UNITED STATES, March 15, 2024 (RNS): If experts were predicting that 100,000 libraries across the United States were likely to close in the next few decades, people would probably sit up and take notice. Certainly, if 100,000 school buildings were going to be empty in small and large communities, someone would be talking about it. But the possible demise of thousands of churches? “Crickets,” [i.e., “silence”] said the Rev. Mark Elsdon, a Presbyterian minister, author and social entrepreneur who co-founded RootedGood, a nonprofit that works with churches on how to use their space. “We are not getting the same response when we say that 100,000 churches are going to close,” said Elsdon, who edited Gone for ­Good?: Negotiating the Coming Wave of Church Property Transition, a new book of essays about the future of houses of worship.

That prediction of church closings is based on the unrelenting math of religion in America — there are ever more church pews with not enough people to fill them. Those who go to church prefer to be part of large congregations, flocking to packed-out megachurches. There is little data about how many churches close or what happens to houses of worship when they are no longer needed by a congregation. But even a half or a quarter of that number, Elsdon said, would be significant. “The bottom line is that there are fewer and fewer people identifying as Christians and attending traditional church activities in church buildings,” Elsdon said. “Church buildings play a central role in the social fabric and social infrastructure of communities in ways we don’t even necessarily think about until they’re not there. Churches host AA meetings, Girl Scout troop meetings and neighborhood association meetings. We vote in churches. There are food pantries that many churches run. Besides the spiritual activities, the social activities that happen in church buildings are vital to the functioning of most communities.”

Much more at source.