Agile Church Cover

Dwight Zscheile, author (Morehouse Publishing)

Among the 21st century trends sociologists identify in American life is a rapid erosion of religious participation, most acutely among younger generations. Church or synagogue membership—at one time a mark of status and citizenship in American society—is being replaced by individual quests to create spiritual meaning through “tinkering” (Wuthnow’s term) with practices and stories from multiple sources, often incoherently compiled. Many people are self-authoring spiritual stories and paths in relative isolation from established religious institutions.

To what extent does Clayton Christensen’s research on disruptive innovations illuminate this emerging deinstitutionalization of American spiritual life? Are existing faith communities functioning largely like the established firms in Christensen’s work, offering expensive, elaborate solutions to captive audiences, while ignoring massive environmental shifts underway as Americans increasingly seek their own spiritual paths? How can such communities embrace practices of innovation that attend to those neighbors, and through small experiments and the translation of tradition, open up new and vital expressions of faith?

For more, come to the Academy of Religious Leadership’s 2015 annual meeting and where Dwight Zscheile will share more about his new book and these ideas.