I read a great article in the Helsinki Times yesterday about the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s (ELCF) efforts to attract more members.
There’s a few things to take note of from this.
1. The ELCF’s situation is different from the US in that the ELCF has a long-standing relationship with the government of Finland – as one pastor here told me, it’s a national church, no longer a state church. However, the state has some legislative requirements on the church – like taking care of cemeteries for one thing. The church is allowed to collect a tax, but has to pay the state to collect the tax. There’s plenty of other differences that I don’t understand yet, but you get the idea – the situation is not the same as in the US.
2. Helsinki is a changing area – demographically, and I would say in terms of being more post-modern as well, even though the article doesn’t state this. There is lots of change happening in Helsinki, especially since it is, what I would consider, a very international city – people here are from all over. This causes a place to change. It requires change in order to adapt to the population.
3. It’s good to hear that the church is attempting to respond to these changes instead of just digging in and saying “but that’s the way we have always done it.” They may not have all the answers, but they are giving it a try. They may not have identified all the challenges or problems either, but the mere fact that they acknowledge that the situation has changed and they must respond is a good thing in my humble opinion.
4. Questions the article left me with. Is the ELCF going to reach out to other Lutheran churches in the world to see what they are doing in similar situations and even in non-similar situations? Maybe they already are – that wasn’t the point of the article. I’m curious how the church is engaging youth. I know that confirmation camps are really popular here and well attended. What else is going on that is working? How is the church engaging people online? I know of one pastor who created a fictional character to engage with people. It seems to be working – he is asked all sorts of great questions that people care about – things that people in the culture are concerned with.
The article is well worth the read. What observations do you take away from it? I welcome your comments.