Through the years one of the important pieces of my ongoing continuing education has to stay in touch with the trends in “The Church”. Change has always been a part of the church. (But not the message. That clearly is the same as when God “before the foundations of the world” set in motion what would take place more than 2,000 years ago. The plan of Salvation was indeed “set in stone” before “The Fall” ever took place.) However other monumental changes have occurred. Here are some massive changes that are dramatically shaping our churches today. We need to ask, how does this impact Sanctuary United Methodist Church?
- The Death of Cultural Christianity. Cultural Christianity is no longer the norm. Churches have seen the exit of 25% or more of their attendees simply because “going to church” is no longer seen as a requirement for social validation. Recently in a Sunday Sermon I spoke of “The Dones”. We took a survey, and from the respondents there is good news for us. Indeed we continue to be “family” and an authentic community of faith. Faithfulness is very much alive.
- The Multi Movement. Multi site. Multi venue. Multi service. There are now multiple multis. We have more service times, styles, and locations than ever before. Some of these additions have produced good results. Churches are more relevant to their communities, and we have experienced a more diverse expression of musical worship as well. One of the multi’s we may need to consider is the fact that the day of Sunday Morning being the only time to offer worship needs to be re-visited. There was a day that the reason 11:00 am was the most popular time for worship is because many of the church goers had to fit it in between cow milking chores. Clearly that is no longer the case. And clearly, if we want to be serious about all people being invited to worship we need to have “regular worship” at a time other than a Sunday morning.
- The Shift in Work Habits. This goes along with what I just addressed. A survey at Sanctuary as to whether or not our people are required to work regularly on Sundays, many surprise you. People are forced to miss corporate worship due to work requirements. Again this is why exploring alternative worship days and times to reach those unable to make it on Sundays due to work would be a good thing. The interesting trend is that while Saturday night services have been around for a few years, Tuesday or Wednesday night services are becoming more common among many churches.
- The Decline of Denominations. Denomination offices, especially Protestant ones, traditionally had a large influence in pastor and interim pastor placement. We are on the continue lookout for my replacement. The Bishop has granted us latitude that in the past were not offered. We still have constraints but the point is that the Denominational landscape is vastly changing. There are in fact quite a number of people who make it their life to study “The Church” see the handwriting on the wall. The main-line denomination as we have known it will be very, very different in the years to come.
- The Move to Different Staffing Models. My pathway into the full time pastorate went like this: Calling in High School. College (Dual major including Religion). Seminary. Right out of Seminary into the fulltime ministry. Now that pathway has changed. More and more churches are looking for bi-vocational and part-time staff to cover what in the past would have been full-time pastoral positions. This has led to new types of staff positions and a greater demand for qualified and trained staff.
- The Huge Revitalization and Replanting Movement. Church planting dominated much of the leadership conversation over the past decade—often to the detriment or neglect of traditional churches. Now, leaders are course correcting and starting to resource established churches in need of replanting and revitalization. What this means is that many churches are intentionally staying small. When growth is happening, new churches are being planted. And while that is good news, there is a disturbing flip side.
- The Closure of 8,000 to 10,000 Churches a Year. This is the unfortunate result of a lack of emphasis on established churches being invitational… or the word used in the past would have been “Evangelistic”. Far too many churches have closed and far too much ground has been given up in our communities. It’s time once again for gospel advance in communities where we’ve seen these churches close.
These seven massive shifts continue to impact churches in the United States and beyond, and in particular, Sanctuary. The church landscape will continue to change and we must discern the adjustments God wants and has in store for us. We especially need to understand these changes and observe how they are affecting all churches. Only then will we truly be able to respond and grow a healthy church.
Pastor Jim Carver – Sanctuary Church