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Facing Decline, Finding Hope

New Possibilities for Faithful Churches

Jeffrey D. Jones - Foreword by Phyllis Tickle

Church today isn’t the same as it was fifty years ago—or even ten years ago. In spite of the powerful stories of turn-around churches with skyrocketing memberships, the difficult reality is that most congregations are getting smaller. Jeffrey D. Jones asks brave questions for congregations facing this reality—what if membership growth isn’t the primary goal for a church? How can churches remain vital, even with declining attendance?

Facing Decline, Finding Hope is an essential resource to help congregations confront their shrinking size while looking towards the hopeful reality that God is calling them to greater faithfulness. The book draws on biblical and theological resources, as well as contemporary leadership studies, to help leaders—both clergy and laity—set aside a survival mentality and ask new questions to shape ministry more attuned to today’s world.

Facing Decline, Finding Hope is a powerful book for leaders who want to honestly assess the size of their church and plan for faithful, invigorating service regardless of whether membership numbers are up or down.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers / Alban Books
Pages: 152Size: 6 x 9
978-1-56699-772-0 • Hardback • February 2015 • $47.00 • (£31.95)
978-1-56699-732-4 • Paperback • February 2015 • $22.00 • (£14.95)
978-1-56699-733-1 • eBook • February 2015 • $20.00 • (£13.95)
Jeffrey D. Jones is associate professor of ministerial leadership and director of ministry studies at Andover Newton Theological School. He served as a pastor for many years and as a national staff member of the American Baptist Churches, USA. He is the author of several books, including Heart, Mind, and Strength: Theory and Practice for Congregational Leadership and Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple-Forming Congregations.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Phyllis Tickle
Part 1—Facing Reality
Chapter 1: The Trouble with Pool Tables and What that Means for Us
Chapter 2: Why Ezra and Nehemiah Were Wrong and What that Means for Us
Chapter 3: But Wait! There’s More!
Part 2—Old and New Questions for Churches
Chapter 4: In/Out
Chapter 5: Pastor/Congregation
Chapter 6: Planned/Discerned
Chapter 7: Survive/Serve
Chapter 8: Save/Sign
Part 3—Embracing the Dangerous Work of Change
Chapter 9: The Predicament
Chapter 10: The Prayer
When I read a book on leadership, I ask myself two questions: Would I use this book in a course I teach on congregational leadership at the seminary? Would I draw upon the author’s perspectives as I resource congregations in their visioning and strategic planning processes? In response to these questions, Facing Decline,Finding Hope receives an enthusiastic yes. . . .Church leaders framing conversations around these questions will benefit considerably from Jones’s biblical, theological, congregational, cultural, and sociological insights, as well as the possible implications he explores in each area. . . .This entire book, from my perspective, hinges on this statement that calls attention to the identity and purpose of the church. As such, I would begin classroom and congregational discussions at this point, move into other dimensions of the text, and anticipate a much improved level of substance and clarity as we consider what it means to be both faithful and hopeful in this time and place.
Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology

There's so much to love about Jeff Jones' new book on decline and hope. He offers deep biblical insight on the tension between the priestly and prophetic. He traces intriguing parallels between biblical dynamics and the work of contemporary organizational theorists. He demonstrates the connection between honest personal spiritual vitality and congregational vitality. But my favorite thing: he doesn't just propose new answers to old questions. He proposes new questions entirely—and they're exactly the questions we need. Here's a book to help congregations face reality, including the reality of decline—and face the future, with hope.
Brian McLaren, speaker, pastor, and author of The Road We Make by Walking

Churches that find their membership numbers dropping sometimes consider that fact to be the center of their identities. Jeff Jones suggests a different center, without avoiding the realities of decline, and thus his book on hope becomes in itself a source of hope. Jeff’s experience in ministry, coupled with his deep commitment to leadership studies, make him the most credible scholar writing on finding new life in a church that is becoming smaller.
Sarah B. Drummond, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Andover Newton Theological School

Even with the decline that is facing mainline Protestantism, thousands of clergy still serve thousands of churches, and they're trying to make a difference. Based on his many years as a pastor, professor, and denominational executive, Jeff Jones brings a clear-eyed vision of how congregations can thrive and flourish, even in tough times. This book will indeed do what it promises: bring hope.
Tony Jones, author of "The Church Is Flat"

Jeff Jones has courageously identified the challenge before the overwhelming majority of churches in North America. As painful as his analysis is, it remains rooted in the hope that comes from God alone. Brave Christians will read and pray!
Dwight Stinnett, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region

Fifty years ago it didn't occur to anyone that most people would have better things to do than "go" to church. Church (as we knew it) had intrinsic value, but no longer. The first step is admitting we have a problem. If there are twelve steps, Jeffery D. Jones has been through them all, and sober for a long time. In Facing Decline, Finding Hope, Jones gives us a Big Book for churches in recovery which is bound to be required reading for all seminarians.
Sean Witty, Senior Minister, First Baptist Church, Newton Centre, MA

This is a deep and insightful book on the realities faced by every church trying to stay relevant, healthy and vital in today's ever changing world. The response may be too simple for most of us - let go and let God lead on to a new future! How do we really do that? Jeff suggests new questions that help in radically rethinking what it means to be church in a different world.
Mayra Castañeda

  • Acknowledges that most congregations are getting smaller

  • Maintains that God’s mission is not institutional survival but love and service

  • Encourages leaders to find hope, even as membership declines

  • Asks five practical questions to help church leaders shift the focus of their ministry—from “how do we bring them in?” to “how do we send them out?” from “what should our pastor do?” to “what is our shared ministry?” and more

  • Offers suggestions for the spiritual journey leaders must undertake to cope with today’s difficult realities