3 Church Trends That Aren’t New But are Changing Rapidly

I am a trend watcher, particularly among churches in America. I am not particularly insightful or smart; I simply listen and speak to many churches. In fact, through my travels, blog, and other social media, I hear from thousands of church leaders every week.

The three church trends I’ve recently noticed are not new. What is new is that a relatively few churches embraced these concepts a few years ago. Today, they are becoming normative. These three approaches have moved from the category of “exception” to the category of “mainstream.”

Changing Trend #1: Entry Point or New Member Classes

When I wrote High Expectations in 1999, I talked about the very early trend of churches requiring a class before granting membership to someone. In other words, a membership class was an emerging facet of expectations for church members.

Today, membership classes are pervasive. In an informal survey I did this year of churches with over 250 in worship attendance, more than 80 percent had some type of entry point class as a requisite for membership. In 1999, that number would have been less than 10 percent.

Changing Trend #2: Churches with Multiple Venues

I have to admit that the growth of multiple venues in churches has caught me by surprise. More and more churches have multiple campuses. More and more churches have multiple venues on the same campus.

One of the studies I am hoping to tackle in the next few months is the growth of larger churches with multiple venues versus the churches with one venue or site. I’ll let you know how that develops.

Changing Trend #3: The Growth of the Executive Pastor Role

Just a few years ago, the executive pastor role was largely reserved for very large churches. Indeed, there was a time when I rarely saw an executive pastor on staff in a church under 3,000 in worship attendance.

If current trends continue, the executive pastor will become the second full time pastor to join a church staff in a majority of churches. That is quite a change from ten years ago! The executive pastor is now seen as a complement to the senior pastor. In other words, the executive pastor is typically gifted and wired in ways that the senior pastor is not.

As a consequence, executive pastors are becoming more common in smaller churches, even churches with less than 200 in attendance. Watch for this new trend to grow.

What do you think of these three new changing trends?

Keep in mind, the trend itself is not new; it’s the growth rate of the trend. What would you add?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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COMMENTS

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Rosalie Garde — 11/09/13 11:44 pm

My husband has said he will never become a member again, he'll go just not become a member. We'd job transferred with his company several times, and each church wanted us to go to a 101 class all over again, sometimes get up in front of the church to say why we wanted to become a member.

Mark Rook — 10/23/13 9:35 am

This is a two part response. These trends are absolutely increasing. I believe that it has not only been a great thing for some, it has been a potentially bad thing for others. There is always a time for everything and implementing these types of trends into the culture of a Pastor's organization and congregation takes considerable time and planning. You should not ever shoot from the hip with these kinds of things and unfortunately so many do. It can be the life and/or death of a Pastor and church body. In regards to the new members classes, so many have not clearly defined what they expect from new members but also do not even clearly communicate with God to understand what He expects from members of the body of Christ. As far as multiple venues, there are many different aspects to running multi-site campuses in which poor planning and execution and simply bad timing can crush the vision of the church. But, I believe the ever increasing role and importance of the Executive Pastor is where this may hinge. Oddly enough the successful execution of any trend being implemented is almost directly a result of the competency, structure and abilities of an Executive Pastor. The Executive Pastor's duties include but are not limited to supporting the Pastor and the vision of the Pastor and helping organize, strategize, plan and execute and make the vision more of a reality. I believe so many churches do not succeed in these areas because of poor planning and structure. Now I am responding to what Wes said below. Several different denominations have been successful with on campus extra viewing rooms where a feed from the main auditorium is fed into the extra rooms. Some even time worship experiences so that both venues can have live worship but then switch to the video feed when the worship is over. This is a delicate situation and requires a great deal of planning and HUGE amounts of teamwork. I have known several people in different denominations that have successfully planned, organized and executed this trend. I hope this was helpful. God bless. Mark

Wes — 10/09/13 8:25 am

Our congregation currently hosts approximately 600 worshippers on Sunday morning, which is near capacity for our worship center. We are too big for one service and too small for two. We actually tried the move to two services a few months ago, and it was extremely difficult to pull off--two half full services. We are considering offering a second service in a smaller venue at the same time as our other service. Have you seen this done before? Do you have any suggestions? We are thinking about perhaps sending a feed into the smaller venue of the sermon, but allowing everything else to be unique to that smaller service. I would love to hear your thoughts or about some good resources.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

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5 Ministry Trends to Watch in 2014

Sometimes you can dismiss a trend as a fad. Like Crocs, the Harlem Shake, or flash mobs.

At other times to dismiss a trend is just a mistake.

As in every era, some of today’s trends will become tomorrow’s reality.

Innovative leaders aren’t afraid to embrace change and to be some of the first in on the shifts they see around them.

In that spirit, here are 5 trends you’ll no longer be able to dismiss in 2014.

CareyNieuwhof_Infographic

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Oree McKenzie — 01/16/14 7:03 am

Thank you for your posting. This is has really stimulated my thought processes, planning, actions, and reviewing of same.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Art and Science of Predicting What’s Ahead for the American Church, Part 2

In my earlier post last week, I offered the first seven of fourteen predictions for American churches for 2014. I must admit I am concerned about my focus on American congregations when so much is taking place in churches around the world. I am challenged to write more global posts for fear they will become too generic without local applications. I will continue to work on that issue.

For now, I will continue to look at American congregations. As a reminder, I noted that predicting is as much of an art as it is a science. Each of the predictions has a reasonable explanation. For these fourteen predictions, I gleaned from several sources:

  • Data-based research, particularly LifeWay Research.
  • Trends that are already underway and gaining momentum.
  • Conversations with hundreds of church leaders.
  • My own experiences, based on 25 years of consulting and research of American congregations.

For these fourteen predictions, I added a new feature, a confidence factor. For example, if I said I had 100 percent confidence that a prediction would become reality, it would mean that I have absolutely no doubt about it. None of these predictions have a 100 percent confidence factor. But none of them fall below 70 percent either. That means I have a fairly high level of certainty about each of these trends.

The order of the trends is random. They are not ranked in any particular priority. On Saturday, I shared the first seven predictions. I conclude today with the final seven.

  1. More large churches will function like mini-denominations. These churches will have multiple locations. They will have one senior or lead pastor, and several other campus pastors. They are more likely to fund their own missions priorities, even if they are also contributing to a denominational missions fund. Many of them will write their own small group literature. Some will have their own church planting strategies. (70% confidence factor)
  2. New worship centers will be built smaller. There will be a greater emphasis on smaller gatherings more frequently. This trend is being affected significantly by the preferences of the Millennial generation (born 1980 to 2000). A related trend is that many congregations will find ways to downsize their existing worship centers. (70%)
  3. Increased emphasis on small groups. In 2014 we will see a decided shift from nearly two decades of the “worship revolution” to the “small group revolution.” Church leaders are rapidly discovering that members who connect to groups are the most faithful members in the church by a myriad of metrics. That is not to suggest that worship will become unimportant; it is to suggest that small groups will have a greater emphasis than the previous quarter century. (75%)
  4. Longer pastoral tenure. There will be incremental but steady growth in the length of tenure of pastors at a given church. Part of the reason is the influence of the Millennials who do not view larger churches as their next step in ministry. Part of the reason is economic; moving in today’s economy is not nearly as easy in pre-recession days. Hopefully, the main reason is a sense of God’s call to stay rather than move. (75%)
  5. Local churches increasing their roles as ministry training leaders. The role of ministry training in the past decades fell largely upon Bible colleges and seminaries. More churches in 2014 will partner with those colleges and seminaries to provide contextual training at a local church. (90%)
  6. Church movement to the community. The posture of many American churches in the most recent decades has been to find ways to get people in the community to come to the church. That is shifting, perhaps dramatically. In more churches, the congregation will move to the community. Instead of a philosophy of “y’all come,” the dominant theme will be “we’ll go.” The congregants will be a more powerful presence in the community they serve, thus ministering to, influencing, and reaching more people with the gospel. (80%)
  7. More multiple teaching/preaching pastors. In larger churches, there has been a decided trend toward having more than one teaching and preaching pastor. Now the trend is taking place in smaller churches. We will see more churches with attendance under 200, even some under 100, with more than one teaching/preaching pastor. Of course, not all of them will be full-time vocationally at the church, so there will be more bi-vocational pastors whose role is to be a second or even third pastor in these smaller churches. (85%)

These fourteen predictions are not infallible. But there does seem to be growing evidence that most, if not all of them, will become a reality in 2014.

Let me hear from you about my perspectives. Happy New Year!

Read Part 1 here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Art and Science of Predicting What’s Ahead for the American Church, Part 1

Predicting is as much of an art as it is a science. And if any prognosticator is honest, he or she will tell you that they don’t always get it right. I know. I certainly don’t always get it right.

But I don’t pull my predictions out of thin air. To the contrary, each of them has a reasonable explanation. For these fourteen predictions, I gleaned from several sources:

  • Data-based research, particularly LifeWay Research.
  • Trends that are already underway and gaining momentum.
  • Conversations with hundreds of church leaders.
  • My own experiences, based on 25 years of consulting and research of American congregations.

This year I am adding a new feature, a confidence factor. For example, if I said I had 100 percent confidence that a prediction would become reality, it would mean that I have absolutely no doubt about it. None of these predictions have a 100 percent confidence factor. But none of them fall below 70 percent either. That means I have a fairly high level of certainty about each of these trends.

The order of the trends is random. They are not ranked in any particular priority. Today, I will share the first seven, and then conclude with the final seven next week.

  1. Increased church acquisitions. Smaller churches will seek to be acquired by larger churches in increasing numbers. One of the big factors is simply personnel cost. Many smaller churches can no longer afford to pay a pastor a salary and benefits, particularly health care benefits.  (75% confidence factor).
  2. Downsizing of denominational structures. Many denominational structures are becoming smaller because their churches are declining. Others are feeling economic pinches. This trend of smaller and more efficient denominational structures at all levels will only become more pervasive in 2014. (90%).
  3. Decline in conversion growth. American churches that grow are more likely to get their growth at the expense of other churches. Evangelism is waning in many churches, and fewer non-believers are becoming Christians. The negative reaction to programmatic evangelistic methods has evolved into an overreaction. Too few churches emphasize personal and church-based evangelism. (75%)
  4. More megachurches. The data are clear that there are more megachurches (average worship attendance of 2,000 or more) today than a year ago. There is also little doubt the trend will continue. The only uncertainty is whether or not the rate of growth of megachurches will continue to climb. (85%)
  5. Greater number of churches moving to a unified worship style. For years a noticeable trend was churches offering different worship styles. The most common was the offering of two services: traditional and contemporary, though the definitions of each were elusive. In the next year we will we see a reversal of that trend, as many of those same churches decide to move to one common worship style. (70%)
  6. Increased emphasis on high-expectation church membership. For decades American congregations as a whole lowered their expectations of church membership. One could be on a church roll in many churches and not even attend worship services for years. We will see a gradual reversal of that trend in 2014 as more churches move to higher-expectation membership. (70%).
  7. Increased challenges for congregations to build and acquire land due to restrictive governmental policies. American churches will experience more frustration with governmental authorities as they seek to expand, build, and acquire land. Part of the reason will be due to the authorities’ concern about traffic and congestions. Another part is the underlying concern of losing a property tax base to a nonprofit organization. In a few cases there will be outright animosity and prejudice against Christians and churches. (80%)

I will conclude the fourteen trends next week.

Read more from Thom here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.