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10 realities for regathering churches

Thom Rainer headshot

Though we don’t have a precise picture of what churches will look like two years from now, we are at least getting some early indicators as the congregations regather. Positively, there is a genuine excitement as more churches open and as more members return. The potential challenge is dealing with the expectation that your church will look like it did in 2019. It will not.

Here are some early indicators or realities for churches as they regather. Most of them apply in the North American context. These 10 are the most pervasive issues we see right now.

1. If a church is to grow, it must come from evangelistic efforts. Transfer growth and growth from cultural Christianity will be a dwindling source for growth. Congregations must be serious about reaching people with the Gospel.

2. Churches will have about 20% fewer people in attendance one year from now. That is the median point of the trends we are seeing. We will update you if that trend shifts in either direction.

3. Church facilities will be reconfigured. This trend was already underway. It has been exacerbated by the pandemic. We have mentioned on numerous occasions that worship centers will be smaller, but other facility trends are on the horizon as well.

4. A core of members will have a greater commitment to serve through the church. That’s good news, but we don’t yet know how big that core will be. We will keep you posted.

5. Digital giving will increase to about 70% of all giving. That number will probably be realized in about a year. Keep in mind, that percentage is a median. Your church could likely be different.

6. Churches will evangelize and minister to their communities greater than at any point in the past several decades. Again, this news is really good. It also portends well for the rebirth and renaissance of neighborhood churches.

7. The number of churches with Sunday evening worship services will decrease from 15% of churches to 10% of all churches. Again, this trend was underway before the pandemic, but it has been accelerated.

8. Church adoption will continue to grow. Church adoption is almost synonymous with church replanting. It takes place when an existing congregation decides to become a part of the family of another congregation.

9. Church fostering will continue to grow. This is an incipient movement that continues to have momentum. A healthier church agrees to help a less healthy church for a defined period, usually a year or less.

10. Shifting demographics will favor rural churches and churches in smaller towns. The pandemic taught employers and employees that most employees can work from any location. Many of these workers chose to move to less populated areas with a more reasonable pace of life.

Many of these realities are in their early stages. At Church Answers, we are monitoring them and others to keep you up to date on what we see.

Originally published at Church Answers 

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Rainer has written over 30 books, including three that reached number one bestseller: I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, and Simple Church. His new book, The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities That Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation, is available now.

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