In its heyday, Mainland Church of Christ boasted a Sunday congregation of almost 300 souls on its more than 3-acre campus, said Robert Goolsby, the church’s acting minister.
But in recent years, the Texas City congregation’s attendance has fallen, averaging about 30 people, Goolsby said.
“Once you get down to a group this size, all of the donations were going toward maintaining the building rather than going toward outside work,” Goolsby said.
Because of that declining membership, the 25-year-old institution will celebrate its last day with a worship service Dec. 30, before turning over the facility to The Salvation Army of Galveston County, officials said. The church in September announced it would sell the campus to The Salvation Army of Galveston County, but didn’t at the time announce its closing.
“Some of the original members are struggling with this,” Goolsby said. “But we started our journey toward this in August, so they’ve become more comfortable.”
The Texas City church’s struggles are not unique. A Massachusetts Catholic church, for instance, celebrated its final mass in November after more than 100 years in existence, citing the cost of maintenance in combination with declining attendance, according to reports.
Church attendance has edged down in recent years, according to polling firm Gallup, whose latest yearly update from its daily tracking survey shows that in 2017, 38 percent of adults said they attended religious services weekly or almost every week. When Gallup began asking this question in 2008, that figure was 42 percent.
Churches are struggling with how to appeal to a younger audience while coping with a changing demographic, Goolsby said.
“We’re not attracting the youth like we should be,” Goolsby said. “As a more conservative congregation, we preach the Bible, not so much feel-good talk. It seems like people want feel-good.”
Of the 30 people regularly attending Mainland Church of Christ, about 20 of them are older than 60, Goolsby said.
“This campus was just designed for a large congregation,” Goolsby said.
Goolsby arrived at the Texas City congregation about 15 months ago, after another minister left the congregation, he said.
“They asked me to help out and go preach a few Sundays,” Goolsby said. “That was 15 months ago.”
Before Goolsby arrived, officials with The Salvation Army of Galveston County approached the congregation about possibly buying the campus and were rebuffed, Goolsby said.
But the nonprofit organization then bought the land around the church and members of the church eventually began to wonder whether God was trying to speak to them, Goolsby said.
Church leaders eventually reached an agreement to sell the church campus to The Salvation Army of Galveston County, which was forced to use trailers for office and meeting space when two fires destroyed its old buildings in 2012, officials said.
Goolsby declined to say exactly how much the Mainland Church of Christ sold the campus for, but said church leaders are working on a plan to distribute all of the funding to worthy causes.
Before the church announced its intent to sell its buildings, The Salvation Army had been planning to build a new 16,000-square-foot facility on 5 acres of property it had purchased next door to the church. With the new deal, the nonprofit can use the church’s two-building campus for programs and office space and the land next door can be used for sports fields and youth activities.
Besides the extra space and features, the new building is estimated to save the nonprofit more than $3 million.
While the Mainland Church of Christ will celebrate its last day Dec. 30, Texas City still boasts two other active churches in the denomination, Goolsby said.