11 Traits of Churches That Will Impact the Future

11 Traits of Churches that will Impact the Future

Almost every leader I talk to acknowledges that our culture is shifting.

To reach a changing culture, the church needs to change. Rapidly.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t need to change the message. Just the method. One is sacred. The other is not.

What isn’t as clear is what the future church will look like, and what kind of characteristics will mark those churches.

However, I think a few trends are becoming clear. Not all of these might be correct, but I think the following eleven traits describe the kind of churches that will have a significant impact a decade from now.

The wise leader is taking steps today to position their church to respond to these things. I know that’s what we’re trying to do at Connexus, where I have the privilege of serving.

After reading this list, I’d love your feedback and reaction. Leave a comment outlining what you see and any other trends you’re noticing.

To reach a changing culture, the church needs to change. Rapidly. Click To Tweet

11 Traits of Churches That Will Impact the Future

Here’s what I see as hallmarks of the churches that will make an impact in the next decade:

1. The ability to say no

One of the reasons churches don’t change is because leaders are unwilling to say no to current members who prefer things the way they were.

When you learn to say no to the preferences of some current members, you learn to say yes to a community that is ready to be reached. (For more on learning to say no, see this post.)

2. Outsider focus

Churches that become passionate about people outside their walls will be far more effective than churches that are passionate about keeping the few people they have inside their walls.

Better still, you will have a healthier church. We call individuals who are fixated on their wants and needs selfish and immature. Selfless and mature churches will have an impact because of their passion for people God cares about.

3. Quick decision making 

If you have a decision-making process that’s slow and complicated, you will not be able to keep up with the pace of change needed. Having multi-level approval processes and having to get congregational approval on matters will block innovation.

If you can’t make a decision within 24 hours, your process is too slow.

And with change happening as radically and unpredictably as it is now, if you can pivot your organization within 30 days, you’re too slow.

If you want help with that, here’s the process I’ve embraced to pivot quickly.

If you can't make a decision within 24 hours, your process is too slow. - @jeffbrodie Click To Tweet

4. Flexibility

You don’t need to change your mission (for the most part), but you do need to change your methods.

Flexible and adaptable churches that can innovate around strategy and different initiatives will have the freedom to make the changes they need to make an impact moving forward.

5. A willingness to embrace smaller to become bigger

Mega-churches will continue to grow, but most of us won’t lead mega-churches.

When small churches stop trying to be mega-churches, good things can happen.

In fact, more and more larger churches will start embracing smaller venues, locations and partnerships to keep growing. A greater number of smaller venues might be a hallmark of future churches making an impact.

When small churches stop trying to be mega-churches, good things can happen. Click To Tweet

6. A quicker, lighter footprint

I learned this phrase from my friend Rich Birch (you should read his blog).

Churches need a quicker, lighter footprint to grow. If you’re waiting for millions to build your building, you might wait forever. Get innovative and start looking at portable and non-traditional ways of growing your ministry.

Quicker, lighter footprints will be necessary.

7. Valuing online relationships as real relationships

Churches that aren’t online beyond a website are going to miss the boat. Real interaction with real people online is…well…real.

Sure, face to face is deeper, but people will tell you things online they can’t muster the courage to tell you face to face. Whether you get them to a ‘real’ church is increasingly debatable. I would love that. But we’ll have to see.

As much as you might hate it, virtual relationships are becoming real relationships. I wrote about this much more recently here.

As much as you might hate it, virtual relationships are becoming real relationships. Click To Tweet

8. An openness to questions

Most unchurched people today come in with questions that seem weird to those of us who spent a lifetime in church. Don’t try to answer them right away.

Churches that understand that embracing questions is as important as providing immediate answers will make an impact in the future.

We’re discovering that if you embrace questions, the answers eventually find their way into people’s lives. The Holy Spirit actually does move in people’s lives.

9. A high value on experimentation

The more traditional you are, the less you will value experimentation. The more successful you are, the less you will value experimentation. If you start to raise the value of experimentation, you will accelerate change and flexibility.

The churches that connect with their community will be the churches willing enough to try a variety of things, and who also have the courage to kill them as soon as they stop producing results.

If you start to raise the value of experimentation, you will accelerate change and flexibility. Click To Tweet

10. Prioritizing a for you not from you culture

Andy Stanley often talks about what he wants for people, not just what he wants from them. Churches in decline often think in terms of what they can get from people – money, time, growth etc.

Churches that will make an impact on the future will be passionate about what they want for people – financial balance, generosity, the joy of serving, better families, and of course, Christ at the center of everyone’s life.

If you want more on this, my friend Jeff Henderson wrote an outstanding book on it here.

11. A tailored experience, not a tailored message

You don’t have to tailor the message to unchurched people (see what Andy Stanley says about that here), but churches that have an impact will tailor the experience.

There were presents under my tree last Christmas. But I’m not a shopping mall fan. 90% of my gift buying happened online. The content was the same – the experience changed.

Churches that decide they will hold the message sacred but tailor the experience to an ever shifting culture will be more effective (here, by the way, are 15 characteristics of today’s unchurched people).

That’s what I see.

What else do you see?

I’d love to hear about what you’re noticing.

11 Traits of Churches That Will Impact the Future


  1. Zach Snyder on November 15, 2021 at 5:27 am

    Great read! “Valuing Online Relationships As Real Relationships” like this section and this quote “As much as you might hate it, virtual relationships are becoming real relationships.”

    Have seen lots of church’s mass live streams lately because of the pandemic. Seems like these current health events is helping churches be more open in embracing online relationships wouldn’t you say?

  2. Dean Phillips on July 17, 2021 at 6:49 am

    Recently, I have been wanting to get back to church as I have not been going there for a while now. That’s why I decided to look into a christian church virtual worship last Tuesday after dinner because this would be better suited to my hectic schedule. This here led me to your wonderful post which I might add, is very informative. I really liked where you highlighted that flexible and adaptable churches that can innovate around strategy and different initiatives will have the freedom to make the changes they need to make an impact moving forward. This is a great point you raised here, one I’m sure those like me will be happy to agree with. Thanks a bunch for this!

  3. Paige on May 22, 2021 at 6:32 pm

    I may be missing the point of this post because you are talking about growing churches. The thing that makes me sad about this article is I don’t see anything for the forgotten church member. I know you and I are on the same thought process of the need to not listen to the complainers and people who don’t care about the unsaved. But the forgotten member? The single mom and her fatherless kids. Believe me. Most of my single mom friends don’t bother with church. And the cycle will continue with her kids.

    • Becky on June 4, 2021 at 10:03 am

      Amen to that and someone just mentioned something to me the other day, what about the older members who are getting closer to their homecoming every day-is it wrong to have a gathering that encourages them? those who have given much time in service, prayers, sharing of their resources, experience and talents for years-but we say we can’t cater to what they want, because we’ll appear like we’re an ‘old peoples’ church-I want to be a caring and compassionate church-they need some encouragement too.

      • Stacy Knapp on June 4, 2021 at 10:12 am

        THANK YOU this is REAL TALK! As my parents could potentially be in that “older members” category I’m realizing the importance of both to mobilize them on mission by sharing their stories of faith, redemption and hope and then for the rest of us to hear their stories and maintain relationships with them.

  4. Joy Aline Chetty on May 22, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    Appreciate all your points. Thank you for sharing. May God help us all as we remain flexible and adaptable in a tough season. Blessings

  5. minecraft on August 22, 2020 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for this and we are all blessed with this.

    • Jeremiah jensman on March 10, 2021 at 2:28 pm

      How can a church have a positive impact in the society

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  7. Chuck Congram on July 20, 2020 at 7:34 am

    Although it is dated the book “Building The Bridge As You Walk On It” by Robert Quinn has been very helpful to me, He says organizations today face only one of 2 choices-deep change or slow death. Many churches I know are choosing the latter

  8. Justin Klatt on July 18, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    So good Carey! Right on with all 11 of those.

    • Stacy Knapp on July 26, 2020 at 6:53 pm

      As I read through these, I kept thinking “Yup God set Justin and Janae up for that from the beginning of their online church almost two years ago.”

  9. Steve Shaw on July 18, 2020 at 10:10 am

    Good post Carey, thanks. About speed of decision-making, I agree that we live in a climate that calls for faster decisions and that we should have structures that keep us as agile as possible in this regard. My only caution would be about the speed of our decision making (especially if we’re talking about a 24-hour period!) short-circuiting the process of prayer and due team discernment. When does efficiency result in making decisions in our own wisdom and strength? Israel made their biggest blunders when they failed to “inquire of the Lord.” While I fully agree that we mustn’t get unduly bogged down in the decision-making process, in my experience true prayerful discernment can rarely be rushed.

  10. Steve Davison on June 5, 2020 at 8:18 am

    The link to the Leadership Network article in #6 above is broken.

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    • Heather on November 16, 2019 at 9:13 am

      What consistently surprises me is that younger people do not necessarily gravitate towards the hipper services. They tend to want more traditional because they can get rock music anywhere but they can only get Jesus and a sermon in church!

  12. Neil Girrard on May 25, 2019 at 2:30 am

    Carey: we don’t need to change the message. Just the method. One is sacred. The other is not.

    My objection to the “church” of today (referring largely to the building with a pastor with a pulpit with people sitting at his feet in pews having their ears scratched once or twice a week so they can live pretty much however the hell they want to) is that it is precisely a change of the message.

    Do we really believe the original message didn’t tell us how to be the body of Christ? How did we become so dumbed down that we thought “church” was the same thing as (Greek) ekklesia?

    Why can’t we just return to the original message to find out the original method?

    • simon on September 8, 2021 at 12:52 pm

      I agree that we don’t need to change the message, the message changes us. But when you said why can’t we just return to the original message to find the original method, my question is what is the original message?

  13. Higenyi jimmy on July 22, 2018 at 5:45 am

    servant of God thanks indeed you are right when you talk of changing methods.
    iam from Uganda,but churches are more zealous to maintaining the few members in the church than launching out to the unchurched churches.
    the other challenge is how to impact the unchurched who are characterised by poverty,sickness,desperation ,drunkness,sexually immoral,orphaned children,HIV AIDs,youths who are unemployed,farmers who are stressed with unsudden climate .
    Now our churches dwell on one method basically crusades.a church thinks by carrying keyboards,guitars,PAC system,praisers,do a lot of singing and the pastor preaches and prays for a few,the church thinks it has impacted, actually it is found out that 98%of the people who come to crusades are born again.the church needs to focus on loving the outsiders not by word only but more in action.

    the church should try to meet the needs of the people.
    the outsiders also want to see changed lives of their brothers and sisters who are in church for example changed in behaviour,economically and socially.you can’t have an ever quarreling born again couple to impact any couple out side,you don’t expect a born again family slain by abject family to impact the community much as it proclaims to serve a big God.

    • Don Braselton on July 18, 2020 at 9:05 am

      I read comments that seem to reflect a view of negative judgement on the Christian church for being too much of a ‘class of people by itself’ that excludes others. I don’t see this as realism, but as ‘I did not learn to like your more structured system growing up because I was very much influence by ‘the worid’ and then began to see the church as very exclusionary and separatist. That is not a real view of the church. A structure, very large or small is needed by Christians to join together in community to learn how to grow together in the knowledge of God’s word and understanding that all need to be caring and forgiving and not judgement all of others trying to use all forms of worship together so to appreciate God’s gifts to us of all talents we have and appreciate ways of growing in His grace to us. Some, of all ages thrive on seeing, listening and hearing, extravagant presentations of God’s blessings and messages for us and to us. Others shy away from anything expansive because, perhaps it is viewed as an elevation of too much human personality (is this jealousy or what) that impedes our ability to appreciate and except God given talents used to elevate us with great enthusiasm and appreciation. I find God’s message is delivered in very different ways which means that we appreciate some and cannot help but stay away from others. Some present the Gospel with a warm heart and edifying message which is very much appreciated to Christians seeking to find solace from ‘the world’ and looking to experience the wonder of God’s gifts to us. Some present the Gospel to others in an evangelistic manner that may be diifficult for others to stay with because there is not the full appreciation of all God’s gifts for us and to us which may limit understanding and raise the questions of what is the best way for the church to be presented to the world.

  14. Moses Kwee on August 21, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Dear Pastor ,

    Holy greetings to you in Jesus Name .
    I am Pastor Moses Kwee of the Jesus Evangelical Church located in Liberia, West Africa .

    I have been led to take you to be my partner in ministry .
    I am the founding pastor of the church . Therefore, I am asking you to accept me so that you can teach me how to impact in to the lives of God’s people .
    I hope you will have me considered .

    Mat God bless you .
    Thanks .
    Pastor Moses Kwee

  15. Luke on June 8, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    tried to follow 3 links in this post and none of them worked.

  16. Dean on June 27, 2016 at 12:37 am

    Very good article. In the third sentence of number 9, didn’t you mean to say “more” instead of “less?”

    • Brett W. on December 18, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      I think he meant “more” because if you are successful you can get into the rut of not feeling the need to experiment and you will quickly see your once success become now irrelevance. It is ironic, but I think the more a church is successful, the less they experiment.

  17. Kala-ada on June 4, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    the internet will never replace fellowship guys…
    nice stuff

  18. Will Perez on April 20, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Great stuff here Carey! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the “era” change that my generation (millennial) and the generation behind us (Z) are bringing to the table in the US. Many of the large Churches have already capitalized on the seemingly unavoidable shift in culture from Agrarian to Nomadic by “thinking smaller” and engaging people in smaller satellite venues, micro-sites, and online “Live streaming”. The “Home Church” movement which began almost a decade ago has been translated into a more nomadic movement in which we can have Church anywhere because of the latest advancements in Technology. So again, just wanted to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

  19. Lance Tweedie on October 10, 2015 at 5:47 am

    Thanks Carey! More great content. The link in point 3 is broken is there another way to access this article? I am in the middle of reviewing our constitution and would love read this article.

  20. Marc Ulrich on August 26, 2015 at 8:49 am

    These are great insights. question, how does a Connexus Church do online ministry? How do others in this discussion do online ministry? I totally agree with quick decision making.

    I spent 6 years in the market place for employment and had to learn to make quick, wise, best decisions. My church experience didn’t help this ability, but I had to learn this in my job. I’ve often wondered how to carry that over from the market place to the church leadership. Thanks! -Marc

  21. John Warner on June 16, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Within the last 10 years, I’ve move 3 times, attended Independent Baptist Church each time, one in Oklahoma, one in West Texas, and one in Tenn., and have seen these churches grow in attendance! It is amazing! But the thing I noticed these churches have in common is: they all a strong outreach ministry. Door to door, inviting folks to church, presenting the Gospel on the doorstep; They all preached and taught out of the King James Bible, and there was no projector, no “worship team” with a band, and the strangest thing of all, they actually used hymnals! I am still amazed. Some may think I’m making this up or exaggerating, but I’m convinced that if we pray, witness, ask and present Jesus and the Gospel story. Folks will come in. Some are still hungry for the plain truth, without the “dog and pony show” , as I call it.
    Jesus said “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” I still think the Bible is right.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 17, 2015 at 5:03 am

      John that’s so great that the churches you’ve been part of are growing. That’s amazing. The only caution I would have is not to put personal preferences ahead of Biblical principles. There are many people at dog and pony show churches (mine would qualify as one I’m sure in some circles) who love Jesus as much as you do, preach scripture and are growing. We have to love the mission more than we love the model. Thanks!

  22. Nathalie on April 16, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Thank you Carey.
    I totally understand what you are saying. And you explained very well that the message is still the same but the method changes. Very helpful points.
    Again thank you.

  23. Dillon Boyd on February 27, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    This is some great information. Point one rings true. I also think that if a program isn’t effective, why keep it?
    Also I have been challenging my friends, that church needs to be about reaching out to the sick and spiritually dying. If all we are doing is ministering to ourselves than are we really about our Father’s business?
    I also like your thoughts on online relationships. Some people may have been hurt in a church situation and may not want to come, but I bet you can friend them and strike up conversations that will allow for their healing and spiritual growth.
    You just have some thought provoking, innovative ideas. I cant wait to talk them over with our men.

  24. Abraham Sagaon on February 1, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    My church is doing a consitution and I was just wanting to know/ make sure that what age limit should follow the constitution or even make an opinion.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 3, 2015 at 7:20 am

      We don’t have an age limit either way Abraham (old or young). I wonder what others do.

  25. DrPrestonTAdams on January 7, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Very good article. I love the practical approach to your blog. Tons of helpful and thought provoking resources.

  26. ALF on November 23, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Your 24 hour rule for every decision is theologically interesting (and kinda short sighted). Have you put the Holy Spirit on a 24 hour restriction? Decision making should be done when the Holy Spirit makes the answer clear and not before. Leaders should know how to discern the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and power, but not be rushed to jump to a decision when the Holy Spirit hasn’t spoken yet. Let things be on God’s time table not your random deadlines.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 24, 2014 at 6:41 am

      Thanks for the question. I didn’t say you should make every decision in 24 hours. I said you should be able to make decisions in 24 hours. Many organizations and churches can’t. And I do think the Holy Spirit is capable of making quick decisions and taking time to decide as well.

    • pd on November 19, 2016 at 7:09 pm

      You are so right. I learned that the hard way, not on my time but when G-D is ready, as it will be his time when he destroys the world not when we think we are ready for him to do it.The Churches are so full of the Pharisees he himself , Jesus called Hypocrites and brood of vipers.G-D does know his own and he knows all the deceivers.

  27. Victor Robidas on November 17, 2014 at 7:55 am

    The future of the Church, of course is heaven! Looking forward to that day when we are called up to be, forever, with our Lord Jesus Christ…. In the interim, change is okay only if it remains consistent with God’s word…. God is Sovereign and His word is our guide… To do otherwise would be to disobey God! The most important thing besides remembering our Lord’s sacrifice is to “Go Ye Into the world to preach the Gospel”…

  28. Tom Gates on November 17, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Why do you even worry about this stuff? Isn’t the Lord at the helm? Isn’t it a stone cut out of a mountain without hands?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 17, 2014 at 9:12 am

      I worry about this stuff because I take the scripture seriously, and Jesus commissioned people to partner with him in sharing the Gospel. That’s why.

    • Eagle36 on February 27, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      A couple of passages from the Bible come to mind after reading your comment.

      1. “From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” (1 Chronicles 12:32) The Lord is at the helm but he uses people to understand the times and take action. If the Lord didn’t expect us to do anything and He did it all Himself, our existence would be pointless.

      2. The Parable of the 3 Servants – Matthew 25:14-30. Two servants took what they were given, did something with it, and earned more. One servant did nothing because the master was in charge and he was called “wicked and lazy”. This is what happened to him – “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” To me it looks like it is better to do something rather than do nothing.

      The problem is that too many Christians and churches are ignoring the times and choosing to do nothing so what they have is being taken away from them while they sit and complain about the culture and the people outside of the church. It’s time to “understand the times” and take what God has given us and put it to work instead of burying it inside the four walls of the church. If you want to understand why so many churches are dying just spend some time understanding these two passages and what they mean for us today in our context.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on February 27, 2015 at 3:22 pm

        Well said. 🙂

      • Victor Robidas on March 1, 2015 at 4:33 pm

        Parable of the 8 Talents is what you are referring too…. The church was not born yet, neither were there Christians. That came after the cross, and believers were all brought under one umbrella 50 days later when the Church which is His Body was born…. Then, the local church was planted. (The very first one). Preaching the Gospel to every creature, is our great commission. It would be normal for a child of God to be offended by the changing tide… After all, it goes against our very being, since we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit… We stand up for God, our testimony is for Christ, our citizenship is heaven… I agree, we should not confine ourselves to 4 walls, we should be going out into this world and preaching the Gospel, for time is short…..

      • Anna on March 15, 2015 at 2:12 pm

        Excellent response.

  29. Pjgeafos1 on November 14, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    First of all, I’m a Millennial. I think what you’re saying is interesting, but I disagree. Instead of changing the format of a service, we need to be equipped to share the Gospel with the lost outside of the church setting. A subtle shift seems to have occurred where the lost are referred to as unchurched, and we need to remember that the lost desperately need the Gospel. When services are changed, often important theology is not mentioned, and the lost need to hear about the holiness of God and our sinfulness. New methods might be exciting and fun, but the lost are done a disservice. New converts and the lost are taught methods that constantly evolve, their flesh is often fed, and they are given the idea that being selfish is all right. I think leadership in churches needs to rethink the idea that people who don’t want changes are selfish, and leadership needs to show my generation that the church is for the glory of God, not to meet my generation’s needs and wants. If churches want to focus on the lost, where do we who are saved go to be equipped to understand the deep truths of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and be encouraged to live for Him?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 15, 2014 at 9:09 am

      Thanks for your comment. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but it sounds like you’re saying the church should make no adaptation for shifting culture at all. Which is hard to understand that given even in the scriptures, worship moves from tabernacle, to temple, to synagogue and later to homes. God remains the same, the method of worshipping him shifts. I think your logic would suggest the church can only worship in a first century, Mediterranean environment, which I’m not sure your church would. If I’m wrong, I apologize.

      • Pjgeafos1 on November 15, 2014 at 9:59 pm

        The question for churches should not be how to impact the culture but how to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. When churches focus on methods and strategies and neglect teaching the Word, the focus is in the wrong place. The Gospel is relevant in every culture and at every time. Changing methods by using contemporary music that focuses on us and by using drama does not save the lost. The result is that the church looks like the world. I think too often church leadership thinks that we save people, but God saves people. He uses us by having us in their lives, but faith comes through hearing the Word. Please consider what I’ve said in this comment.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on November 17, 2014 at 9:11 am

          I agree. For sure that’s the question. And for sure, God saves people. We don’t. But I just think your logic says you have to worship exactly as the early church did, which in all honesty, I doubt you’re doing. The argument just doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I’m missing something.

          • Michelle Chesnut on November 17, 2014 at 11:25 am

            If I understand Pjgeafos1 correctly then I agree. What I believe they are saying is that making worship more modern is great until the strong message of who God is gets lost. Sometimes churches change and are so focused on the “unchurched” or “lost” that we then have no place for those that are saved to fulfill their thirst for the Lord. A growing church with a modern day worship is great until we stop focusing on the quality of disciples we are creating. I believe that change is necessary, and that we have to reach out beyond our walls to reach those that have not found a place where they can learn about the greatness of God but we have to remember that once we get them in our doors it is our responsibility to continue to nurture and help them grow into strong, powerful disciples for Christ. Is that on point Pjgaefos1?

  30. Thea on November 14, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I see great opportunities in bringing God’s love to the people in the workplace. That would mean a greater awareness among christians about who God really is, who they are in Christ and Who they bring with them ‘to work’. That would start with a church that is teaching this and willingness in christians to ‘go’. I believe this type of church will have a great impact locally and will grow in strength and also be a convincing testimony to the world.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 14, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      Agreed. Every church should have attenders wit that attitude!

  31. David Snead on September 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Maybe I missed it, but what about prayer? What about seeking God for His methods and where He is working?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 27, 2014 at 7:53 am

      David…thanks for this. Prayer is a foundation to all we do as Christian leaders and for me personally. Same with scripture, faith, trust etc.

      I don’t usually include them in blog posts because then every post would be the same. I try to focus on the things most of us miss as leaders.

      Hope the clarifies things. And I totally agree with you…prayer is foundational to all ministry.

      • David Snead on September 30, 2014 at 5:10 am

        Thank you very much for responding. I’m just concerned for the trend that we have of looking for “the best way to do church”, which we *should do*, but without holding to our “first love” like the Ephesian church in Revelation 2. I do appreciate the resources you give, etc., but I don’t think it’s wrong to remind people to pray, to seek the Lord’s face, and to try to see where and how He is moving.

        “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have…” (2 Peter 1:12, ESV)

        Thanks again. 😀

  32. Ally evans on August 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    You mention being online with people. We give away a free online church platform!!! Every church can do full services online without coming up with the technology on their own!!! We already did the work so take advantage of it for free. Go to churchonlineplatform.com

  33. Suryaveer Patnaik on August 15, 2014 at 2:28 am

    I am an architecture student, and I am working my thesis “Changing the identity of sacred architecture”, I would be really greateful if some of you could answer a simple question. How much does the look, feel and architecture of a church matter ? Can we move out of the shell of ancient styles of church and bring about change in how churches look and feel ?

    • Ally on August 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      I work for LifeChurch.tv and we have 20 locations around the country. None of them have a steeple! 🙂 God is so much bigger than the shape or architecture of a building. Lives are being changed in portable locations in movie theaters, old retail stores that have converted to church meeting spaces, portable set ups in schools and bars and on the side of a hill! The Capital “C” Church is doing a great job of proving that people will respond to the gospel anywhere!! Whoo hoo!!

      • Carey Nieuwhof on September 27, 2014 at 7:55 am

        Suryaveer…thanks for your question. I think it’s really up for discussion. Some people say architecture matters, others say it doesn’t.

        Personally, I have led a growing church in 100 year old building, in a school, in a movie theater and in a brand new facility. All have strengths and weaknesses.

        I’ve seen a lot of leaders blame their building for a lack of growth.

        When designing a new facility, we pay at ton of attention to details and definitely land on the side of ‘new’ and ‘non-traditional’, but I think the church can grow anywhere. I agree with Ally.

        • Richard Evans on October 14, 2014 at 3:53 pm

          you might consider functionality over form being the key. What is your mission, how does your facility facilitate that calling?

  34. Cassandra Wright on August 6, 2014 at 8:52 am

    There is only one thing that will “impact the future” for Christ, and that is teaching people how to evangelize. Stop fooling around with coffee houses with 14 types of coffee, or dance teams, etc. Teach Christians that people are going to hell without Jesus, and how to tell people about Him. Teach that Jesus didn’t come to make us feel good, but to save us from sin. The Church has compromised too much, and that is why we are not growing.

  35. […] 11 Traits Of Churches That Will Impact The Future […]

  36. Missionarymike on May 27, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Great stuff

  37. Guest on May 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Interesting that someone concerned about their online presence has taken their church’s facebook page down.

  38. Pam gonzales on April 24, 2014 at 10:09 am

    I think the point about being able to make a decision for change in 24 hours is our problem. It takes a year to make a decision for change in our church. The elders run the church and they are for the most part older. They seem to cater to the older members. When a suggestion is made they usually say no,”we will lose to many older members”. I believe that’s why we don’t seem to have many younger families anymore. We seem to be stuck in the mud.I hate this expression but it seems to fit us. Don’t get me wrong, I love my church and my church family, but we need to get more current. We have ideas that are not salvation issues that we need to get rid of. Tradition doesn’t get us salvation, Biblical scriptures do. We need to keep the message because that never changes, but get rid of some old traditions that no longer work!!!!

  39. RDH on April 24, 2014 at 3:55 am

    what is meant beyond website? or can someone give some examples?

    • Guest on May 16, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      They don’t mean facebook, because they have taken their page down. So much for practicing what you preach!

    • Ally on August 23, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      Your church can have full online services with worship, a call to Christ, private prayer and more! Also utilizing all social media and blogs to connect with people in your community is great

  40. Andrew McKerrow on March 13, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    I think the traits of church in general are in the midst of huge change…what we are seeing and will keep seeing more and more is the beginning of a shift in the way that we “do church”. In particualr, a shift from pastor led church gatherings to pastor facilitated gatherings i.e. Church gatherings that are less about coming, sitting, singing, listening and leaving and more about engaging and being an active part of what’s happening. We’ve largely been living in an era where things like praying together, sharing together, getting a chance to bring what God is saying to you etc has been relegated to small group meetings. Our mentality is that you can’t get personal or all be engaged in Sunday services especially in big congregations. My gut feel and observations is that we will start seeing this changing big time. The nature of church leadership will experience a big crisis as pastors are needed to move from “leading in front of” to “leading from amongst”. Eugene Peterson puts it brilliantly (and I think prophetically) when he Paul’s words to the Corinthian church this way:
    “So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight. If prayers are offered in tongues, two or three’s the limit, and then only if someone is present who can interpret what you’re saying. Otherwise, keep it between God and yourself. And no more than two or three speakers at a meeting, with the rest of you listening and taking it to heart. Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other. If you choose to speak, you’re also responsible for how and when you speak. When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches—no exceptions” 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 The Message

    • PeaceBang on March 13, 2014 at 10:40 pm

      Thank you, Andrew. I love this comment and find it really helpful.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 14, 2014 at 9:56 am

      Thanks for sharing this Andrew. I think it will take all kinds of churches to have the kind of impact we’ll need moving forward. Appreciate this.

    • Ben on March 26, 2014 at 11:33 am

      I think the church has to be very careful with this…This is what happened in the synagogue format which led to the confusion caused by Judaizers and also post reformation Europe which led to the liberalism that wrecked Christian theology for centuries after. This is especially important to realize as one of the foundational issues missing from today’s church is an intentional process of discipleship and doctrinal understanding.

    • Mark Loeffler on August 23, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      No one person can express the fullness of Christ, yet we seem to look to a few to do this every Sunday. Wonder what would happen if those in charge stepped back a little and let Christ be expressed through the entire body? Jesus did say He would build His church, which is people, not a building or a venue. Christ lives in us. My opinion is that until we stop trying to build His church, we will continue to look for fixes to something we have made.

    • Walter B on December 12, 2014 at 10:20 am

      YES this is what church should be.

  41. Ann San Pedro on December 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Great post 🙂 Our church should always be on mission mode, not maintenance mode.

  42. […] A guest post by Carey Nieuwhof: Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity…. Click the link below to read the full post with the 11 traits. […]

  43. Ben Fowler on October 19, 2013 at 10:20 am

    As a Unitarian Universalist, I do not directly follow Christ, as the Interfaith Ordained minister of a small UU congregation for the last 7 years, I find your ideas compelling and useful. When I I was called to serve my church, there were 8 members and 7 were on my board. We quickly changed the by-laws, reduced the size of the board, made some shifts in the presentation of the service, invited more participation by everyone in the service and in outreach to the non-participating community. Soon, our attendance averaged 15. Two years ago we started a twice-monthly Sunday School, and now our attendance is a steady 15, with often higher numbers. And now the kids outnumber the adults sometimes.

    Change in a church is slow. People who are in the old guard like things to stay the same, newer members don’t really know what to expect in terms of change. But all together it is the patience of everyone that is important. Growth will happen because we create a place of safety and support for the membership, who will pass that message along if so invited. It is also my experience that change often happens, as you point out, in a counter-intuitive way–For my first 4-5 years I tried hard to create a framework for change, but it wasn’t until I got a bit discouraged and backed off a bit, that others took up the mantle of change and things began to happen.

    It is important to remember that church is merely the place that we get reminded of the way we should act in our daily lives. Regardless of denomination, helping the congregation to understand that the best marketing they can do is to live their spiritual practice with compassion, forgiveness, and humility in their everyday life and inviting non-churched people to do the same (whether through the internet or in person).

    Thanks for your posts.

  44. Derwin L. Gray on August 22, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    How about planting, or becoming multi-ethnic local churches to reflect the model set for us by the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 2:14-16) and the multi-ethnic nature of the US and some Canadian urban centers?

    A homogeneous local church is going to be really ineffective in the future.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 22, 2013 at 11:05 pm

      Yes. You’re not alone in adding that to the list. What’s amazing Derwin is that you’ve got one. Wonderful!

  45. k england on July 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Carey: very informative, instructive and a contribution for all leaders and staff.
    Another source, though dated is the booklet, “The Life Cycle of a Congregation,” by Martin E. Saarinen and published by the Alban Institute.
    Change is clearly most difficult for the older generations, however, without change, the mail line church will atrophy. It isn’t the message, it’s the form of the message, and we don’t call it the digital age for no reason. Keep up the good work. K

  46. Matt on July 21, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    How about they just listen to The Lord?

  47. Ronnie on June 13, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Dear Bro. Carey Nieuwhof – I am a pastor from Malaysia. I like the article above and would like to ask permission to put it in our quarterly magazine for a small 200 member church. It would be an internal-circulation thingy and would give your name and blog so that members could read it also for themselves here.

    Waiting for your positive response – God bless

    Ronnie Ding

    • cnieuwhof on June 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Ronnie. I would be happy to have you share the article. Thank you for asking. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

      • Ronnie on June 14, 2013 at 9:50 pm

        Many thanks!

  48. tuansam@gmail.com on June 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    I would rethink your first point. I believe the desire to adapt to a whole new “culture” is the reason most people have left the Episcopal Church. The leader does not need to say “no” to those who have migrated to an organization because they like its values, mission, and culture. Those who want to make changes should consider joining a church with values and a culture closer to their personal likings — they should not try to change the culture of an existing organization. I studied organizational behavior in college and one of the tenets we learned was that people join and support an organization because of a perceived ownership of its values and culture.

    • cnieuwhof on June 6, 2013 at 7:12 am

      I appreciate your point and experience, but what I fail to understand is how a declining church or organization can be effective again if it doesn’t change.

  49. Greg Smith on June 1, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Great list! I am on board – seems our lists overlap a great deal: http://sowhatfaith.com/2012/04/23/the-future-church-v-2020-10-shifts/

  50. Chappie on May 30, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    #1 change needed is to return to the placement into the pulpits of born again believers in Jesus Christ as their Savior. #2 is the pure application and reliance on the authority of Scriptures. Start with the basics and watch God work miracles!

  51. Alison on May 30, 2013 at 4:19 am

    In the North East of Newcastle there is a group called Speakers of Life (They have a FB page) which has grown out of Churches Together. The aim is to hone people’s prophetic skills and this group is making a massive impact. Firstly it is interchurch (denominations can be a barrier) secondly it is Holy Spirit led but scripurally based. More and more people are attending and many of those are going out on Saturdays into the city centre and praying for people for healing. They have also gone to psychic fairs and set up Christian stalls, many people gave their lives to Jesus (people are searching but they do not know it is for Jesus) . Many churches, even charismatic ones, are confining and limiting the Holy Spirit but in order to meet people “out there” we need to go “out there”.

  52. David@Montreal on May 29, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Carey: might I suggest that prior to all of the valid, transformative points you’ve made, it is my sense that most Churches need a critical re-think of ‘leadership.’ unless this happens, I sense, a lot of the unconscious baggage of the historical realities absorbed into Church culture (hierarchy, patriarchy, objectification of both ‘other’ and creation) will be perpetuated to every-increasing dissonance. my sense is that the Church we are growing to will have facilitators, counsellors and teachers rather than a lone authority figure, and that’s when things could get really interesting. seeped in the Anglican tradition, but now expressing as a post-Anglican-anglican; coming out during the darkest days of AIDS, my experience was that the ministers and priests were too busy ‘telling the faithful’ or ‘perpetuating the institution’ to turn up, so the Holy Spirit did on by Herself for our clients dark nights.

  53. citizen477 on May 28, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    What’s interesting about this article is that it could apply to almost any organization with a mission to assist the public. Thanks for this; very useful.

    • cnieuwhof on May 28, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      Thanks. I think truth is truth, and when we align ourselves with it, life goes better. God works that way and so does His truth.

  54. anonymouse on May 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    if religion in general is to survive as anything other than an artifact of the fringe (which is it rapidly approaching…) it needs to think on this (from Stephen Batchelor: ) What happened, you see, was that the original Jesus taught what I usually call kingdom religion or solar living. It is a secular religion of active self-outing. A human being is not an immortal soul but only a one-way process. I am my own life. I am burning, and burned out with love for life and for the fellow human. Living all-out, extroverted solar living is what some New Testament writers think of as eternal life, now and in the present moment. When you live like that you’re not on the way to any other world, you’re already in the last world, and you have left mediated religion behind. You don’t now know of any objective order or any separate, objective God, nor any separate supernatural order. You have reached the realm where the secular/sacred distinction is no longer required, and it disappears. Which is why, of course, Jesus criticises the secular/sacred distinction so sharply. He fiercely attacks tradition, he fiercely attacks ordinary human ideas of justice as based on envy or dissatisfaction, and he fiercely attacks religious professionals and institutions.

    • Kelechi on August 12, 2019 at 3:40 am

      Dear Anonymous,

      When you want to be saved from our sin, you want to be at peace with God, you would listen to the gospel and experience salvation

  55. Judy H on May 28, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Another change which would need to take place is that the pastor would need to be willing to work with minimal pay. People outside the church, whether in the community or online do not pay pledges, certainly do not tithe. The older long time members you are pushing to the side, who have faithfully served both Jesus and the church for so long, are the ones who give. There is a need for change as the culture changes – but the pastors need to change too – become tent-makers again.

    • Anna E on May 31, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      While I agree that pastors do not need to make tons of money, I also think pastors’ salaries need to be fair, comparable to others’ salaries in the social work field, etc. As a young adult about to enter seminary who has experienced some struggles trying to work in the non-profit and social services sector in the last two years, I absolutely realize that there’s not as much money as there used to be, and I’m prepared and would actually probably prefer not to get as rich as, say, the CEO of a large corporation. (I’m fine with my Toyota Matrix and buying a fair amount of my clothing and belongings at thrift stores and yard sales.)

      But pastors work a lot and interact with many people to keep church doors open and effect positive views of the church in their surrounding communities, and can sometimes all in the same day be custodians, teachers, worship leaders, counselors, and business managers. They must be compensated fairly for their time, energies, and efforts.

      • cnieuwhof on June 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

        A very different and, I think, compelling view on compensation in the charity sector is in this TED talk by Dan Palotta: http://youtu.be/bfAzi6D5FpM

        • chadbrooks on August 15, 2013 at 10:03 am

          I watched that talk around a month ago. I would love to hear your take on it from the perspective of Church fundraising. I thought he made TONS of really good points.

          • Carey Nieuwhof on August 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm

            I do too. The part that resonated most is the chronic underfunding of charities and not for profits. I heard an add on the radio today that promised that “100%” of your donation goes to the charity in question and zero to overhead. Well, who paid for that ad? Really? I agree that Dan makes a ton of good points that churches and charities need to wrestle down. So, for that matter, do donors.

          • Mark Loeffler on August 23, 2014 at 12:47 pm

            In Acts 2 we see people selling their possessions for those in need. Do you think ‘need’ here is synonymous with how we would view ‘overhead’ today?

    • Melissa on June 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Any pastor that would do his job for free, should be paid more than any other person on this planet. Because I am a pastor’s kid, I realize that my dad’s job is 24/7. While some people get weekends off, he doesn’t. Some people can stop thinking about work when they go home, he can’t. His mind is 24/7 ministry and carrying the burdens of his people. Yes, he is willing to do his job for a smaller pay because it’s what God called him to do, but I hope our churches become MORE generous with their giving. I am a 23 year old who has made a commitment to God that my largest check will be made out to the church each month. I hope other people my age will do the same.

    • Dave F. on June 19, 2013 at 11:01 am

      There is balance in everything. The goal is not to shove our faithful members to the side. The prayer is that we are all willing to learn and grow from each other. Growing churches also have great intergenerational ministries. The problem with some established churches is that they have become country clubs that only take care of each other. Pastor needs to visit both member and visitor. Pastors that don’t visit nurshing homes or hospitals are not being faithful to the flock. The prayer is that we all learn to get along in the sandbox. This can’t be an us/them discussion but one that is focused on growing in Christ and reaching the lost (Matt 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8). We as the church need to remember that it is Christ’s church and not ours. We are called to go out. The minute we start seeing people as wallets, we have turned our hearts to satan.

    • ruis2002 on August 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

      I disagree about tithing. Truly spiritual people want to tithe. I tithe to a local Baptist church, and I’m not even a member of that church!! I don’t even agree with their stance on not ordaining women, or baptism by immersion-only. *Technically* I’m “unchurched”. I guess I fell away (although it felt more like being abandoned) from the church I grew up in around the time I graduated from college. The Sunday School class I attended in high school was very large and active. However, everyone I knew went away to college, and I did too. I occasionally attended the church that was on campus where I went to school, although not being a Presbyterian myself (I’m Methodist), I never became a member of that church. When I came back to my hometown (and most Gen X-ers didn’t – they moved to where the jobs were!), I found that the only Sunday School classes available to me after college were the singles group or the young married couples group. I wasn’t married, so the singles group was it. The singles group experience was pretty uncomfortable. No matter how you plan it, once you label a class a “the singles group”, it basically becomes a meat market, and stops being a safe place to share and find friendship. I was unhappy, so I stopped going to Sunday school. I still attended Sunday morning church services for a long time, and I signed up for a more intensive, Wednesday night bible study to try to replace Sunday school. It worked for a while, but the study was one of those 8-month-or-so intensives, that don’t last forever. Not having a good Sunday school class to belong to really meant the difference (for me) between being churched and unchurched – for the last 20 years of my life. I think churches should focus on psychographics, after the high school age level, instead of trying to divide their adults by age and marital status. Many of my single friends are 10 years older than I am (I’m 44) and they have the same complaint about church singles groups. It’s uncomfortable, and most guys who attend those groups are sort of dorky. The women I know are in their 50s, but they are NOT your grandmother’s little old ladies. Most are professional women, with jobs and homes of their own. Many are veterans, who have several tours of Iraq and Afghanistan under their belts. They are pretty independent, and wouldn’t darken the door of a quilters’ circle to save their lives. They are also the generation which expects to inherit a lot of wealth from their parents and (older) husbands. It would behoove most churches to reach this group, but instead I see many churches focus almost exclusively on trying to reach impoverished, 20-something men, who are underemployed and buried in student loans. Sad.

  56. Logic on May 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    The problem is, people are getting smarter. Young kids, teenagers, and college kids these days are actually realizing that the bible, torah, what have you, are just a bunch of stories made up by men from the past. Teaches great morals! But, to try to make them believe that there is actually a being in the sky, watching everyone and intervening in our lives, honestly makes many of them laugh in my face. Its quite frustrating.

    They ask how can you possibly still be following laws from something written back then, when cultures, people, lifestyle, ways of thought are changing so rapidly today? They tell me that religion is for the weak, that need to cling to a false hope, praying to it, idolizing it, wearing it on your neck, instead of going out and actually doing what you’ve always dreamed to do.

  57. Stephen Alyea on May 28, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Ryan Clarke has a great point. As he does with youth, we will do with everyone in the congregation. I started fellowships in 4 areas over the last 6 years. Half of the attendance will be 14 to 25 years old. The technosocial communication system is simply the main way to reach these young people. They are using smart phones during church, posting feeds about the message and questions about what was said to friends during the service. These friends are in the same service or maybe friends they are trying to reach who will not attend. We expect and tell everyone to leave our church to start their own ministry. We remind people to leave with love and prayer support from the fellowship, verses the natural instinct that a relationship ends in conflict. We have found with the instant messaging, FB and blogging, the ministries grow and stay together in the family of the fellowship. The amazing part is only a few ministries have had to build or purchase a building, most are mission field paths and the reach is extensive. I thought we would eventually fade away due to everyone launching their own ministry, but hey come back and bring more people. The numbers grow in the one of the four fellowships and also grows in the branches of the personal callings. I believe we need to communicate the way the 14-25 generation communicates. They will be tomorrows apostles and we must hand the Gospel off to them, as our church fathers handed us the printed bible. We must give them the tools they need for their generation, which is constant technosocial communication. Home-small group churches make it personal and the network of the fellowship shows growth. The hardest part is to let the young be young and trust in what you taught them.

    • cnieuwhof on May 28, 2013 at 11:34 am

      Stephen this is intriguing. Do you have a link to your work/ministry?

  58. John Waldo on May 27, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Another obstacle I sometimes see, perhaps related to #1, is an unwillingness (fear?) to make a decision about a staff person (or key volunteer) who isn’t fully on board with the mission / vision / strategies. We hold up the “many” because of the “needs” of the one. I’m all for treating people with dignity, but sometimes we need to exit someone (gracefully and with dignity… and perhaps severance) in order for ministry to multiply.

    • John Waldo on May 27, 2013 at 9:47 am

      Or… instead of dealing with the individual with grace, we “create a policy” to eliminate their behavior (or them), and which makes us less flexible for the future.

    • cnieuwhof on May 28, 2013 at 6:30 am

      John it’s such a great point. Going to blog about creating a healthy church culture tomorrow, and sacrificing one for the sake of many is actually a sign of health (at least in my view).

  59. Christine Sine on May 20, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I found your post both interesting and frustrating. Partly because I feel you do not address many of the issues that I think will shape the church in the future. Most of the younger church planters Jesus followers I work with are looking for church communities that are relevant to the lives they live outside church. They want church communites that help them make sense of the world in which they live, that engage in the local communities and raise issues about sustainability. They want spiritual practices that help them engage in their world.

    A few years ago I started asking people “What makes you feel close to God?” Few mentioned church – nature was at the top of the list, time with kids came in second. Many shared that they found church irrelevant because it did not connect them to God.

    A recent article I posted Creating Sacred Space http://godspace.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/creating-sacred-spaces-do-we-really-need-churches-2/ evoked a similar response.

    I think that the church of the future will be a place that helps followers of Jesus connect their everyday life and their faith. Maybe that is wishful thinking on my part but I am concerned about the number of people of all ages who are disconnecting from church because they find it irrelevant. Yet they have a deep craving for spirituality.

    • Dave F. on June 19, 2013 at 10:56 am

      By all means we pray that the message is practical. If we are open to seeing ourselves in the lives of people in the Bible and how God/Christ came to them, it is very practical. The flipside is individualism with people worshipping in nature and not in community. The Acts church met together – learned from Christ (through the Apostles), prayed together, grew together, and supported each other. Worship is for community, not individuals. The downside of “church” is the building and competition over who has the best new gadgets and how nice it looks. Maybe the church of the future is the small group model.

  60. Brent Dumler on May 12, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Change IS necessary in the Church! And it’s rarely ever welcomed with open arms. Recently, however, we have implemented a new level of security for our Children’s Ministry wing. This is a pretty bold step for our church, and thankfully we’ve gained overwhelming feedback from parents. We simply needed to be willing to take the leap.

    • Mark Loeffler on August 23, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Are you being sarcastic? Please say yes.

      • Brent Dumler on August 23, 2014 at 2:19 pm

        No Mark. We have 90-135 kids under 5th grade per service. Safety is priority.

        • Mark Loeffler on August 23, 2014 at 2:33 pm

          I am not a pastor so I am probably wrong here, but I don’t for a second think that should be the PRIORITY of any people who follow Christ. I could see that as a priority for a daycare business. I have nothing against providing a safe environment for the kids, but the Priority for the church (God’s people) is the indwelling life of Christ.

  61. KudziM on May 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    So good. Life changing. I really like how you are not promoting that the church bends over for people but it is flexible enough and bold enough to keep the same Glorious message of Christ but stay “cool enough” and contemporary enough to be at the very heartbeat of this ever evolving culture and world we live in. Great Job buddy.

  62. Constantine on May 12, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Carey.
    The concept suitable for churches in North America but it will be difficult for us here in South Asia.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      Appreciate the comment Constantine. I realize a lot of what I write about it culturally conditioned to those of us in the West. What makes the application point more difficult in South Asia?

  63. Dennis Meyette on May 11, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I’m not sure how to break the bubble here, but there is a huge bubble here. Perhaps it’s denominational in nature. Coming from a Lutheran background and over the last 10 years as a 2nd career pastor I’ve been here done that and have found little success in the things you list. While I subscribe, I’m not sure how well they work. I’ve served 3 congregations as a mission developer and in an established congregation and have been asked to leave in all three instances. Maybe in 10 years some of this will work, but in the mean time I’m wondering if yes of these is more? I mean… yes do these, but in moderation.

    • Dave Patchin on May 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Moderation on ability to change (adaptability) means slower death. If a church stops being adaptable on methodology they start being insular, inward, and dying. While painful, being asked to leave when you prepare a congregation to reach people is a good thing. You learned they value custom & comfort over great commission and they learned that saying they want to “grow” is very different than actually growing. All of that is assuming you did all that is necessary to help the church embrace change. 🙂

  64. Amber on May 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Great list.

    Comment on #2. I agree with you, except I think churches can become too focused on outsiders. This is where my church is now. We have had a huge turnover in the last 3 years and our church is primarily new people, largely new Christians. This is a wonderful thing (especially since our focus has been to reach the unchurched in our community). However, our church has become so ‘outsider focused’ that they are ignoring the “senior members” of the church. My church is so focused on reaching new people that they have completely neglected the ones who began their journeys 5, 10, 25 years ago. The church has done away with groups that were established to challenge people to go deeper, choosing instead to focus on new Christians and helping them start their journey. Our “veterans” have found new churches that will come along side them to help them continue to grow in their faith.

    • Ryan on May 28, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      Sometimes all you need to go ‘deeper’ is to start over and act like you’re a new Christian again. Re-learn the things you may have forgotten and remind yourself why you decided on this in the first place. Not to mention, what you have just described is a GREAT mentoring opportunity. Stand in the wall and be a part of a support group that these new Christians are going to need in order to stay strong in their faith. I personally don’t want to be a part of a Church that is focused on itself, the Church should be the arms and the feet by being active and not resting on what it already has.

    • Pamela Manners on May 30, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Gee Amber…sounds like we attend the same church!

    • Allen on June 22, 2013 at 10:26 am

      The best way to grow in the faith is to become missional! Sounds like your attending a church Jesus would go to.

  65. Benjamin Jensen on May 10, 2013 at 3:00 am

    Love the list, Carey. Lots of wisdom.
    I would add:
    1) Gospel centrality : Not as a cool buzz word, but in actuality in every layer of our Church culture. This is the application of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to every facet of life, from blueberry pancakes to an Attorney’s excellence at work to a mother’s discipline of her child to watching the upcoming new episodes (huzzah!) of Arrested Development. We found that depth is a huge draw, not repellent, to our mostly young church.
    2) An intentional focus on and culture of Relationships of knowing, encouraging, challenging. This takes work and time and is not glamorous. But it’s good and necessary for healthy churches. Jn 13, “New command= Love one another.” Which leads into…Love the list, Carey. Lots of wisdom.
    I would add:
    1) Gospel centrality : Not as a cool buzz word, but in actuality in every layer of our Church culture. This is the application of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to every facet of life, from blueberry pancakes to an Attorney’s excellence at work to a mother’s discipline of her child to watching the upcoming new episodes (huzzah!) of Arrested Development. We found that depth is a huge draw, not repellent, to our mostly young church.
    2) An intentional focus on and culture of Relationships of knowing, encouraging, challenging. This takes work and time and is not glamorous. But it’s good and necessary for healthy churches. Jn 13, “New command= Love one another.” Which leads into…
    3) Discipleship: intentional systems and a culture of investing into 1-4 others’ lives, so they can turn and do the same. Leading into….
    4) Leadership Development: Real methods for identifying and training young leaders (most of whom will NOT go into vocational ministry) for the good of the Church and its local context, and our world at large.
    5) A Robust Theologi
    3) Discipleship: intentional systems and a culture of investing into 1-4 others’ lives, so they can turn and do the same. Leading into….
    4) Leadership Development: Real methods for identifying and training young leaders (most of whom will NOT go into vocational ministry) for the good of the Church and its local context, and our world at large.
    5) A Robust Theology of Culture: that is, freeing our people to enjoy the good and to love their neighbors and city well, all motivated and empowered by the Spirit.

    • Benjamin on May 10, 2013 at 3:05 am

      Sorry. My above comment was messed up by the comment function.

  66. JR Linkous on May 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    “As much as you might hate it, virtual relationships are becoming real relationships.” Truth my friend. The more churches that miss these relationships, the more we’re missing a whole generation to come.

  67. Sarah Cavanaugh on May 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    The church needs to nurture seedlings as well. Yes, look outside the walls but make sure you are feeding the sheep inside the fold and equipping them to work outside of the walls for you too. Exponential growth happens when the church prepares it’s people and then asks them to leave the comfort zone behind.

    • Dave F. on June 19, 2013 at 11:06 am

      “Power Surge” gave us the idea to have different types of studies from the 101 type to the deeper 404 study. This helps care for everyone in the flock and is appreciated at each level. People are hungry for the Word and we thank the Spirit for that.

  68. Lawrence W. Wilson on May 9, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Great list, Carey. I think #1 is especially important because it gets at the question of identity. I think in order to survive, let alone make impact, churches must know and do the “one thing” that makes them who they are. And that means saying no to so many other things.

  69. Tammy Helfrich on May 8, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Great post! So thankful to be a part of a church community that understands all of these things listed above.

  70. Daniel on May 8, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I think the one thing that I have noticed that goes along with these is a church that is has a passion and excitement evident in their leaders (volunteer or staff). I see churches that just do things w/o passion or excitement and see little fruit, while I see churches that celebrate like crazy when someone comes to Christ and see a lot of fruit. We need to be passionated and excited about the power of the gospel because our culture craves excitement and what can be more excitig than a changed life in Christ?

    • cnieuwhof on May 8, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      I agree Daniel.

  71. Ryan Clarke (@ryanclarkeREC) on May 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Allowing Kids to Select their Own Ministry. Instead of parents making their kids go to their age appropriate ministry at church, parents want their kids to choose whether or not to attend children’s ministry or student ministry. Instead of parents setting the course for a ministry serve, parents hope kids will be inspired at church so that parents can fan the flames of that inspiration. My role as Children’s Pastor is to inspire kids to take their next step in their journey with Jesus.

  72. Mike Jordan on May 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I agree with the points in the article. And, not to sound too much like David Platt, but the points also sound a bit like a church that is trying to do things on its own. The #1 trait should that the church is God-focused. We have a tendency to try to program our way to relevance. Those are good tools, as is everything you listed here. But we are not the reason people will change. We are the conduit. Anyway, as I said, I agree with your points. And I know we don’t have to say the answer to every question about church is “Jesus.” But when the question is about how a church can be impactful, I think we are remiss if we leave God out of the answer.

    • cnieuwhof on May 8, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      And Mike, I get this comment from time to time and appreciate where you are coming from. Yes, Jesus is the foundation of all things, and the only reason I write this blog. I don’t state it in every post because it would become repetitive. This is a blog for people who are devoted Christians trying to find new strategies to lead better. Hope that helps. Christ is everything indeed.

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