Dr. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Rsources, spoke to a large gathering of Christian educators and state leaders from 39 of 42 states just a day ago at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. He shared 5 seismic shifts taking place in the church today. According to Dr. Rainer, these are not full-blown trends yet, but they may become that in the very near future. Because I was part of the audience, and since these 5 shifts generated so much conversation among the participants, I wanted you to hear about these 5 seismic shifts to see if you are experiencing them in your church, city, and state.
By the way, if you don’t currently follow Dr. Rainer’s blog, you can click here for quick access. It is one of the blogs I recommend, and I have linked to it from my Sunday School/groups blog (see the right sidebar – “blogs you might like”).
Seismic Shift 1: New normative attendance levels – More churches will be in the 300-500 size range, and churches that average 75-200 in attendance will be very common. Large churches with over 1000 in attendance will be on the decline. The 3 reasons for this shift? (1) Millennials prefer closer community that is found in smaller congregations (2) The multi-site revolution is dispersing the crowds…churches grow to a mid-size level and then begin another church (3) Adversarial local governments – they are preventing some churches from building and expanding in part because there is no tax revenue generated by the expansion. Dr. Rainer told the crowd that he has served as a special witness in court cases, verifying that the lack of construction will harm the church if it is not allowed to build.
Seismic Shift 2: The virtual revolution – Churches are discovering they can save money and create greater efficencies if they outsource some of the work that is typically done by full or part-time employees. The two biggest roles being outsourced according to Dr. Rainer? The church secretary position and the financial assistant position (bookkeeping). The benefits to the church are (1) greater funds for ministry (2) greater efficiency (3) decrease in liability for the church.
Seismic Shift 3: Massive downsizing of facility infrastructure – Churches are facing challenges with their facilities. Some churches have many square feet that are not utilized, or are underutilized. In the future, Dr. Rainer says three things will continue to happen: (1) churches will build smaller facilities (2) remodeling worship space for smaller capacity will become normative (3) churches will discover new ways to use their facilities during the week.
Seismic Shift 4: The small group revolution – Churches are beginning to increase their emphasis on discipleship through groups (a great thing!). This shift will be as big as the worship revolution of the past three decades. Churches will be healthier because of it. And churches are learning that discipleship requires strategic planning.
Seismic Shift 5: The continually learning leader – Church leaders will be L3 leaders (Life Long Learners). Gone are the days of earning a terminal degree – church leaders will continue to press forward and challenge themselves. They will be systematic about how they organize their lives to make time for reading, school, and conferencing.
How do you see these 5 shifts playing out in your church, city, and state?
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