Downsized worship centers, smaller churches and increased focus on evangelism are among the major trends expected to overtake churches this year.
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, listed the 10 major church trends projected for 2017 in a blog published last week. The list is a mix of both good and bad, and there appears to be a going back to the neighborhood church format described in the Book of Acts.
Although Rainer does not claim to be an expert in analyzing such trends, his yearly church trend projections had been pretty accurate, something he attributed to his practice of “following developing patterns” and his being “observant.”
More focus on evangelism
Rainer said that in 2017, churches will put more focus on evangelism as they explore how they can share the gospel to the non-Christians on their “Jerusalem” or their immediate surrounding or locality.
“This emphasis on the ‘Jerusalem’ of Acts 1:8 will result in more intentionality in evangelism and, thus, more people becoming followers of Christ,” he wrote.
More emphasis on practical ministries
There will also be “renewed emphasis on practical ministries.” With a number of churches turning toward theological recovery, many church leaders are “looking for practical solutions built on biblical truths.” They are rediscovering methods along with the right reasons for doing them.
More worship centers being downsized
Rainer projects that many worship centers will be downsized this year as more people become drawn to smaller churches. He said the millennials are influencing this shift from huge churches to smaller ones.
According to a study from the Pew Research Center, many millennials are not attracted to the church. Josh Hester, a millennial Christian and worship leader from Netcast church, said this could be because of the “hypocrisy” that the millennials have witnessed while growing up in church.
"I feel that a lot of Millennials who have grown up in church have seen a lot of the hypocrisy of the church, and I don't know if that's scared them or just put a bad taste in their mouth. And I think a lot of them are just fed up with it," he told CBN News.
Netcast’s pastor Matt Chewning said he talks openly about sin from the pulpit, giving his messages an “element of authenticity” that the millennials are very attracted to.
“We talk about a lot of our own sin. Because we're sinners, saved by grace, through faith alone and through Christ alone,” Chewning told CBN News.
More neighborhood churches being established
There will be a shift from the multi-site church movement toward the establishment of neighborhood churches., Rainer said. Additionally, churches will turn toward setting up or acquiring campuses so they can reach particular neighborhoods.
More churches closing
According to Rainer, there will be an accelerated death rate of churches, and this trend appears to be one that will continue for the years to come.
More churches being acquired
As the trend tends to lean on church closures, there will also be a greater number of churches that will acquire closing or declining churches. This is a strategic move, Rainer said.
“While the trend of church closures is not encouraging, it is encouraging that more churches are becoming intentional about saving these churches from total extinction,” he said.
More pastors desiring to stay in their communities
Again, the millennial pastors are at the forefront of this trend because many of them have no desire to be promoted to bigger churches. They genuinely want to serve and make a difference in their communities. Thus, they are not likely to leave their communities behind for greener pastures.
More knowledge being sought
Church leaders and staff will be more intentional in learning new things, either by enroling in a course or through mentoring and coaching programs. As a result, there will also be more coaches and mentors who will answer the demand to teach church leaders and staff.
More allegations of child sex abuse
While there are good church trends projected for the year, there are also bad ones. Rainer said there will be an “increased frequency” of child sex abuses in church, a place and community that sexual predators view as vulnerable. Unfortunately, many churches are ill prepared to handle such issues, Rainer said.
More financial fraud
There will also be more cases of financial fraud being committed in churches. People with wrong intentions tend to see the church as a “place of opportunity” to steal money. Rainer recommended using outsourced groups to handle the church’s bookkeeping and payroll.