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
How Many Hours a Week Do You Have To Reach People and Grow Disciples?
Let me begin with a story:
When I led Woodstock City Church, we wanted to research attendance frequency. We didn’t have a mechanism to track adult attendance, so we decided to examine the kids attending our elementary-age environment. These kids felt like a perfect control group. None of them drove to church, and unlike our middle schoolers, none were dropped off for the church service by Mom and Dad. Measuring elementary attendance would give us a good perspective on family behavior.
What we found was staggering. We sensed attendance was changing, and frequency was decreasing, but what we found created significant concern. For starters, we already felt it nearly impossible to effectively disciple kids (and all people) 1’ish hours a week. We could theoretically add another hour for the adults attending a small group.
When we studied our elementary kids, we found the average kid attended church in person 1.4 times a month! But it got worse.
When we researched a SINGLE kid over the course of 12 months, we found they only attended 14 times a year. I was so disappointed when we discovered this reality.
The average kid only attended 14 times a year!!
Think about that for a moment. We only had 14 hours a YEAR to lead them into a growing relationship with Jesus. We didn’t have a prayer!
BTW: This research was pre-pandemic. The metrics haven’t improved.
This is frustrating but a reality. The good news is there is another reality we too often overlook.
Let’s Begin With A Chart
For 2,000 years, church services have been the focus of churches. In the last 50 years, Wednesday night or Sunday evening church was offered, too. You may have other options, as well. But Sunday morning was always Sunday morning. Sunday church is prime-time discipleship.
Before the internet, this made perfect sense. But no longer.
Let me give you another staggering statistic. There are 168 hours in the week. While everyone’s week looks different, we all spend some of these hours sleeping and at work or school. If we remove these hours from the week, 70 hours still remain. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but we all have approximately 70 hours of discretionary time during our week.
For the last twenty years of internet availability, churches have continued to focus almost exclusively on the one or two Sunday morning hours of the week, while these other 70 hours have remained a complete afterthought. Or worse, given no thought.
The trend to digital engagement requires churches understand how to use each digital platform and integrate these experiences into a broader, hybrid model.
But We Are ALREADY a Hybrid Church!
I know. I know. You have a website and Instagram and broadcast your Sunday church service online.
But having a website and adding Instagram doesn’t make you hybrid. The term “hybrid” is actually a scientific term that perfectly explains what we need to do with these digital channels. According to science, hybrid isn’t just two options coming together. It’s what results from marrying two dissimilar origin stories to create something entirely new.
This is much more than semantics. For a few years, churches have piled digital options onto their existing in-person offerings and called themselves “hybrid.” But that’s not “marrying two dissimilar origin stories to create something new.” That’s keeping something old and adding more complexity. Hybrid requires integration and innovation. A hybrid church is one where the in-person and online experience feels fresh because of their combination.
Here’s how I like to define “hybrid church”:
A Hybrid Church is essentially a fresh expression of church for a networked society, where physical and digital experiences are seamlessly integrated into people’s lives.
The Advantages of Integrated In-Person and Online Churches
Becoming a truly “hybrid” church creates some significant advantages for the local church:
FIRST, a hybrid church is better positioned to reach people in the spaces where they live and while they live their everyday lives. Or, to use our chart, a hybrid church integrates the 70 hours and the in-person experiences.
SECOND, a hybrid church helps us remain connected to our church body by seamlessly integrating into their lives. Not only does a hybrid expression help us reach people digitally, but it also helps people stay connected to us. I believe the church service should remain our primary focus. We’ve found the more people connect with you throughout the week, the more likely they’ll stay connected to the weekend.
THIRD, a hybrid church is our only option to discipleship people without relying only on church attendance. It’s impossible to grow disciples only through in-person experiences. The 70 hours of discretionary time during the week presents an incredible opportunity for new pathways and faith journeys.
And FOURTH, our churches NEED to be hybrid because our world is hybrid. Most things in our life seamlessly integrate between in-person and online, from shopping to fitness to entertainment. And this should be true for the church, too. In most hybrid expressions, the physical exists and is made better with digital integration. That’s how something is made new. And that’s what we need to do with our church.
Integration, Not Addition
To succeed in your church’s digital spaces, you need to focus on integration, not addition.
Addition adds complexity for you, your congregation, and your community. Integration creates a more engaging pathway into your church and through a discipleship experience.
This concept is so critical to understand that I created an entire COURSE and MASTERCLASS to help churches and church leaders successfully remodel their church models. If you want to dive deeper, I would encourage you to watch the COURSE (Over 4 hours of insanely practical content and Free Resources) or join the next MASTERCLASS (Approximately 11 hours of content and live coaching plus the course materials and free content. The next MASTERCLASS begins in late July).
For now, let me give you 6 digital integration tips to help ensure a hybrid outcome:
1. Don’t include digital options.
Instead, integrate digital channels into your broader discipleship pathway. For example, post your sermon to your church podcast on Sunday, but drop a follow-up conversation that takes the sermon further on Tuesday, then drop a teaser podcast on Thursday to generate excitement and momentum for the sermon topic up next. This one example can help your insiders grow more deeply and give them content for inviting friends to attend.
2. Replicate your brand into each physical and digital channel.
You need to replicate your culture in every channel. Remember, we are integrating your brand and voice in the digital space, so it needs to match your in-person brand. So what’s your voice? Are you more playful or poignant? Are you introspective or extroverted? We are looking for consistency. Our congregation and community experience us as one entity, so whether they engage with us in person or online, it always needs to feel like us.
3. Create digital content for your community that is uniquely designed for each platform.
Each channel is designed to be used uniquely, so we must use each channel as intended. This means not all content needs to be shared everywhere. And not all content is suitable for every social media platform. Every platform has its own audience and style. And each audience has expectations for what they want to see on the platform. Getting this wrong, especially on social media, can affect how well posts perform.
While we’re on the subject, it’s called social media because it’s built to allow people to be social. That means asking questions, commenting, complimenting, and even complaining. If you don’t engage in social media just because of a fear of negative comments, that’s the wrong approach. If you don’t have an outlet for people to communicate their opinions, it doesn’t mean they won’t; it just means you may not see it and, therefore, can’t engage with it.
4. Create content that engages the heart, warrants a reaction, and elicits a deeper connection.
Content alone doesn’t lead to engagement or movement. Community and connection do. Where possible, content should create comments that lead to conversation and connection.
5. Invest your time and skills in the platforms where you will most likely reach and engage with your target audience.
We mentioned this in tip #3. Each platform has a mission, purpose, and unique audience. For example, Instagram is heavy on visuals. In contrast, Twitter allows you to inject some personality into your posts and engage with followers. You can’t do it all, and you shouldn’t try. That’s not strategic or intentional. Becoming more “hybrid” doesn’t mean you add every possible digital outlet. It does mean you add the channels that strategically support your movement model within the skills and resources you currently have.
But don’t miss this: your TARGET AUDIENCE is who we are trying to reach.
1. Who is your audience? In the Rethink You Church Model COURSE and MASTERCLASS, we categorize our audience into four groups: STRANGERS, FRIENDS, FAMILY, and FOLLOWERS. Each of these people groupings require a unique approach. And each digital option is best utilized for one or two of these categories.
2. Where is your audience? This is a critical question for us to answer correctly. So many church consultants push digital ministry as if we are all Life Church, North Point, or Hillsong. We are not attempting to reach the world. Our audience is our community. We’re trying to engage and move people from STRANGER to FOLLOWER. We can’t do that exclusively online. If you reach people outside of your community with your digital expressions, that’s fine. It’s great, in fact. But they aren’t our target. We are focused on our community. So where are they specifically? They are at home, work, school. They are on social media, they have email, and some listen to podcasts.
6. Ensure each digital channel adds movement to your discipleship pathway.
I can’t say this enough: We are creating a discipleship journey! Digital can play an essential role in our movement model IF we understand how each channel is best used AND with which category to best use it.
Let’s Use Digital Intentionally!
For so long, we’ve added digital options out of obligation. To maximize our mission, we must discover new and improved ways to leverage those 70 hours of discretionary time during the week and integrate our digital expressions into our in-person experiences. The better we do this, the better we move forward our mission in the lives of the people we’re called to reach and serve.
If this was helpful, these additional posts me be, as well:
IS IT TIME TO REMODEL YOUR
COURSE and MASTERCLASS DETAILS
I created the Church Engagement Journey Model to help churches create discipleship momentum through intentional movement.
The COURSE comes with all the digital content and free resources you need to understand what has changed in our world, how our ministry model should adjust, and how to design your new solution.
- Six Video Sessions.
- Nearly 5 hours of insanely practical video content.
- Plus, FREE RESOURCES, including Planning Templates, Sample 12-Month Calendars, and other resources to help you design your new model and teach the model to your team.
The MASTERCLASS adds SIX group conversations and ONE personal conversation to help take this content deeper and learn from each other as we implement.
- Six Video Sessions Available On-demand.
- Nearly 5 hours of insanely practical video content.
- Six 1-Hour Sessions Live with Me.
- One Personal Session with me.
- That equals 12 HOURS OF LEARNING!
- Plus, FREE RESOURCES to help guide you through discovering what’s happening in your church today, designing a new approach, and delivering a new model.