I love this simple concept … while events gain our attention, trends remain far more significant. So what are the trends with church for the next 10 years? One guess…
Many churches will continue to decline in numbers and donations.
This is a sad one. Many churches, contemporary and traditional, progressive and conservative, will continue to struggle. Congregations under a certain number may no longer remain financially viable. There is currently no data that I am aware of that sheds a positive light on this trend.
One fear may be this … declining churches can become hostile churches. Reactionary. Misplacing understandable grief around decline with a rage directed out at broader culture and others. This could in turn lead to a denominational “doubling down” as it were.
One can see that in the current challenges in the Catholic church where Pope Francis noted his concern around “the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the churches teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.”
For churches to remain viable, they will need a a focused mission, a deliberate dedication to service.
And not everything is doom-and-gloom. The future while uncertain is paradoxically hopeful as well.
There will always be a space for Christianity. While Christianity clearly will no longer remain a cultural “given” as the question shifts from “Where do you go to Church? to “Do you go to Church?” it will still exist and will thrive in pockets. I believe New Church Christianity will find a thriving place there as well.
Those thriving pockets I imagine will be centered around churches and groups steeped in a deep missional focus. The broad color of that mission will center on Christianity’s heartsong … expanding the circles of compassion in loving service to the other and the sacraments that support that mission, i.e. the archain disciples of Communion etc…. As Emanuel Swedenborg phrased it, “Religion is of life and the life of religion is to do good.” A place where love of God and love the neighbor work functionally as one.
That missional focus creates great leeway in terms of belief and individual perspective. That fits well with current desires for non-authoritative, non-exclusive truth claims offered with a humility of presentation and clear valuing around freedom of movement while at the same time finding a concrete centering on sacred texts.
It is movement from church in the age of belief to church in the age of service.
More congregants will join online than in person for Sunday Services
The internet remains a game changer. Some predict the end of the Sunday service, a demise to be replaced by online content and small groups. For some that may indeed be true. However there will always be space for the traditional Sunday gathering.
What I imagine will most likely evolve is a hybrid model combining both inperson and online audiences. Small groups obviously play a critical here as well given their ability to serve both audiences.
At NewChurch LIVE in two short years we have seen a dramtic shift. Two years ago 9.6% of our Sunday attendees joined us live via a simulcast. That percent has grown dramatically, now reaching 24%. And there no signs of that trend ending. Important to note those tuning in come from remote locations yet also many local families who tire at the idea of pushing the kids out to the door to church and prefer instead to watch at home.
One can legitimatly grieve what may be a loss of community in the name of convenience but I believe this is trend to be embraced not refuted.
So what could NewChurch LIVE look like in 10 years?
- Sunday: An inperson service, bringing together a wide variety voices – male and female, multigenerational, multiethnic – that combined with our LiveStream audience tops 1,000 each week with the majority watching online
- Small Groups: A thriving small group program made up of numerous small group structures, durations, themes etc…..
- Service: A “hub” in which we facilitate, support, and connect with numerous non-profits allied to our layity’s interests.
And these are all best guesses. What I know in these uncertain times … remain true to the mission of humble service. And God will lead us in the rest.