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10 major trends for local churches in America in 2023

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It is one of many blessings God has given me.

At Church Answers, we hear from tens of thousands of churches, church leaders, and church members every year. We are truly blessed to have our “ear to the ground” to hear what is taking place among the estimated 350,000 congregations in America.

We take each piece of data (we call them “dots”) we receive and connect them to understand developments in the present that will become trends in the near future.

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Here are ten of the most common developments we’ve discerned. They will likely become trends in 2023.

1. Local congregations will emphasize evangelism more than at any point in the past three decades. Church leaders understand they can’t lead a church to growth with cultural Christians (a true oxymoron) and transfer growth. If churches desire truly to make disciples, they must begin with evangelism.

2. The increase in the growth of diversity in congregations will be its greatest ever in 2023. Millennials see a monocultural generation as out-of-touch. Gen Z cannot imagine anything monocultural, especially a church.

3. The year 2023 will be a record year for church adoptions. An adopted church is a congregation that comes into the family, care, and authority of another, usually healthier, church. Of course, more churches will seek adoption because they are about to die and close.

4. More churches will have specific global partners. Churches in America will seek to partner with churches in other nations, particularly where the Gospel is spreading the most rapidly. This trend is more than an increase in mission giving; it is an intentional and strategic partnership with a specific church or churches.

5. The time between pastors for churches will be longer than ever. I can remember when a long-term interim period was twelve months. Today, many churches have these interim periods for two to three years or more.

6. The number of interim pastors will be greater than ever. This trend is obviously a corollary of trend number five. Some of these interim pastors are preachers only. Others are considered “intentional interims” with consultive roles as well as preaching.

7. More churches will request consultations than at any point in American church history. For example, we get ten times more requests now at Church Answers than we did just three years ago. Congregations are more willing or more desperate to seek outside help.

8. Church autopsies will be the fastest-growing area of research in American churches. I wrote Autopsy of a Deceased Church in 2014 and the demand for the book began growing again in 2022. Thousands of churches have closed, and we are trying to discover the reasons for their death.

9. More pastors and staff will become bi-vocational and co-vocational. The latter term usually refers to those who chose to remain in the marketplace. Bi-vocational pastors are those who work outside the church because their church could not compensate them with full-time pay.

10. More pastors and staff will get their theological and ministry training in the church. This trend has been growing the past decade and will continue to grow even more in 2023.

Yes, American churches have many challenges. But I see a lot of hope in the midst of these challenges.

My prayer is for your church to become a hope-filled congregation in 2023!

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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