Last Sunday I just walked in
To hear some Mainline preachin'.

Eloquent preacher sure enough,
seminary educated an' such.
But all I heard was politics and metaphor,
no hope beyond an' no Rock of Ages that was sure.

Chorus. Mainline churches goin' down. Mainline churches goin' down.
Sad news, sad news. I got them disappearin' Mainline Blues.

Other verses here , here , here.

Today I want to highlight two related causes of Mainline decline that are not directly related to liberalism.

First, a high value placed on education. The Presbyterian Church in my hometown now is a small congregation of mostly older members. When I was in high school in the early 70s it was a bit larger, with a high school youth group numbering 8-10. I think every one of these young people left our small town to attend college, and never came back. By the look of things, this church will close in about ten years. Members of mainline churches tend to value education for their families. As a consequence there are small town and working-class neighborhood congregations whose youth will not become part of their home churches as adults. They will have gotten a degree and moved to the suburbs. (In seminary I served a year as the youth pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church in Kearny, New Jersey, a working-class Scots-Irish town in north Jersey. The pastor and I joked that we were training tomorrow's suburban church leaders today.) Some of the mainline churches that will close in 2007 will be small-town or working-class churches whose children are no longer there.

Second, smaller families. Since mainline members tend to be middle-class and up, they have been choosing to have smaller families for the last couple of generations. I suspect that mainline churches have a less-than-replacement rate of births. Call it Shakerism at a slower rate.