10 Questions No One Knows the Answer to When It Comes to Future Church Attendance

Talk to any church leader, and they’ll tell you it feels harder than ever to get people to come to church on a Sunday.

Even in growing churches (like ours), the competition for peoples’ time, attention and devotion seems to get more intense every year.

You’ve felt it too.

So what’s up? And where is future church attendance heading?

Well, first, even people who attend church are attending less often (here’s why). Second, we know that non-attenders remain interested in spirituality but less interested in church than ever before.

You’ve also noticed that what used to work in church a decade ago doesn’t anymore.

None of this means it’s all gloom and doom. Not at all.

But for centuries, church attendance on Sundays has been a primary way for Christians to connect, as well as to connect people who want to explore a relationship with Jesus.

So what happens when regular attendance isn’t nearly as much the norm as it used to be?

I’m a firm believer in the future of the church and the gathered church. It’s here to stay not because we always get it right, but because the church is Jesus’ idea, not ours.

While I think there are some good guesses as to what the future church will look like (here are 10 predictions about the future church), we’re at the point where there are almost more questions than answers.

Hence, this post.

As you chart the future, questions can become your best friend.

Why? Because usually the future isn’t pioneered by the clarity of the answers nearly as much as by the quality of the questions.

Ask the right questions, and you’ll eventually get the right answers. Fail to ask the questions, and you’re sunk.

If you’re upset about the current trends, good for you. It means you’re positioning yourself for a breakthrough. Or at least someone is because discontent drives far more innovation than contentment ever has.

History belongs to the innovators.

So, in the name of driving some innovation, here are 10 questions that no one knows the answer to when it come to future attendance.

1. Will Infrequent Church Attendance Become the Universal Default?

If you grew up in church, you were likely raised never to miss a Sunday. Well, those days are pretty much gone. I outline 10 reasons for that in this post.

Frequent church attendance (say three weeks a month) seems to be most prevalent among

  • Volunteers
  • Long time (and older) church attendees
  • Families with very young children
  • Some new attendees and new Christians (at least for a season)
  • Quite honestly, lower income families for whom travel is not an option

As infrequent attendance becomes more normative, it raises a series of other questions.

2. Does Infrequent Attendance Lead to Lower Devotion Among Christians?

Some might argue frequent church attendance is not an indicator of devotion to Christ, but is infrequent church attendance a sign of lower devotion to Christ?

Obviously, there is nothing that inherently says that’s the case, but generally speaking, people are less committed to things they attend less often.

Showing up at the gym once a month rather than three times a week usually communicates something. Skipping a weekly date with someone you’re supposed to be in love with is usually a sign of something deeper.

People usually commit to things they’re devoted to. Until they’re no longer devoted to them.

Naturally, the goal of faith is to get people to commit to Jesus, not to a local church, but still, as I outline here, Christ and his church are intricately connected.

3. Will Online Church Replace In-Person Attendance for Many?

So if people aren’t attending church as regularly anymore, then what’s the new normal?

In addition to simply staying away, many are substituting online options for in-person attendance.

The last decade has seen an explosion of online options for Christians, most of which are free: from social media to podcasts and to services streamed both live and on demand.

The opportunities are endless and will only grow from here.

Even if your church doesn’t have any online presence, don’t worry—thousands of other ministries do. There’s no way to shield your congregation from a changing world.

And actually, come to think of it, there shouldn’t be. The church has always adapted to a changing world because Jesus loves the world.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Church Leaders
Carey Nieuwhof