The Future of Ministry Is Local

3 characteristics of an effective hyperlocal pastor

A friend who is a pastor recently asked me a pretty vulnerable question: “Why would someone continue to stream my church’s worship service now that they’ve learned to stream the best preachers and worship leaders in the world?”

Great question, and an honest concern.

As I work with thousands of churches across the country and world, here’s the horizon I see, and the answer to my friend’s question: The future of ministry effectiveness is not going to be about having the best message, but about having the most localized message and approach to ministry.

I call this the hyperlocal pastor, and here’s how I see it playing out.

1. Authenticity

Effective pastors lean into engaging with their congregation by being authentic and open about what God is doing in their life. Even pastors who are not the best preachers are able to captivate an audience by using their own story to better share the gospel of Christ.

“Here’s what you should do” will be replaced by “Here is what I’m learning.” That subtle change in voice has already shifted in many churches, and COVID-19 has once again accelerated a trend.

2. Connections Over Content

Historically, people go to church for connections, not content. Coming out of lockdowns and restrictions, we are lonelier than ever. We are all hungry for connection and relational time. Effective pastors will focus energy and time on knowing the congregation like never before, and on creating venues for connections on campus.

“Effective pastors will focus energy and time on knowing the congregation like never before.”

It has been said that a good pastor smells like sheep. Post-COVID-19 pastoring will reflect this more than ever. Hyperlocal pastors will use what they know about their church family when crafting messages. They will preach directly to members of their church, rather than to a persona or type of person. They will understand that at the end of the day, church members want to be known.

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3. Community Focused

Billy Graham used to write his sermons with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, wondering, What does God’s Word say about today’s events? Hyperlocal preachers will hone that question even more. They will look at news in their ZIP code, in very close proximity to their church, and ask how God’s Word affects the events of that day in that neighborhood. No streaming service can offer such a contextual message.

“The future of ministry effectiveness is not going to be about having the best message, but about having the most localized message.”

The move to thinking local has been around a long time. We’ve changed our shopping from big malls to strip malls and then to local shops. Local businesses have had to become hyperlocal to draw foot traffic. Pastors who want to be effective will find their own way, perhaps using some of the strategies of these businesses, to serve more locally than ever and be more relevant than ever.

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