”
Although several members in the African American community might go to God and the black church during rough times, that is not the only reason why some have left and returned again. “It wasn’t the economy that stopped me from going to church,” explains Adriene Boone of Baltimore, Maryland. “I stopped going to church about 6 years ago when I moved back to Baltimore after college. I loved the church I attended in Philadelphia and could not find a comparable match in Baltimore. No congregation seemed to spiritually feed me like that church and I gave up the search. I still worked on developing my faith and believing, I just did not attend weekly services.”
While some may not be able to find a church that fits them spiritually, others have decided to move away from the traditional black church route that have more often than not been taught to them by their parents and grand parents.
“I grew up in a southern Baptist home and that’s what I knew and it was all I knew. It wasn’t until I went away to school that I finally found my own relationship with God.” LaToya James of Birmingham, Alabama tells Loop 21. “It was almost like my parents beliefs had to be my beliefs. I did stop going to church for awhile until I found something that I really loved and now I attend a non-denominational church.”
Despite congregation attendance being down across the country for all ethnicities and religions according to a recent Hartford Seminary Study, African Americans are still returning to black churches in record numbers.
“I don’t know the exact reasoning they are returning to traditional or non traditional churches. It could be economic struggles, foreclosures, financial stresses or a variety of reasons,” Pastor Butler expressed. “However, the most important thing is that they are returning. We have to learn to not always use God as a last resource. After most have tried everything else and depleted all their resources they turn to God. God is not just an option. He is priority.“