Change or die.
Such has been the reality of too many congregations the past ten years as the rate of church closures has accelerated. Many have died; others are on life support.
But what are some of the major changes that have taken place in congregations that are doing relatively well? What are some of the ways these congregations have adapted to new realities? Here is a hint: None of the changes in healthy churches have compromised doctrine, diminished the centrality of preaching, or abandoned sharing the gospel.
So what changes have occurred in healthy churches in the last decade? Here are eight of them:
1. Today: Smaller worship gatherings.
Ten years ago: Larger worship gatherings.
There are several factors impacting this change, among them more multi-site churches, more non-traditional worship times, and a desire among the Millennials to be a part of a smaller gathering rather than a larger gathering.
2. Today: Smaller church facilities
Ten years ago: Larger church facilities
There are three major issues at work here. First, church leaders are more hesitant to spend funds on largely unused facilities. Second, churches are building with less space for adult small groups or Sunday school, and are choosing to have those groups meet off-site or on non-worship days. Third, the smaller worship gathering noted above means smaller worship centers.
3. Today: First priority staff person hired: children’s minister
Ten years ago: First priority staff person hired: worship leader
This shift is largely influenced by the large Millennial generation and their children. Millennials are looking for a church that is safe, sanitary, educational, and fun for their children.
4. Today: Ministry degree optional for church staff members
Ten years ago: Ministry degree strongly preferred for church staff
Churches today are more likely to call someone on staff from within their congregations. That person may not have a Bible college or seminary degree.
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Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.