“These are relatively easy to predict, but that does not make them less important. How might they affect your church?”
For those who read my articles regularly, you know I do a “trends post” every year. This next statement sounds totally immodest, but I’m pretty good at predictive trends.
Now let me tell you the whole truth.
I’m pretty good at these predictive trends because I have been following developing patterns for the past year. In other words, I’m really not that bright or prescient. The best I can say is I’m pretty observant.
So, what are the 10 major trends for the next year? It’s a mixed bag of good news and bad news.
1. Renewed Emphasis on Evangelism
Many church leaders want to know how their churches can better reach the non-Christians where they are. This emphasis on the “Jerusalem” of Acts 1:8 will result in more intentionality in evangelism and, thus, more people becoming followers of Christ.
2. Renewed Emphasis on Practical Ministries
Many of our churches have gone through a period of theological recovery for which I am very grateful. Now the leaders want to know the “how” along with the “what.” They are looking for practical solutions built on biblical truths.
3. Increased Frequency of Allegations of Child Sex Abuse in Churches
Sexual predators see churches as places of vulnerability and opportunity. Too many churches are not prepared or equipped to deal with these issues. Please see my recent post on this topic.
4. Increased Financial Fraud in Churches
Once again, some of those with ill intent see the church as a place of opportunity to commit theft. I will address this issue more fully later. I am an advocate of outsourced church-financial ministries like MAG Bookkeeping to do payroll, bookkeeping and financial records. It takes the burden and liability off the church. Indeed, I could have added to the list an entire trend of churches moving toward more virtual workers through organizations like MAG Bookkeeping and eaHELP.
5. The Multisite Movement Becoming a Neighborhood Church Movement
I have written about the multisite movement many times on my blog. The next extension of this movement is an intentionality to start or acquire campuses to reach and minister to residents of specific neighborhoods.
6. An Acceleration of Church Closures
The death rate of churches is sadly increasing in America. I do not see that trend abating.
7. Church Acquisitions Becoming Normative
I am surprised how quickly churches and denominational entities have become strategic about acquiring churches that are declining and dying. While the trend of church closures is not encouraging, it is encouraging that more churches are becoming intentional about saving these churches from total extinction.
8. Worship-Center Downsizing Becomes Normative
This trend was easy to predict. The millennials are leading the way to attend worship services that are small to mid-size. As a consequence, the huge worship centers have lost their attraction. Church architects and design/build firms will be busy downsizing worship centers.
9. Longer Pastoral Tenure
This trend is being led by millennial pastors. These younger pastors do not desire to climb the ladder to larger churches. They are more desirous to stay and make a long-term difference in the community.
10. The Remarkable Shift Toward Continual Learning
Our research is showing that pastors and church staff tend to have greater success in their roles if they are intentional about continual learning. Some go the path of greater formal education, but more are receiving coaching and intentional programs of continual learning like the ministry we developed called Church Answers. An ancillary trend to this one is the increase in number of mentors and coaches for pastors and staff.
These trends are relatively easy to predict, but that does not make them less important. Think about how they might affect your church.
Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter (@ThomRainer) and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer. This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on Jan. 2, 2017.