Church Trends Are Trending!
How is your church adjusting to new church trends?
If your answer is, “We aren’t worried about trends?”, I get it.
And I hate to say this to you, but your church may not make it if you don’t pay attention. If you do survive, it will be on the backs of the remnant of insiders who also refuse to adjust or acknowledge a changing world.
The Gospel Isn’t a “Trend,” Gavin!
I agree. At the core of the Good News is only good news. No more and no less.
The Gospel never changes. God never changes. Salvation by faith never changes. In summary, our core theology is unchanging. Yet our ministry models must be flexible.
This is a massively important reality for successful church leaders: Ministry and theology differ.
Theology is studying God. Ministry is loving and leading others to God.
Theology is systematic, but ministry is automatic. Theology is interpretive, but ministry is expressive.
Theology informs ministry, but they are different. When we attempt to make them the same, we ruin one or the other, and at times, both.
This isn’t a new topic for my blog. If you’d like to read more, this may be of interest: Don’t Allow Theology to Stall Ministry
There is more to unpack here, but for this post, let’s get back to trends.
Since ministry is malleable, trends, culture, and our changing community should affect how we implement ministry. Again, and I cannot say this strongly enough, your theology may not change, but how you execute that theology in the real world of your church and community must adjust over time.
Think of it like clothing trends. Which, as I type that, seems mighty trite. But hang with me. When I became a pastor, I left most of my marketplace attire in the closet and donned a less businesslike look. I wore jeans and button-up shirts, which sounds normal. However, in 2005, these jeans were massively baggy. My shirts did button up, but I rarely used the top several buttons, and I preferred the inside of the cuffs to have a different fabric as to be seen when slightly rolled up. And there may or may not have been an occasional embroidered pattern. While I see now that should have NEVER been a trend, it was, and it worked for me (although some may argue otherwise).
Fast forward five to ten years, and we find skinny jeans. Half the fabric at twice the cost. If nothing else, we don’t see suits in most churches because we don’t see suits in most communities.
God informs our theology, but people determine our ministry.
Therefore, church leaders must always understand their broader community and adjust in kind. We change our clothing styles and should be just as willing to change our ministry models.
What Trends Are The Most Challenging For Your Church?
I’ve been working in the church for 15 years. That’s shorter than some of you, but it’s long enough to see a few trends come and go. And not just clothing ones!
For the past two years, I’ve consulted with church leaders and worked with churches on ministry model overhauls, funding systems, volunteer engagement, and the like. Like you, I’m also a student of the church.
As I’ve surveyed and synthesized, it is clear that some trends in and around the church have emerged. Some were happening pre-pandemic, but all have accelerated during and following the pandemic.
To put on my consultant hat, I’m less concerned that you catch back up to the trends you missed. I’m primarily concerned you see what’s here today and coming tomorrow so you can catch up and get slightly ahead of the change curve. It’s impossible to know the future, but here are 5 trends I see coming for churches over the next 5 years:
TREND 1: Online and virtual church experiences:
This may sound like old news, but read on. With the increased use of technology and online platforms, churches will likely continue exploring and developing new ways to provide virtual and online experiences to reach members. But the secret to online success moving forward is the word “integration.”
Every church has some online presence, even if it is only a Facebook group. Churches that thrive in the future will understand not just how to use each online platform in the way it is meant to be used, but they will learn how to integrate online and in-person into a more seamless experience.
I have content on this already, but we’ll address what’s new in the nexts post. If this topic is of interest to you, you may enjoy this post: THE Strategic Question for Today’s Hybrid Church Model.
TREND 2: Multisite and decentralized church models:
Churches may continue to embrace multisite and decentralized models, allowing them to better serve diverse communities and reach new audiences in different locations.
Even if you’re not a multisite church, this will most likely become relevant. The move to more connected and community-focused churches is growing. Content is a commodity, but connection and community are a specialty. Content is everywhere! Do you know what is lacking now more than ever before? Authentic connection and community. Decentralized models add better connection.
TREND 3: Personalized spiritual growth and discipleship:
Effective discipleship has always been challenging in the church. Moving forward, churches will focus on providing more personalized spiritual growth and discipleship programs tailored to individual members’ unique needs and preferences.
While this sounds challenging, and to be fair, it is, it’s also achievable when churches better integrate online options and understand how spiritual growth works.
TREND 4: Emphasis on social justice and community outreach:
Churches are likely to continue emphasizing social justice and community outreach, seeking to positively impact their communities and address issues of social and economic inequality.
The danger here is seeing churches turn into non-profit community organizations. The church is the hope of the world. Great churches will find ways to keep the church mission in focus while supporting social justice and community outreach.
TREND 5: Innovative worship experiences:
Churches may explore new forms of worship and creative expressions of faith, incorporating new technologies and cultural influences to engage members in new and meaningful ways.
This is a perfect example of a trend that churches must meet. We are living in the experience economy. Everyone in our church and surrounding community is engaged in the experience economy. The church cannot ignore the necessity of the experience. This doesn’t mean lights and fog, though. It’s about engagement, not entertainment.
Let’s Get On Trend!
As a church leader and consultant, I aim to help church leaders like you discover what’s happening in and around your church, help you design new and better ministry models, and deliver your mission better than ever.
To this end, let’s take the next several posts and unpack these five trends together. No matter your size, location, or age, each trend is permanent to your church.
We’ll discuss online integration in our next conversation.
If you know anyone in your church or in the Church who’d like to follow along with us, please pass this post along and have them join us along the way.