12 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2022 (And The Post-Pandemic Era)

Having been through two excruciating years as a church leader, what can you expect in 2022?

As you can see by the sheer number of trends (the most I’ve ever covered in my annual trends series), 2022 is shaping up to be a pivotal year.

A new reality will emerge, and it will be different than we think.

The last few years have been (necessarily) characterized by a very narrow focus.

The questions church members and leaders have been preoccupied with the past couple of years include:

  • Can we reopen, and if so how?
  • Who’s coming and who’s not coming?
  • Online or digital?
  • Is hybrid the future?
  • Masks or no masks?
  • Vaccines or no vaccines?
  • Democrat or Republican?

There will undoubtedly be some urgent issues that are impossible to predict, but two more significant shifts are happening.

First, some of the pressing matters that have characterized the last two years are now morphing into the culture as a whole. The hybrid-church model is emerging as a norm, as is leading in a polarized culture, and some of the battle lines drawn are emerging as semi-permanent cultural fixtures.

Even without the emergence of another global crisis or virus variant (both of which are plausible), 2022 will be a year where the new ‘normalized’ world will further emerge.
It won’t exactly be what we used to know as normal, nor will it be entirely stable, but the year will likely give us a chance to see where the dust is settling and to move on.

Many of the trends I’ve outlined in the last six years are still active. If you and your team want to do a deep dive, here are the links. For the most part, many of the trends have emerged and are still relevant to what we’re all experiencing right now. Some accelerated dramatically.

8 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2021 (The Rise of the Post-Pandemic Church)

The Original 2020 is History: 7 NEW Disruptive Church Trends Every Leader Should Watch

5 Disruptive Leadership Trends That Will Rule 2020

6 Disruptive Church Trends for 2020

5 Disruptive Church Trends for 2019

7 Disruptive Church Trends for 2018

6 Disruptive Church Trends for 2017

5 Disruptive Church Trends for 2016

Although last year didn’t exactly usher in the post-pandemic era, it’s more likely that 2022 will.

While no one can say exactly what the future holds, here are 12 trends I’m watching and would encourage you and your team to consider and process as well.

Even without the emergence of another global crisis or virus variant (both of which are plausible), 2022 will be a year where the new 'normalized' world will further emerge. Click To Tweet

1. The Demise of the Old Model of Church

Every church and every leader has a model of Church. Even those who claim they don’t have a model, have a model (their anti-model is the model).

A model is simply an approach—a strategy, a way of doing things.

The old model of Church has been proving less effective year by year for decades across almost all denominations and traditions.

In 2021, Gallup shared that for the first time ever, church membership dropped below 50% nationally. Among Millennials, only 36% identify with a church.

Similarly, a decade ago only 22% of Millennials said they have no religious affiliation. Today that number is 31%. For Gen Z, 33% now say they have no religious affiliation.

At the same time, attendance keeps dropping across the board.

A survey by FACT of over 15,000 churches conducted just before COVID hit shows that between 2000 and 2020, median church service attendance dropped from 137 people to 65.

2022 should start to yield data on where things stand now, and as you already suspect, the new data is highly likely to show further decline. In other words, even if your church returns to 2019 attendance levels or exceeds them, the overall decline in church attendance will continue unabated.

So, what does this mean?

The current approach to church not only isn’t effective, it hasn’t been effective for decades. Yet leaders keep moving forward as though somehow things are going to turn around.

Optimism is one thing. Delusion is another.

Surveys show that the current approach to church not only isn't effective—it hasn't been effective for decades. Yet leaders keep moving forward as though somehow things are going to turn around. Click To Tweet

Please hear what I’m saying: The death of an approach to church doesn’t equal the death of the Church. Changing the approach is the best way to begin to see new growth.

Wise leaders will become students of what’s happening and seek to find a new approach that’s biblically faithful and culturally effective.

The death of an approach to church doesn't equal the death of the Church. Changing the approach is the best way to begin to see new growth. Click To Tweet

As Mark Sayers pointed out in his Rebuilders Podcast, the model of church is actually being rebuilt right now…as we speak. Maybe leaders aren’t doing it (see the chart above), but people are doing it.

Rightly or wrongly, they’re deciding how and when to engage with church, and they’re voting with their feet and wallets.

Adept leaders will figure out where culture is going, figure out how to meet people where they’re at, and then lead them to where they need to be.

The model of church is being rebuilt right now...as we speak. Maybe leaders aren't doing it, but people are doing it. They're voting with their feet and wallets. Click To Tweet

What was is gone. What will be hasn’t yet emerged.

The key is to experiment.

  • Stay faithful to Biblical principles.
  • Experiment with the practice.
  • Study your people.
  • Study the culture.
  • Lead people where they need to go.

The task, in other words, is to devise a faithful approach to Church that will reach and disciple the next generation.

In the future Church, leaders who are willing to change their methods will amplify their mission. Leaders who don’t, won’t.

In the future Church, leaders who are willing to change their methods will amplify their mission. Leaders who don't, won't. Click To Tweet

2. Growing Churches Will Innovate Beyond Weekend Services 

As leaders rethink the model of Church, more church leaders will start rethinking the role of weekend services.

Don’t get me wrong. Weekend services are extremely important for a host of theological reasons (and a few practical ones, as well).

But for many churches, the weekend service has become either all the church does or the main focal point by which everything else revolves.

Focusing all your efforts on one hour on Sunday ignores the other 167 hours in a week.

Many churches function like restaurants that decide that if you want to eat, it can only happen in a one-hour window and only in this particular building, and if you miss it, you miss it.

Think about it. What future would there be for a restaurant whose mantra is:

  • You can only eat food in our building?
  • We’re only open one hour a week?
  • We don’t do much in between>
Many churches function like restaurants that decide that if you want to eat, it can only happen in a one-hour window and only in this particular building, and if you miss it, you miss it. Click To Tweet

Naturally, Church is a lot more than one hour of performance or participation on Sunday morning (a little harsh, but that’s what it’s become in some cases).

A lot of the innovation that has to happen in the Church needs to take place outside of Sunday and outside the building.

People don’t live in your church building. They live in the community, where they interact with non-Christians all day long, every day.

Churches that equip people where they live and work will start to grow.

And yes, that requires innovation.

3.  The Vision for the Future Will Become Clearer

Not all churches will find a new vision, but those who do will have a brighter future.

Ironically, as you know, the vision for the future has been there all along because the vision of the Church doesn’t change that much. The core of the Church’s vision is always evangelism and discipleship.

It’s just that with all the noise, panic, confusion, and hardship of the past two years, it’s been exceedingly hard to focus on anything else.

In 2022, at least among a small group of church leaders, the vision for the future Church will become louder than the lethargy of the present or the anger of the dissenters. And they’ll start growing. They will experiment.

Find a new approach that’s resonating, and begin to reach new people.

Some of them will be bold experimenters. And they’ll receive a lot of criticism for their experimentation as they create a new approach—a new model for church.

Many of the ideas you’ll see in the Church in 2022 will be criticized and dismissed—until they’re not.

But that’s how innovation works. The leaders we criticize today will be the leaders who coach us tomorrow.

Many of the ideas you'll see in the Church in 2022 will be criticized and dismissed—until they're not. But that's how innovation works. The leaders we criticize today will be the leaders who coach us tomorrow. Click To Tweet

4. Attendance Will Normalize (And You’ll Have a New Church)

2021 had many leaders clinging to the idea that the next season – Easter, the new school year, Christmas, etc. – would bring attendance back to 2019 levels (which wasn’t that great in the first place. Here’s why).

For most churches, that “magic season” never materialized.

In 2022, the constant cycle of hope and disappointment will give way to the new reality that this is your church.

It will become evident that some of the people who said they’re coming back later clearly aren’t coming back—ever.

But it’s not all bad news.

When you look around, you’ll see a lot of new people who have joined you because they found you online or a friend brought them.

You’ll get to know you’re online audience like they’re real people (because they are).

And potentially, you’ll start to notice small pockets of momentum and hope. Build on those.

Regardless, you’ll settle into the reality that, for better or worse, this is your church. These are the people you will build the future alongside.

Which is just in time. You can’t build the future of your church when you’re living in the past.

5. Hybrid Church Will Simply Become Church

The debate between in-person church versus online church has always been somewhat of a false one.

But 2022 is the year where the hybrid-church model will simply become church. In other words, hosting church online and in-person is just how you do church to reach the next generation.

People have lived in the slipstream of digital and in-real-life for well over a decade now, and church leaders will realize that church online is both a necessity and an opportunity.

It’s good that the debate over online church will fade into the background because then leaders can get on with the key task: Reaching people however they come to you—in person or online.

6. In-Person Will Become More Personal

The future is both deeply digital and deeply personal.

Increasingly though, as people show up for in-person events, they’re expecting more personal experiences.

Before the pandemic, a look at culture shows a rise in bespoke, custom, private, and VIP services at everything from concerts to clothing stores to vacations. That will accelerate in the post-pandemic world.

It is vital to figure out how to care for people personally – to know their names, to care about them as people. And for ministry, that’s always been important.

But for larger churches, in particular, dehumanizing systems that make people feel unnoticed will be tolerated less and less. No one wants to be a number. In the future, treating people like numbers will get you declining numbers and not much more.

No one wants to be a number. In the future, treating people like numbers will get you declining numbers and not much more. Click To Tweet

Even in small churches, it’s easy to ignore the people, thinking that your church is friendly simply because you know six people (but don’t even know the names of the other 40 people who worship with you).

The goal is not to have a church where everyone knows everybody (that doesn’t scale). The point is to have a church where everyone is known.

The goal is not to have a church where everyone knows everybody. The point is to have a church where everyone is known. Click To Tweet

7. Information Will Move Online and Transformation Will Move to In-Person

For a few years in this Church trends series, I’ve flagged the longing people have for non-downloadable experiences when they show up for church in person. (Here’s a post explaining the distinction between immanent and transcendent experiences).

In 2022, many church leaders will likely realize that the best lane for information is online, while more transformational, transcendent experiences are more likely to happen in-person. They’ll design their online ministry and in-person experiences accordingly.

It’s not that people can’t come to faith online (they can and do); it’s just that there’s a difference between the kind of experience you can have on a device versus what you can experience in the room.

It’s like the difference between listening to an album on Spotify and seeing it perform live at a concert. The in-person experience leans more toward that transcendent moment than simply listening to a studio recording alone in your car.

Online might become more transcendent as virtual reality becomes more widespread, but we’re a few years and tech iterations away from that.

8. Location-Independent Church Members Will Increase

The last few years have seen a mass migration of people out of cities, out of jobs they once held, and into new frontiers.

With that, those who remain in church have discovered church online.

While a lot of digital growth is likely consolidation/transfer growth (Christians finding a new church) and not just conversion growth, the physical relocations combined with the growth of digital church will find many people identifying with a church that has no physical location in their area.

This will lead to micro – think home-based – gatherings and the need for church leaders to focus on connecting people, not just erecting buildings to put them in (that was Trend #2 in 2021).

Location independence is part of the fluid world we now live in. Leaders who adapt quickly will reach more people.

Location independence is part of the fluid world we now live in. Leaders who adapt quickly will reach more people. Click To Tweet

9. Pastors Will Sense A Diminished Authority

We’ve seen significant shifts in authority over the years.

As the world has become more connected, power has shifted from institutions to networks. Denominations and seminaries have lost much of the clout they used to have, and grassroots networks have sprung up in their place, some of which have come and gone already while new ones spring up.

In the same way, it’s no longer just denominations and seminaries that have lost authority, so have pastors. As any church leader knows, any illusion of control that remained seems to have vanished during the pandemic. You can’t control people.

No matter how loudly or softly you speak, people won’t listen because of the position, title, or office you hold.

The good news is that this is never where real authority resided anyway.

One of the things that defined Jesus’ ministry was that his authority never sprung from an (earthly) title he held, nor did he cling to power. In fact, he gave it up at the cost of his life, which of course, changed everything.

Real authority doesn’t spring from an office, a title, or power.

It springs from humility, love, and a clear sense of how the Kingdom of God is advancing in the world.

Leaders who show those kinds of characteristics will have a bright future.

Real authority doesn't spring from an office, a title, or power. It springs from humility, love, and a clear sense of how the Kingdom of God is advancing in the world. Click To Tweet

10. The Brain Drain Will Become Acute

Sadly, the last few years have seen many pastors step back, not just from their current church but also from vocational ministry.

Whether the Great Resignation has more legs or not in the wider culture, the Church has struggled through a more chronic gifting shortage for years now. The pandemic only intensified that.

Not only is this creating a staffing shortage (more churches vying for fewer leaders), but the quality of candidates is also proving a bit of a challenge.

Perhaps renewal and revival will increase intensity in the sense of calling the next generation has, but we’re not seeing the fruits of that labor yet.

The future Church will require leaders with great hearts and leaders with great minds.

The challenges ahead in a fractured world facing numerous existential threats (not to mention the philosophical and theological questions artificial intelligence raises) will require some very sharp minds.

The future Church will require not just leaders with great hearts, but also leaders with great minds. Click To Tweet

11. The Exit of Uninvested Investors (A Recalibration in Giving)

One of the strange phenomenons that happened in many churches in 2020-2021 is that attendance declined while giving remained steady or grew.

My guess is that this might be a temporary trend.

Historically, declining churches tend to have a lot of money (think endowments) but few people, while growing churches tend to have a lot of people but are tight on money. Their numerical growth has outpaced their stewardship growth.

Historically, declining churches tend to have a lot of money (think endowments) but few people, while growing churches tend to have a lot of people but are tight on money. Click To Tweet

Some of that recent change in that historical pattern can be explained by donors who did financially well in the pandemic contributing extra and people who are still committed financially but hesitant to attend in person still giving.

But, ultimately, it’s rare to have uninvested investors. If someone stops attending, stops serving, and cuts off connection with a church, will their giving continue? Rarely. And how is that an actual model for discipleship moving forward?

What you might see this year is a ramping up of new people who start to give while uninvested investors disappear entirely.

Second, church leaders will have to find something to do with their accumulated surplus to further the mission. Otherwise, why would people keep giving?

Money with no purpose is a sign of decline.

Regardless, it’s unlikely the current pattern will hold.

12. Less Predictability

Finally, as much as we all long for a return to a more stable, predictable future, that’s likely not happening. As much as we can plot out a few likely trends (which is what this post is trying to do), it’s still uncertain what’s ahead.

As COVID-19 fades, we enter into a new era of instability and unpredictability, which most of us have never known in our lifetime.

The global supply chain issues, the surge in the gig economy, shortage in blue-collar and service sector workforce, surging stocks, the rise of cryptocurrencies, the exit and entry of people in and out of church in rapid numbers, growing inflation, and the widespread drop in confidence in institutional authority make it exceedingly difficult to trace out a predictable path into the future.

Once again, the approach that got many leaders through the pandemic (flexibility and agility) will be required for years to come. The ‘set it and forget it’ approach to leadership that worked in stable areas won’t work anymore.

However, agile leaders and organizations that love to experiment and innovate can thrive in an unstable world.

The approach that got many leaders through the pandemic (flexibility and agility) will be required for years to come. The 'set it and forget it' approach to leadership that worked in stable areas won't work anymore. Click To Tweet

Bonus Trend:  Innovators Will Start Populating Web3

You’ve read to the end; therefore, you’re obviously motivated enough leader, so I’ll give you a bonus trend.

This trend will be too early for many leaders, but 2022 will be the year innovators start exploring Web3.

Web3 has been in development for a while now, and next year will see the migration of many leaders to Web3.

You might be asking, “What is Web3?” Great question. I’ve spent some meaningful time exploring that question in Q4 2021, and, I must admit, it’s hard to explain.

But let’s start by backing up by revisiting Web1.

Web1 was the Internet as we knew it in the 90s and early 2000s—essentially a non-interactive, brochure-like existence for most companies and organizations in which they posted static information or content.

Web 2.0 is the Internet as you know it today, characterized by user-generated content, interactive sites, and the dominance of organizations like Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix, and social media outlets like TikTok and Twitter.

Web3 is entirely different. While Web 2.0 has been characterized by centralization (think Facebook), Web3 will be decentralized.

The venture capital firm of Andreessen Horowitz has a helpful primer on Web3, and Episode 542 of the Tim Ferriss show will take you on a multi-hour exploration.

The most popular elements of Web3 that have made it to mainstream awareness are cryptocurrency (BTC or ETH, for example), NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), Substack (for writers), and technology that undersides all of it: The Blockchain.

While Web3 is literally being built as you read this, leaders can no longer ignore it.

At a more macro-level, I’ll be doing a dive into the future with a small Future Series on my Leadership Podcast in January 2022. Episodes 469-472 will be focused on the future of the Church. I’ll be exploring:

  • Macro-trends with author and pastor Mark Sayers
  • The Metaverse and VR church with Meta’s Nona Jones and VR Church’s D.J. Soto
  • The future of hybrid church with Life Church Founder Craig Groeschel and YouVersion Founder Bobby Gruenewald
  • Crypto, Bitcoin and the future of finance with Overflow.co founder Vance Roush
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)

You can subscribe and listen here.

2022 is going to be a year of massive change, and we’ll be here doing our best to help you navigate it.

What Trends Are You Seeing?

Which trends are you watching for 2022? What would you add to this list?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

 

12 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2022 (And The Post-Pandemic Era)

39 Comments

  1. Kris Beckert on January 10, 2022 at 2:44 pm

    I would add that church planting and multisite campus planting is/will experience a shift to the planting of smaller, cheaper, highly contextual fresh expressions of church. Gone are the days we replicate what is going on somewhere and “launch” a service in a new location. We must be creatiev and work where God is already working and opening doors!

  2. Josh on January 6, 2022 at 5:52 pm

    Powerful word as always Carey, Thank You!

    These trends always leave me with one big question….what is church? Ask most people to use the word “church” in a sentence and they’ll get it wrong.

    Our culture thinks that “Church” and “Worship Service” are synonyms (as seen in trends #4 and #5).

    But What is the Church?

    As a pandemic church planter this has been the single most important question to wrestle with and to help the people in our town answer. What is the Church and why should I care? Covid showed us if church is just a worship service it became irrelevant online or in-person.

    But if the Church is a called-together community on mission for God this has been the greatest opportunity, in my lifetime, to be the Church! We’ve been forced to see it isn’t about going to “church” (a.k.a. worship service) but it’s about being the Church!

    Maybe the trend in 2022 will be that Churches who care more about serving than services will light up the world (online and in-person)!! We’ve seen some outstanding example of Churches who have both loved God and neighbor well this past year. I know we have to rework how we worship together but let’s keep calling the Church to be the Church no matter what happens in 2022!

    I know you get this #preachingtothechoir …. I just wish I could get the whole world to use the word “church” God’s way and not our way. I can’t even get it right most days. #dreambig

    God is on the move through his Church and that give me great hope for the year ahead!
    Thanks again for all you do! I’m blessed and cheered on every week by it.

  3. Jim W on January 6, 2022 at 1:06 am

    I think we are looking at the era of hybrid everything. I am part of a multisite megachurch in an Asian country that basically hasn’t met face to face for nearly two years. We are extremely focused on discipleship in small groups, but the anchor of the ministry has always been the Sunday worship service. Before the pandemic, we started transitioning toward doing house churches in parallel with our megachurch-with-small-groups model. Not a common thing to do as far as I am aware. God accelerated that transition through the pandemic. The movement is away from attractional evangelism to personal and small group connections where real needs and fears can be addressed at the heart level. The few satellites that have reopened have seen a tepid response to face to face worship even though we hear that everyone is longing to get together again. So we have tried to focus on making face to face meetings in small groups the way to address that need. So yeah, pretty much everything you mentioned is already our experience. Appreciate the affirmation!

  4. ronald joseph on January 4, 2022 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks very incisive.
    1.I think a further trend will be people looking for smaller relational church versus the mega- church coldness.
    Also there is a standing potential of the decline of big churches, too cost intensive , especially with on-going uncertainty & instability.
    2. Movement away from institutionalized religion to authentic apostolic patterns based on relational & papal systems without the the hierarchical top -down imposition of authority.

  5. Stephen Perrine on January 4, 2022 at 12:40 am

    I just reread Phyllis Tickle’s book Emergence Christianity. She anticipated many of the trends we are seeing take place now and which you aluded to in your article. She also raises the critical faith questions we will have to wrestle with in this new emerging future.

  6. Mark McDonald on January 3, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks for the ongoing reflection on trends in the church, it is a difficult task to see where the present reality will lead in the future. I agree that we have experienced far too much in 2020 & 2021 to be able to go back to 2019. The shifts have been far too great to fall back into old ways. So I like your trend that the new church will emerge, attendance will normalise, and we have to move forward with who we have not wait for some people to “return”.
    One trend I am seeing in Australia is the rise of retired Baby Boomers looking for mission opportunities in the local church. In contrast it seems that Gen X and Millenials are as busy as ever with career and family. So there seems to be a gap between Boomers who seek weekly church activity and younger christians who seek monthly or infrequent church activity.
    Also I notice a trend where christians consume content from the bigger churches online but connect in a smaller local church. They want the high quality content from a variety of churches but want the in person experience to be more personal and spiritual. So is the hybrid actual a hybrid of big church content and small church community, not micro sites for the mega church?

  7. David Pang on January 3, 2022 at 5:58 pm

    The emerging trends have huge implications for theological education ie how pastors are being trained today. Many denominational churches are being led by pastors who are trained in theological education/curriculum designed for churches of yester-years. Added to this conundrum is that many denominational pastors have argued that we must be faithful to our history and traditions.

    There must be change of some magnitude. And this is not comfortable thought to some.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:47 pm

      You raise a really great point David. The challenge of theological education emerged years ago but only now is become untenable. I’m excited to see innovation in this field.

      • Mark McDonald on January 3, 2022 at 9:32 pm

        Do you see a trend away from career pastors/ministers towards people who do a season in full time ministry?

  8. Katie Sutton on January 3, 2022 at 1:58 pm

    As someone who has worked with teenagers for 30+ years, these trends are not surprising. Covid has just pressed the gas pedal and accelerated us down the road that we were already on. For at least the last 10-15 years, churches and student ministries have grossly missed the mark on speaking the native language of teenagers. That’s not just digital language, it’s personal connection. Young generations (teens and kids) are currently connecting over shared interests (sometimes obscure interests) first digitally, and then in real life, in small relational subsets. Being known is very important to this generation and our current model of church does not resonate or intersect with their world in any way. I completely agree with the trend thoughts in this article and can see them clearly in the lives of former students (now adults) and present students.

    Lots of sacred cows will need to be sacrificed in the new future of ministry. Lord, give us faithful leaders who are willing to grill those burgers no matter the cost!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks Katie…and thanks for all your devotion to kids and ministry over the years.

  9. George Lippitt on January 3, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    I find the post intriguing and well worth the read. Provokes a great thought process. As I try and shed past models and move into a W3 thought process there are multiple ideas and past failures that circle around my mind. We have done disciple making work, emphasizing community and worked on relational gathering in various forms. What I saw was that couples once they began families had less and less time for gathering in relational activity. Second, I struggled with how to work with them to model christianity for children. There is always a desire for that “children church” or “Sunday school” type activity but not a lot of band width/time to lead or help out. Big question to chew on – what will that look like in a W3 environment, how does one lead to help folks get what they want and need? Thoughts or better yet, more questions?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:49 pm

      I think your last point is exactly it George: more questions. Web3 is developing as we speak.

  10. Danielle Krivda on January 3, 2022 at 11:46 am

    Carey, thank you for also laying out the best trends for leadership to take into consideration as we try to navigate the biggest shift in communication in 500 years! We can and have been for so long, no longer able to approach church like we did in the 70s and 80s, and unfortunately, so many are still “this is how we always did it.”
    2022 isn’t going to be easy, but my goodness God can do some amazing things if we step out of our own way, and work with our circumstances instead of fighting against them. Thank you for always putting this and so many other great bits of information together for bless the church! May 2022 be a blessing to you and your family.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:50 pm

      Thanks Danielle. I’m shocked at how many leaders still want to ‘get back’. Appreciate the encouragement.

  11. Zach W. Lorton on January 3, 2022 at 11:43 am

    Regarding #11 – “Uninvested investors” = branches that may need pruning.
    I’ve often heard that the loudest boos come from the cheapest seats. We have found that to be the case in our church. The people who complain the loudest about anything—the type of music, style of teaching, temperature of the auditorium, what someone on the platform is wearing, you name it—are the people who are the least invested in contributing to the church. They don’t tithe (or give sparingly), they don’t volunteer, and they only come to service to lodge their complaints to whomever will hear. The best part about these complaints, though, is that it reveals to us that the sense of unity among our staff is stronger now than it’s ever been. We’re all on the same page, and we all communicate the vision of our church as often as we can.

    Our biggest struggle right now is the lack of personnel to help us actively engage with our online attendees during services. We want the online experience to be more engaging than it currently is, and that requires a concentrated effort from everyone to make online church just as important as butts in the seats.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:51 pm

      Hey Zach…thanks for the feedback. I suppose I didn’t make it clear enough: what I intended to mean by the uninvested investors were people who were formerly deeply engaged but haven’t returned. There are quite a few of them…and the question is if they stay uninvested, will they keep giving? It’s becoming a thing among churches that many of their top donors haven’t come back. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  12. Amanda McDaniel on January 3, 2022 at 11:42 am

    Thank you for being bold, spirit led, and biblically based. There are so many trailblazers who are boldly going where perhaps only God can bring them back! 😉 As an explorer, full time kid min, ENFJ, 3w2, collaborator mother of 4 (although no personality type can sum me up completely) I am thrilled for change! My teens and young ones are the future and I want to be a part of preparing a place for such a time as this. I believe in being over doing, spiritual formation disciplines, and intimate retreats as just some of the ways to reset our focus that has been drained by the weekends. As for the declining numbers, 2 Samuel 14:14 comes to mind, “All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.” Cheers to discovering the ways He has devised!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:52 pm

      I really love that verse. Thanks Amanda.

  13. CV on January 3, 2022 at 10:43 am

    Thanks for the insights Carey! It’s exciting to be called to the ministry at a time like this. One question that comes to mind is, as we prepare to connect with people in a hybrid mode, we invite people to zoom and new people are beginning to join. However, we do not currently require anything except a name. Unfortunately, most of the regulars never show their actual faces, they either have their videos off or they keep a static picture showing throughout the 2 hour service. We’re a new church, over a year old, and I was wondering should we be concerned that most people aren’t having their cameras on because there could be so much going on (even sleeping) do I don’t want to assume they are not engaging? Also, does anyone know of any ways that have worked for you, to get people to actively engage more, or ways to capture contact info on line? Since we’re using Zoom, they just join and we don’t take that info upon entry like they used to do with GotoMeeting (for example).

    Lastly, we’re still trying to get our old-fashioned website to be up to par, so what’s the best way to navigate that while stillconsidering the new Web3, and are there any churches actually using it now?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:55 pm

      Hey CV…glad you’re starting out now. These are great times for innovation.

      A few thoughts:

      – churches will have to focus on developing a digital engagement funnel. I write about that here: https://careynieuwhof.com/3-things-that-will-be-true-about-growing-churches-in-the-future/.

      – I think Web3 is very much in development. VRChurch and Life.Church are there and I’m sure others are, but it’s in its infancy.

      Hope this helps!

  14. John Havercroft on January 3, 2022 at 10:17 am

    Thanks Carey. I picked up a phrase many years ago that leaders need to be bi-focal, one eye on the here and now, the other on the horizon. We need to know and make sense of our current reality and take responsibility for looking ahead. I am part of a leadership team in a local church and also a marketplace movement for leaders and, at the moment, getting either in focus is frustrating. This list of disruptive trends gives us great prompts to help with focus.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:55 pm

      So true!

  15. Larry Neville on January 3, 2022 at 10:03 am

    I think the mega churches will grow larger mostly with people (as they usually do) leaving smaller churches. People head for the best deals. If they are people who want the Sunday experience then the mega church gives it to them. That’s not bad. Like how Amazon, Walmart and other mega stores, or new exciting shopping areas draw the current shoppers.

    The smaller church will need to not try to compete in that arena for those same people and go for the unsaved and unchurched. Jesus wants a harvest of souls and He is the Lord of the harvest. I believe the harvest is ripe. The Holy Spirit can help us to see the harvest fields around us and give us grace to reap the harvest.

    America is a great mission field. If only a small percentage of our youth identify with a religion then we need a missionary’s mind-set to reach unreached people. Maybe approaching our community like a mission field. Planting new “churches” among unreached people groups as missionaries have since the beginning of the church. The learn the language of the people group. They learn the culture, eat the food, making major adjustments in their own lifestyles to reach the target people.

    I don’t think the church overall is yet ready to make the necessary sacrifices Carey suggestions require. But continued decline and the challenges will eventually.

    The last place Jacob wanted to go was to Egypt. But God had a plan in place to get him there. A famine. Because God was at work, Israel ended up with plenty during the remaining five years of famine.

    God help us to make the right moves during this time.

    • Noel Mal on January 3, 2022 at 10:12 am

      Thanks for sharing Larry. I agree the mission field is right here in our communities and countries. I believe Gif is saying He woh has ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. “Father grant us the ears to hear and eyes to see what’s you’re saying, what’s our mission field and send us out as workers in the harvest.” Matt. 9:35-10:1 amen.

      • Denali2039 on January 6, 2022 at 3:43 pm

        Regardless of the format, whether it be hybrid, online, in-person or other, the church needs to follow the pattern you mentioned in Matthew 9:35 (KJV) And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. Until we follow the pattern Jesus gave us; teach, preach and heal every sickness, we will never become as relevant as we could be to this or any other generation. Also, the early church preached Acts 2:38 (KJV) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (with evidence of speaking in tongues). Repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. These three parts are step number one to becoming a Christian, but many of our churches aren’t baptizing people right away and some still think speaking in tongues is of the devil. If we expect Biblical results, we need to follow Biblical patterns. When the church becomes known as thee place to get healed and filled with the power of God, we’ll be looking for stadiums and arenas to hold meetings. The first time Peter preached this, they baptized 3,000 people that day!

    • CV on January 3, 2022 at 10:51 am

      Amen! This makes a lot of sense. Going where the unchurched are, being Led by the Holy Spirit, and not using resources to compete for people looking for the big box Church experience, or as the Bible puts it, “to get the ears scratched.”

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:57 pm

      Great points. The mission field is absolutely home now (while also still abroad).

  16. Noel Mal on January 3, 2022 at 8:25 am

    Hey Carey thanks for sharing these insights. I appreciate your scout/spy calling in giving us a look into the landscape we’re in and approaching. I can resonate with several trends you mentioned. I’m very thankful for the insights and looking forward to adjustments I need to make as a leader. The land of promise is still a good land. I heard someone say “church is God’s plan A and the isn’t a plan B”. I just want to get it right. I’m attempting to stay close to the chief and commander, Jesus and gaining insight through leaders like you in regard to cultural shifts and adjustments we need to make accordingly. I’m going in 2022 with great hope and anticipation. Blessings .

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:58 pm

      Hope and anticipation are fantastic approaches to what’s ahead Noel!

  17. Marcie Curl on January 3, 2022 at 8:18 am

    This article aligns with 1Corinthians 9:22-If our goal is not inward focus and truly reaching the lost then being open to new methods without compromising the message is worth the risk. For sake of holding on to Traditions and playing it safe, this will eventually lead to extinction. Thank you for sharing this list!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks Marcie!

  18. Donna Eleanor Schaper on January 3, 2022 at 8:10 am

    I work at hartford seminary (now university) with Scott Thumma who is doing a large scale study of these trends. Your suggestions and visions and conjectures all intrigue me and are consistent with my experience in a small church on the east end of LongIsland. I am interested in Web 3 but less interested than I am in what will happen to the “remnant” in person congregations going deeper. Say more about that when you can. Are these high commitment people — or are the more high commitment people going to be on zoom or both? Donna Schaper Revdschaper@gmail.com

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks Donna. I think in a hybrid world, the answer is both for most people. Sometimes in person, other times online. It’s just how we mostly live these days.

  19. Paul Spittka on January 3, 2022 at 7:08 am

    I love reading this yearLy post and appreciate the forethought and depth you share! Thank you SO much for leading leaders!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks Paul!

  20. Charles Woodward on January 3, 2022 at 6:24 am

    Lack of commitment and connectivity

    • Altin Kita on January 3, 2022 at 8:17 am

      This post bothered me, and i love it. Because is making me think outside of the box. Thank you Carey, looks like this year is going to be awesome

      • Carey Nieuwhof on January 3, 2022 at 8:00 pm

        I love how it bothered you and you loved it. Bothers me too, which is exactly why we need to address the issues.

        Thanks Altin!

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