Church Trends Are Trending!
The following posts will address the 5 Church Trends that Demand Our Attention. Let’s begin with TREND 1: Online and virtual church experiences.
- TREND 1: Online and virtual church experiences
- TREND 2: Multisite and decentralized church models
- TREND 3: Personalized spiritual growth and discipleship
- TREND 4: Emphasis on social justice and community outreach
- TREND 5: Innovative worship experiences
When We Used to Buy Sermons on CD
For 2,000 years — or at least for the past 40 years — content was the king of the gathering experience. If you wanted to hear the sermon, you had to be in the room. If you wanted to experience worship, you had to be in the room. If you didn’t want to miss out, you had to be in the room. Content was king…until the stupid internet ruined everything!
Think about how much has changed.
I began leading a church in 2008. The internet wasn’t new in ’08, but we weren’t exactly leveraging it inside the church, either. Back then, if you wanted to hear the sermon, you had to (1) be in the room or (2) have a friend purchase the CD. And BTW, that CD was only available to purchase as you left the room! I remember standing in the back of our auditorium, watching our production volunteers duplicate CDs for sale!
It’s crazy how much and how quickly our world has changed. Today, I can listen to any pastor preach on just about any topic anywhere I am. I can hear, or watch, or listen and watch. Content is no longer the driving force of the in-person gathering. Now, content certainly has a critical and essential role to play in our in-person experiences. But if you assume people will come to your church for content, you’re guessing wrong. I bet your attendance is telling you that, though.
Content was once kind. Today, it’s merely a commodity.
Which brings us to multisite…
This is Changing Multisite!
The multisite movement is anything but new. It began with a realization that, just like the marketplace, economies of scale could be realized through shared resources and bulk behaviors.
I was a campus pastor for North Point Ministries for over a decade. North Point was not the first multisite church, but they were early adopters. Andy Stanley and his team quickly realized that pastors must be adept at organizational leadership and sermon construction and delivery. That’s a lot to ask. And two very different skill sets.
I remember hearing Andy say, “In our multisite model, we’ve discovered how to separate point leadership from point communication.” Nearly every week for 20 years, Andy spoke from the stage at North Point Community Church, and the other campus locations broadcast his message into auditoriums.
This has worked exceptionally well for North Point, Life Church, and some others.
I’m intimately familiar with North Point, having spent so much time leading there, so let me comment more on them. There are two reasons this model worked so well for North Point.
- Andy Stanley is perhaps the greatest communicator of our generation. Theology aside, the man is an unbelievably gifted orator.
- Content was king when North Point initially launched its multisite strategy.
While Andy is still one of the greats, content no longer drives church attendance or engagement. I can hear Andy anywhere. I do, in fact. I now spend most of my weekends preaching and consulting with churches. When I hear an Andy sermon now, I do so via podcast.
So if it’s not about content, why would anyone attend church?
I’m so glad you asked!
Getting Back to Basics: Connection and Community!
We all know the church is a body. It’s an organism that requires great organization. Still, at the core, it’s about connection – connection to God, to others, and introspectively to ourselves.
The centralized multisite churches (where most everything is created and given to locations for identical implementation) of the past decades are falling aside to make room for more decentralized models that allow for increased community contextualization.
Think of it like this: When you create in one place and execute everywhere, what’s created must be homogenous enough for everyone to use. This standardization of the experience was acceptable at one point, but today, experience and local expressions supersede all else.
Best I can tell, churches with mediocre content and excellent community and connection are thriving. This move is causing many centralized multisite organization to reconsider their path forward.
Of course, connection and community can happen in a more centralized multisite model, but it’s not as natural.
More Multisites with More Decentralization
Just as multisite church was once a new concept, an ongoing evolution is creating a more fragmented multisite approach where economies of scale are still leveraged where optimal, but the locality of the location is the focus.
My friends (and client) at Rivertown Community Church (RCC) are doing this right now. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on this church, so I’ve seen firsthand how they are evolving their model.
RCC is a multisite church with locations in four more rural areas of the Florida panhandle. They attempted to launch another site two hours away, but the distance, combined with a few other factors, made this location struggle. I can send you 125 pages of academic writing as to why.
Seeing the writing on the wall for their Fairhope, AL location, Paul Smith and team decided to spin them off as an independent church yet maintain a connection where it made sense. Today, Baylife Community Church in Fairhope is thriving. So much so that they are planning to go multisite. Baylife receives Children’s and Student Ministry curriculum creation from RCC. They additionally share legal, financial oversight, and other shared services, yet act independently to better contextualize church for their community.
Walking into Baylife Community Church, you’d never know they are part of a network of like-minded churches working together to go further faster.
RCC has another campus located just south of Tallahassee, FL. For now, RCC Wakulla is a campus location, but they already think and function more independently by design. In time, RCC Wakulla will become a network partner rather than a campus location. Yet they’ll still share services.
The New Multisite Network Solution
This will be a new and improved multisite solution. Like-minded churches working together to share central services and contextualize local ministry.
Some multisite churches will move to a more networked association. Some new networks will spring to life, giving churches access to better economies of scale. Still, other churches struggling to make it will open their facilities to new church plants within these network relationships.
When you think about it, it makes so much sense.
I know firsthand how much better a church can be when given resources and shared central services. At Woodstock City Church, while still a relatively centralized campus location of North Point, I experienced the power of focusing on local ministry without all the sideways energy of organizational facilitation.
The future church must look more collaborative than competitive.
Some Solutions For You
Each of you reading this post is in a unique situation. That said, let me offer a few solutions:
1. If you’re currently multisite, begin actively working to decentralize your model to increase local contextualization. Keep all shared services that create economies of scale, but let go of anything that keeps the local church from maximizing the local nature. This would include live preaching, community engagement, budget focuses, and service styles.
2. If you are a campus of a multisite, begin studying your local community and push your leadership to allow more freedom of local expression. Kindly.
3. Consider adopting dying churches as partnership locations if you’re a thriving church. Fuel their potential with supplemental funding and shared resources. Allow them to be the best version of a local church without the sideways energy that comes with church leadership.
4. If you’re a dying church, open your hands to a thriving church in a nearby community and ask God to use your property in a new, fresh way. If you’ve been praying for a revival, consider this an invitation for God to answer that prayer in a way you weren’t necessarily seeking. Check this out, too: 2 Solutions For a Declining or Dying Church
5. If you’re a church planter, don’t go it alone. Find a great church with like-minded leaders and theological stances to join forces. Convince them to help you launch something like them in a neighboring community that requires some contextualization.
Nobody Should Ever Out-Local the Local Church
Our current multisite paradigm must shift to a more localized context. Inevitably, this is where the church should and always will win. It’s not about content; it’s about connection. Local connections.
FYI: If you’re a multisite church, this post may help: The Multisite Mistake Nearly Every Church Makes
IS IT TIME TO REMODEL YOUR
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