By Karen Stiller
Apparently they call him “Bad News Bibby,” but he’s never been that for us.
Recently, and for the second time, I had the opportunity to interview Reginald Bibby, a University of Lethbridge social trends analyst well known for his work on charting the rise and the fall and rise and fall of the church and religious affiliation patterns in Canada.
I really enjoy interviewing Bibby for a few reasons. One, he’s just a really nice guy. Two, he knows his stuff. Three, if he doesn’t know he says so. Believe me, in the world of interviewing, that is refreshing.
Together with the Angus Reid Institute, Bibby recently completed a comprehensive new study on religion in Canada. It got some attention right away, landing the cover of MacLean’s magazine.
The survey showed that Canadians are more interested in religion that we might have thought, and that Canadian churches are far from dead. Not surprisingly, new Canadians are a revitalizing factor, bringing their active faith into Canadian churches at a growing rate. We had a great conversation with Bibby and you will want to read the entire interview in the July/Aug issue of Faith Today.
But if you are a church leader, here is a sneak peek at the one question we think you would ask Bibby yourself:
What should pastors and church leaders be thinking and feeling about this data?
Reg Bibby: “One of the things I’ve been hollering for is a dramatic need for a mindset change – to get away from this idea that the sky is falling. The talk about prevailing churches and so on, it denotes the idea of hanging in there. Get away from buying secularization to realizing that there is a real vitality around religion in terms of numbers that will only be enhanced with ongoing immigration. Religion has an ongoing place, and might have an even more significant impact on Canadian life. That is exciting stuff.
Secondly, for churches to be incredibly alert and prepared for people coming from other churches. In a community like ours, Lethbridge, you’d think we wouldn’t be touched by immigration, but we have all kinds of Filipino temporary workers who are here right now. What an opportunity for Catholics for ministry to them! They show up, the Catholics don’t even have to recruit them. Churches need to be alert and realize they are going to arrive in increasingly large numbers in the next few decades.
The third big thing, and our research has been documenting this for years, is that people aren’t in a market for churches, they are in a market for ministry. If all a group can say is, “We have the top church in town,” that’s not what people want. They want to know that their involvement is worthwhile, that it’s having an impact on their life and their family’s lives. Significance is a huge topic.
We’ve asked people if they’d be open to greater involvement if they found it worthwhile, and if people in the middle are open to more involvement. They are.”
So there you have it. Lots of good news from Reg Bibby!
Karen Stiller is a senior editor with Faith Today. Faith Today’s interview with Reg Bibby is in the July/Aug issue. Visit www.faithtoday.ca anytime to read lots of great stories and interviews.