Bobby Gruenewald: 4 Trends and 12 Strategic Questions

As I think about leadership, particularly as it relates to the church, I can’t help but process some of the trends and global influences shaping our culture. Here are four trends we should be thinking through with our teams:

1. Permanence > Mobility

The notion of being born, raised, attending school, getting married, starting a career, raising children, retiring and spending time with your grandchildren, all within a five-mile radius, is simply no longer heard of today. Some individuals perform their job in a different state, or even country, than their home office. And thanks to mobile technology, we carry out our lives wherever we are: scheduling appointments, returning emails, looking at a friend’s vacation pictures, all in the palm of our hand. We are a mobile society.

If people are increasingly mobile now, how does this shape the opportunities we offer to engage them in ministry? Do we offer faster on-ramps to volunteer leadership? Provide opportunities for people to connect to things remotely? Do we emphasize more personal ministry ideas that extend the ministry of the church to wherever people are located?

2. Consumer > Producer/Consumer

Instead of just consuming information, we’ve been empowered with tools (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more) to create and share almost anything (movie reviews, political commentary, restaurant ratings, video tutorials, etc.). Videos go viral overnight, personal blogs explode into a full-time career, and word-of-mouth has become our most trusted form of recommendation.

How can we move content creation beyond just our team and harness the creativity of the church? Could our leaders build five to 10 minutes of Q-and-A into our weekend services? Could we curate community-created small group curriculum?

3. Content > Conversation

As much energy as we put into finding new ways to develop and distribute content, sometimes people value the conversation about the content more than the content itself. Whether by posting comments on YouTube or a blog, adding thoughts on someone’s Facebook wall, or creating a trending topic on Twitter, our water cooler conversation has been transformed into a virtual environment.

How can we build conversation around our teaching and what’s happening in our church? Could we offer our content in online environments that facilitate conversation? Could we shift our Facebook strategy from broadcasting information to initiating discussion?

4. Programmed > On-Demand

My 3-year-old son recently could not understand why he couldn’t replay a song that just aired on the car radio. He is only familiar with being able to watch and listen to what he wants, when he wants. We live in an on-demand world. We want what we want when we want it, and we’re flexing our purchasing power accordingly through devices and services like DVRs, iPods, Roku and GoogleTV.

More importantly, the hurts people experience and the situations they face can’t always fall in sync with what we’re teaching. Marriage struggles, family issues and battles with loneliness or depression won’t necessarily line up with our message calendar, so what can we as a church be doing to make sure we’re addressing what people are dealing with at any time?

Many churches today have a library of content that people can access online. But does that go far enough to address the issues people face right now? How can we make what we do more adaptable? How can we go from one-size-fits-all programming to something that is highly customizable—when and where people need it?

We have the unique privilege of being alive during the peak of the population curve, and we are blessed with more resources to reach people than ever before. What could God accomplish through our generation?


Bobby Gruenewald, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, is pastor, innovation leader at This article originally appeared as his column, “Innovate,” in the September/October 2011 issue of Outreach.


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James P. Long
James P. Long

James P. Long is the editor of Outreach magazine and is the author of a number of books, including Why Is God Silent When We Need Him the Most?