The Church Family and Changing Demographics

By Longhurst, John | Winnipeg Free Press, November 17, 2012 | Go to article overview
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The Church Family and Changing Demographics

Longhurst, John, Winnipeg Free Press

Families in Canada have changed. How are Winnipeg churches affected by the changes?

In September, Statistics Canada released a snapshot of Canadian families based on the 2011 census. Among other things, it showed the traditional family, made up of two married parents with children, is in decline. In its place there are more single-parent and blended families, more singles and more couples without children.

The changes are being felt in Winnipeg congregations.

Although the majority of families at Charleswood United Church are headed by two parents, "I would say that all manner of households in society are represented within our church community--single, married without children, common-law, widowed, same-gender, blended," says Michael Wilson, minister at the church.

For Wilson, this means that Charleswood needs to be a place "of nurture, teaching, comfort, security, and above all, love for everyone who comes here."

Things are similar at Church of the Rock. "There is really little difference between what the family looks like within our church as compared to outside the church," says pastor Mark Hughes, noting the church offers ministries for people who are divorced, children of divorced parents, parents who have adult children living at home, singles, seniors and others.

One of the ways the change is noticed at St. Benedict's Table, an Anglican church, is the large number of singles who attend the church.

"Many of our single people are of university age, so still making decisions as to how they might move toward marriage and family--or not," says priest Jamie Howison.

"I would say that the old assumption that getting married is the next logical step after graduation is not much in play."

Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church also has a large number of singles. One way they try to accommodate them is by how they set up for meals.

"One simple thing we do is set out nine chairs, instead of eight, around the round tables we use for fellowship meals," says pastor John Unger. "It's an intentional signal that singles are welcome."

One way the changing family affects churches is in how pastors do their preaching.

When Hughes preaches, he keeps in mind people who are "outside traditional domestic relationships."

Marvin Dyck, pastor of Crossroads Community Church, does the same thing. Since his church also has a large number of single adults, "it's not meaningful to simply apply the Bible's teaching on relationship to people and their spouses," he says.

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