3 TRENDS THE CHURCH MUST NOT IGNORE IN 2020
1. LESS REGULAR CHURCH ATTENDANCE
At the Spire Conference this October, Rick Rusaw quoted a wake-up-call statistic from church researchers: The average committed Christian today attends weekend worship only 1.3 times per month (down recently from 1.6 times per month). Obviously, this results in lower church growth numbers because even a congregation reaching more people may not show growing attendance when so many are coming so irregularly.
Sunday isn’t sacred any more in our culture. Pass Voice of America park many Sunday mornings to see several hundred parents watching their kids compete in a dozen different soccer matches. Just as many are traveling with their teenagers to baseball and soccer competitions between select teams in cities all over the Midwest. For many today, Sunday worship just isn’t a priority. It’s a good choice and a regular choice, but other activities often take its place.
And this is true not only for those far from God. Notice the 1.3 stat refers to joiners, those who belong to the church they so seldom attend.
Already church leaders are grappling with the challenge of finding volunteers and offering coherent and meaningful Bible teaching when they’re faced with a different population every Sunday. If this trend continues—and few would predict a reversal of it anytime soon—the negative impact on local church programming will get worse.
2. ONLINE MINISTRY
One response to this attendance crisis is online ministry. If we can’t get people to come to our building, we must go where they are. And, increasingly, they are on the Internet. In 2020 60 percent of the world’s population will have Internet access; by 2030 that figure will be 90 percent!
We need to creatively expand the church’s online presence. At our church we’re learning what this means, and we have been pleased with the results. In two years we have received more than $150,000 in offerings from those attending our online services. Upwards of 50 people from around the world have participated in face-to-face online Bible studies. In Ghana alone, we have seen more than 25 baptisms through Joshua Baah-Binney’s ministry which participates weekly in our online worship. And 12 whose first contact with our church was online have driven or flown to Mason to be baptized here. Between 20 and 70 attend our online campus at the nearby Monkey Bar.
We’re committed to an online presence all day every day. We offer daily Bible studies. Visitors to our site can chat with us any time of day or night. For example, a retired police officer from Malaysia clicked on our twenty-four hour chat pop-up, looking for Jesus in the middle of the night. Because we were there, he could learn more.
If we do not get global online, we will not reach the people we should.
I believe online ministry can change the face of church planting worldwide. For $15,000, a church anywhere can start reaching people with the gospel. Compare this with the years of training and the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to put one family on the mission field. Some have said, “If we get people to our building, we can engage them in community.” But I’m seeing community happen online. This is a trend that must grow.
3. THE MENTAL HEALTH OF CHURCH LEADERS
Pastors, like everyone else, have mental health problems, but only recently have many begun to talk about them. Surely the tragic suicides of prominent ministers this year can convince us that mental health in ministry can no longer remain a hidden topic.
And there are at least two corollaries to this trend: Incidents of anxiety, depression, and stress are increasing among the younger generation, and these are the folks who will be the church’s leaders 10 years from now. The church must help them now and be prepared to help them later.
Meanwhile, leaders must make their own mental health a priority. Leaders cannot work themselves into exhaustion and expect to be effective. They need mentors, counselors, and friends with whom they can be completely honest and vulnerable.
Here’s an idea for those employing church leaders. Along with providing entertainment expenses and a book allowance, why not include a “therapy fund” among a pastor’s employment benefits? Or establish a counseling assistance program with a pool of local counselors who will charge a $10 or $40 copay to church staff members. If this won’t work, find a sponsor in your church who will underwrite the charges for your pastor’s visits to a counselor.
This is preventative care, just as legitimate as semiannual visits to the dentist. When the pastor’s world falls apart—when he walks away from ministry, has a nervous breakdown, or indulges in some sinful indiscretion—the damage undermines the whole cause of Christ.
Years ago when I was serving in Dallas, I began a relationship with a counselor that continues today. I speak with this person online once per month. It’s a practice I recommend to anyone.