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Churches Across America are Shutting Down

October 6th, 2023

A Christian nonprofit in Santa Ana was threatened with criminal charges for feeding homeless people at it resource center.
Churches in America are shutting down at a high rate, and this trend was accelerated by the pandemic. Is ULC the church of the future?

Since settlers first arrived in North America, churches have served as a central hub for communities. The church was the original community center – a meeting place for discussions, celebrations, and connections. Today, churches in the United States are shutting down at a high rate. With each passing week, it seems like a new church has been forced to shut its doors permanently. But what is causing this decline, and how does it affect the American population?

The Pandemic Accelerated Churches Shutting Down

Even before the pandemic, America’s church-going population was declining. However, the pandemic seems to have accelerated this decline to a shocking degree. One of the most controversial moments of the pandemic was the decision by many state authorities to ban church gatherings. Although healthcare officials stated that this was simply an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, critics said that this violated religious freedoms and the right to worship. These rights are enshrined in the United States Constitution. 

Regardless of whether or not banning church worship was the right decision, the effects are taking their toll. Many churches were unable to gather any income due to the enforced closures. Slowly but surely, the economic pressures have dragged these churches further and further into insolvency. 

Those familiar with bankruptcy know that it is a prolonged process. Even though the shutdowns of the pandemic occurred a few years ago, churches are only feeling the effects of these economic pressures now. This is accelerating the number of churches shutting down. 

According to one report, 4,500 Protestant churches shut down in 2019, which was before the pandemic. While 3,000 new churches opened within that period, this still represents a net decrease in total American churches. This was the first time the number of churches in the United States had declined since research firms started measuring this statistic. 

Of course, this is only one aspect of the equation. Americans are moving away from religious lifestyles at a fast pace, and this trend was occurring long before the pandemic hit. Today, most young Americans stop attending church after graduating from high school, if they ever attended to begin with. This represents a new generation of Americans who are largely atheist, agnostic, or spiritual but outside the realm of traditional churches. 

The Story of One Church Shutdown

Churches are continuing to shut down, and on June 15, 2023, the High Plains Unitarian Church closed its doors permanently. The 30–year-old organization encountered many issues over the past few years, including the pandemic. This particular church sees itself as “progressive.” This is an even more worrying sign, as many young Americans say that they do not attend church because the religious community does not accept their progressive views. If even the most progressive churches are shutting down, it suggests that churches today are having a difficult time adapting to changing times. 

In a last “blaze of glory,” the Colorado church has decided to donate its last $450,000 of assets to a range of nonprofits and charities, ensuring that even as it shuts down, the church positively affects the community. 

Is the Universal Life Church the Church of the Future?

Perhaps the increasing popularity of non-traditional religious movements such as the Universal Life Church shows that while church attendance might be diminishing, and churches might be shutting down, many Americans are still hungry for the spiritual growth and empowerment that becoming an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church can provide. The ULC has also become renowned for its role as a champion of religious freedom, social justice, and spiritual expression. While the ULC has become a global leader in these fields, it largely attributes that status to the commitment and competence of the millions of empowered ministers brought together in a world tent of togetherness.

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