7 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2018

church trends

The culture continues to change rapidly around you as a leader, and especially as a church leader.

If anything, the pace is accelerating, not slowing.

The question is: are you and your team ready for all that’s ahead?

For the last two years, I’ve kicked off the new year with a post on disruptive church trends. You might still find those helpful. You can read the 6 trends for 2017 here, and the trends for 2016 here.

It’s critical church leaders keep trying new things and keep experimenting.

Why? Because the gap between how quickly you change and how quickly things change around you is called irrelevance.

And as I’ve said before, too many church leaders are perfectly equipped to reach a world that no longer exists.

In the hopes of helping every leader better accomplish our collective mission, here are 7 disruptive church trends I see defining conversation and action in 2018.


1. A Move Beyond Church In a Box

Let me start out by saying I’m a huge supporter of the local church. Anyone who’s read these pages would know that.

The mission of the local church is the most important mission on planet earth. Which is why this issue is so critical.

This year I think more leaders than ever are going to rethink our centuries-old model of making people come to a building on Sunday.

If you think about it, most churches (even growing churches, new churches and large churches) effectively say “We’d love for you to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, and to do it you need to join us at a set hour every Sunday in a particular space we meet in. Beyond that, we’re not sure what to do.”

That’s a remnant from a day when everything was done on a set clock. You sat down Thursday night at 8 to watch your favorite show, because you didn’t want to miss it.

Of course, for years nobody has watched any show at a set time unless it’s a live game or a live event. You watch everything else on-demand wherever and whenever you want.

Shopping happens on your phone 24 hours a day, not during the set hours of a physical store that has limited stock.

Streaming has changed how we listen to music. You don’t own music anymore. You rent access to anything, anytime, anywhere.

And yet in the church, we perpetuate a model that says “We have 1/2/3 services on Sunday. We do midweek X. And that’s how we help you come into a relationship with Christ.”

The cultural change has been underway for decades, but the church has been slow to adapt.

For years, we’ve noticed that even committed Christians are attending church less often (here are 10 reasons why), but this is the year we’ll see more and more church leaders re-imagine what it is to be the church.

There’s never been a greater need in our culture for community and connection. The church isn’t going away anytime soon.

So what’s the rethink here?

Future churches will have a building…they’ll just reach far beyond it.

You’ll still need a facility, a broadcast location, a school or theater to rent—some space in which to meet. But you’ll need to think way beyond it.

Craig Groeschel, from Life.church, told me he discussed a piece I wrote about engagement driving all future church growth with his team and made some strategic changes. He says as much as they’re committed to building new buildings, their team is re-focusing on the OTHER 167 hours in the week of their attenders and of unchurched people. (Craig will share more about this in the January 2, 2018 episode of my leadership podcast episode. Subscribe for free to catch it when it releases.)

Bottom line? Churches who only think Sunday and who only think building will continue to shrink.

In 2018, if coming to Christ means coming to your church in a set location and a set hour, you need a new strategy.

2. The Digital Will Become Real

So what does better engagement beyond a set time and place on a Sunday look like?

That’s a great question, and it the answer will require a ton of experimentation, but for sure it involves your digital reach.

As my friend Clay Scroggins put it recently, virtually everyone’s life has become both analog and digital. You run to the store to get milk, but you order your next video game on Amazon and then listen to a podcast on the ride home.

For years, the church has been questioning whether their digital space ‘counts’—whether it’s real.

In 2016, we launched our live-stream at Connexus Church where I serve. In 2017, our physical attendance grew but our weekly online ‘attendance’ for the first time became bigger than our physical attendance. That’s not going to stop us from adding physical locations, but it also means we need to decide what to do with people who watch and engage online.  (See Trend 1 above.)

Unfortunately, I still ask “do online people count?”

But increasingly that question is becoming downright silly.

Here’s the truth: Church leaders, in 2018 asking whether people who watch church online ‘count’ is like Sears asking if Amazon counts. It’s like New York City cabs asking if Uber counts or Lyft counts.

Of course they count.

A majority of first time guests at our church now tell us they watched online for weeks or months before they walked in the door.

And naturally, we need to figure out how to engage with people we may never meet.

Have we figured that out yet? Well no. No one has; we don’t know what it means.

But just because you don’t know the answer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask the question.

In 2018, ask the digital question at your church.

I get that you may not have a million dollars to throw at technology. Or even 1,000 dollars.

But you probably have a free Facebook page or an Instagram account. Start treating that as real in 2018.

See what happens.

3. Location Independence Will Rise

In many ways we’ve already seen this emerging, but there are a growing number of churches who will start to minister independent of location.

In the future, many will consider a church to be their home church, even though the church is in a city they’ve never been to.

Some leading churches are already getting innovative and are facilitating viewing parties, remote baptisms, remote gatherings, small gatherings and other connections will be part of the new normal for churches.

In the same way more workers are increasingly location-independent thanks to technology, more churches will emerge as location independent.

4. Pop-Up Churches Will Become More Common

Remember that the future will be more digital and analog. One will not kill the other. As technology increases so does the need for human connection.

In thriving ministry models, both digital and analog will grow.

But as every church leader knows, to open a new campus or church in a new community takes time, money, risk and experimentation.

That’s why you’ll see more pop-up churches in 2018 than before.

In the same way you’ve seen the rise of pop-up restaurants or pop-up stores, you’ll see more pop-up churches that open in a new location for a night or a month or a season.

We’ve done for that last two Christmases at Connexus Church, hosting Christmas services now in four cities where we didn’t have permanent locations. (I shared the strategy here.)

We’re adding a new permanent location as a result of that.

You can rent old churches, theaters, restaurants, banquet halls or whatever to bring your church into a new community. It gives you a chance to test the waters for expansion and to bring the hope of Christ into a new place without making a massive initialy investment.

Again, practically speaking, maybe just do a night of worship somewhere in a different city where you have a small pocket of people driving to attend your church. Or find a city where you have some traction online.

Then just do one or two events there really well and see what happens.

5. The Rise of Preaching (More Than Teaching)

Another curious trend I’ve seen is that the next generation of preachers (under 40s) seem to preach more than they teach.

It’s always hard to define the exact difference between the two, but simply put, preaching speaks more to the heart, teaching speaks more to the head.

Preachers facilitate an experience. Teachers convey information.

I think the best pastors do both well.

Preaching without solid teaching can become emotionalism. Teaching without preaching can become intellectualism.

Preaching leads people to say ‘That’s right. I need to change.” Teaching can lead people to say “He’s right. That’s a good point.”

I default toward teaching so this is a challenge for me.

Try to find an under-40 influential pastor of a growing church who’s more into teaching than preaching. There really aren’t that many.

It’s just a trend I see.

6. A Desire for Non-Downloadable Experiences

I realize you could argue that all these trends compete with each other (and they do), but welcome to 2018.

Another trend you’ll see more of in 2018 is a growing desire for what I think of as ‘non-downloadable’ experiences.

Yes, the church will become more digital, more location independent, more remote. Sermons can be consumed on a run, on a commute and while cooking dinner. I get that.

But that consumption of content will also leave people hungering for greater community, greater experience and greater transcendence.

Theologically, God is both immanent and transcendent.

Immanent means ‘near’ and even ‘accessible’, as in God with us in Christ.

Transcendence leans toward the supernatural, the holy and toward the wholly other.

While God is both, most churches swing toward one or the other: we focus on the immanent or the transcendent.

I think the best churches will have content that leans toward the immanent—practical, helpful and digestible. And they’ll also offer experiences that are transcendent…that you had to be there to experience.

If everything your church does in the future feels downloadable, probably all you’ll get is a lot of downloads, not a lot of gathered people.

If what your church does touches the soul, people will continue to gather.

The best churches will offer both because that reflects the character and nature of God and the character of the Christian church at its best.

7. The Team Is Eclipsing the Solo Leader

Finally, to get really practical, you’ll see more team in 2018.

The last few decades were characterized by leaders who owned a stage or a platform, preaching 52 times a year (or more with midweek).

Team effort is eclipsing solo effort. A decade ago, you could name influential worship leaders.

Today, very few people could name a specific worship leader at Elevation Church or Bethel Worship by name; it’s just Elevation Worship and Bethel Music. The collective has replaced the individual.

In the same way, solo pastors will likely be replaced by teams of communicators and leaders. A few years ago we split the roles of Lead Pastor and Lead Communicator at Connexus Church, and even lead communicators (like me) often only teach 30-35 times a year.

Part of that is because so many people are listening to so many voices, it requires greater preparation and attention to preach well. And leadership is complex enough now that it requires greater focus to lead well.

Again, don’t think megachurches are the only one who will see this trend.

I started in very small churches and almost immediately raised up volunteer teams to lead.

The leader who can do everything well is being eclipsed by the team that can do everything well.

This, by the way, will be incredibly important to every church of every size who is looking to replace retiring founding pastors or lead pastors who have been in their church a long time.

Want Some Help For Your Team?

If you want some deeper insight into why churches don’t grow, my book Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow may help.

I also created a Lasting Impact Team Edition video series to help pastors and their teams walk through the issues that are keeping a lot of churches from healthy growth.

On Wed Jan 17 from 4: 30-5: 30 pm EST I’ll be doing a free webinar talking more about these trends here.

What Do You See?

Those are the disruptive trends I see for 2018. And yes, my brain’s melting too.

But we’re in this together. We can accomplish more together than we can apart. I’ll be drilling down on these issues more (especially 1, 2, 3 and 6) as 2018 unfolds here on this blog and on my Leadership Podcast. So think of this as the start of a conversation, not the end of one. With much help to come.

In the meantime, what do you see?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

P.S. Remember, get in on the High Impact Leader before it closes at midnight  January 2nd 2017.


  1. Tom on February 16, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Wow. I guess I’m the only one who here that recalls the commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy. Oh, I forgot. That’s a Hebrew thing and no longer relevant because the world is now conducting business 24/7 so we all need to adapt or die. Worship on Sunday was instituted because daily living required all ones focus during the week so the Father in His wisdom, knew we needed a day to more deeply contemplate and honor Him. And give ourselves some rest. I guess that prescription should be thrown out the window in the modern age we live in.

    Or the fact that sociologists show that the more digital communications we enable, the more isolated we become. So there’s no need for Christian fellowship. Those guys and gals are all phonies anyways. We should all prefer to have a singular me only relationship with God and never worry about having a relationship with other believers and non believers.

    Sorry to be so sarcastic here but please indulge me a bit because I obviously just don’t “get it”yet. I do agree that the church should be digitally enabled and relevant all week long and not just on Sundays. Podcasts and digital downloads are a good things who can’t or won’t attend or for those of us caught up in and who can afford a middle class and higher lifestyle with all of our packed schedules and techno toys. But that’s not mission to me. The Great Commission tells us to reach out to the greater masses of unchurched, unrepentant, unaware, improvershed, struggling and desperately disadvantaged mass of humanity, both local and across the globe with the message of grace and redemption and the service of assistance, charity and compassion. Celebrating Gods glory and goodness constantly but also setting aside a period for COMMUNAL heartfelt worship AND fellowship.

    Sorry if that interferes with ones busy digital lifestyle that is driven principally by the demand for personal convenience and is just too busy or bored to set aside a specific time of day once a week to worship their Savior with fellow believers.

    I believe that following Jesus and being his disciple means spending your hours, days a d weeks serving others first and practicing Christian discipleship which develops into a continual relationship with your Savior. If that only happens to you on Sunday mornings, maybe you should look within instead of blaming the church you’d really rather not be wasting your time attending.

  2. C. D. on February 4, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    I honestly hope all of this does happen. As two Millennial Bible college kids, my husband and I have the same dread every Sunday — we were honestly relieved when the kids got the flu so we could all stay home.

    Reasons I (who love Jesus) hate church
    1. It’s three hours of bad dad-jokes while staring at the ceiling praying for death.

    2. I haven’t heard a teaching sermon with new material since 2008.

    3. Pastors are either fake nice or fake trolls — EVERYTHING feels calculated to get more bodies in the seats (and probably to qualify for that big building loan they never stop talking about).

    4. Service times are waaaay too early (8 and 10am), meaning we have to sacrifice either sleep or food in order to be there on time — but last waaaaay too long (ending at 11 and 1 respectively) so we either sleep or starve through it because distracting ourselves with a (silent) game on my phone is a big freaking no no but literally interrupting a sermon with rumblings (actually happenned .. it was mortifying).

    5. As soon as pastors know our background they unload some toxic ministry onto us and then we get to be in a pit of drama the last ministry leader left which is a terrible way to try and make friends at a church (Conversely, visiting your parents church makes this 10x worse.) There were times in my life that I was a total mess and should NOT be leading any bible studies but do short staffed pastors listen? NOOOOOO.

    6. I don’t know anyone. Having people greet you is old-school. Most people don’t touch each other today and old people like to shake hands and kiss you. (I keep saying old people, but I mean those super Christianese people who are generally in their mid 40s or older). Why do I have to go to an occult themed bookshop just to play Settlers of Catan or Pandemic? Why can’t my church host that? Ah yes, “lack of interest.” No, the interest is there – what they mean is that it lacks their interest.

    What I wouldn’t give to find a Acts2 church. Why can’t we have service over dinner and have a group of old people who have been Christian for a century run it and speak instead of hiring young people who know less Bible than I do? I don’t want young and hip. I just want people to chill TF out and start being authentic. Where in the Bible does it say you need 5 praise songs and a hymn before God will let you start service? Where in the Bible does it say you need to pass the plate between worship and the sermon? Where in the Bible does it say people have to go to a separate building and all meet at the same exact time? I mean, for the love of God (and I mean that literally) Pastors actually need to consider that people literally have the world to choose from now. If they want to actually minister to people, they can’t occupy time and space like it’s a liberal rally location. They need to draw people organically: host a regular LAN party, have a regular “family dinner” once a week, open “youth group” up to those of us 18-30 that simply don’t have a home in any hutch because we don’t make enough yet to be on the tithing radar — or at a minimum, keep the kids you’ve invested in instead of throwing them to the wolves and praying they come back when they have kids and need three whole hours of monotone dad-jokes to pull their sanity back together.

    Also, sorry for the rant. I found your site as the first response when I googled “why do I hate going to church” and I guess got lost in the links.

    • Chuck on February 4, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      I am;so in love with this response!! I just am!! YESSSS!!! I scream with joy!!!
      C.D. I feel your pain!! As a non-Millenial (in my 50s) and as a long-term church goer, I FEEL IT! While I certainly haven’t given up on church, I know what you’re talking about with the bad dad-jokes, the superficial fakey-fake pseudo-hospitality stuff…the list goes on!!

      Followers of this thread, this is a CLASSIC example of what I was ranting about in my earlier post in January (on this thread). This wonderful person, right or wrong, flawed or perfect, WHATEVER your take on it is, is THE classic age-group and demographic that you unintentionally blow off when you war over silly things like tradition vs. forward thinking. When we get caught up in policy and procedure, we do irreparable collateral damage to PEOPLE.

    • RTB on February 5, 2018 at 4:03 pm

      You make some really good comments, you need to clean up your online potty mouth a bit, but good comments! My impression (just that) is we all spend way too much time talking about what the church can do for us instead of what we can do for others in the church, and also for others outside of it. The difference between happiness and joy is the degree to which you do for others. Jesus went to synagogue, but he put the words into action the rest of each week. Inhale and suck the life out of something, or exhale and breathe life into it.

  3. RTB on January 31, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    Wonderful article! There are so many perspectives to come at regarding this issue that it seems overwhelming, but it would be good to remember two things, can Jesus be found first and foremost in what we seek to learn about and do work for, and do we seek it via prayer and the guidance of the spirit? You’re dealing with physical people operating on spiritual issues, so the perspective has to be spiritual, not physical. Jesus was led by the spirit to be a doer, and the young people I know like to feel like they accomplish something valuable in return for their valuable time. D.L. Moody used to introduce himself by stating that he worked for the Lord Jesus Christ, ref. James 1:22. Great points one and all!

  4. Mary on January 21, 2018 at 8:04 am

    I am a believer of both. I’m 53. Jesus Christ did not have technology, but He reached many by the spirit; spirit of need. We are still spirits first born into sin. We didn’t need technology to reach out and reach many. We have Jesus Christ. We have a praying spirit, hope and faith. I rely on that as my “technology” given within me; nothing is new. Technology is a new fad, but the holy spirit isn’t. I also appreciate the traditional church where I assemble myself with other believers, study God’s word in detail and more specifically; analytically from “called” preachers & teachers. Technology is swift and fast, but God’s words is a process that works on the sin; the soul in time with a revelation. In time, He wash away the sin, and in turn He gets the worship, praise in washing us clean. We have to pray for our needs and purpose. It is He who assign the ministry, gifts and purpose. Pray about the will and desire of God.

  5. Josh Richter on January 20, 2018 at 11:23 am

    “Preaching leads people to say ‘That’s right. I need to change.’ Teaching can lead people to say ‘He’s right. That’s a good point.’ ”
    I think the need for both could be illustrated this way: Preaching leads people to say ‘That’s right. I need to change.” Teaching can lead people to say “He’s right. That’s a good way to make the change.”

    • Chuck on January 20, 2018 at 11:53 am

      And small groups, or other strong relationship /community based activities can lead to “Okay, so how can we help each other to EFFECT those changes? How can we actually DO what Scripture taught us to change? How can we apply what the preacher preached or the teacher taught? This is the HUGEST piece that I think a lot of the community-resistant generations absolutely miss.

    • Craig on February 18, 2018 at 12:01 am

      Carey’s making a great point here, by I think he’s also perpetuating a common misunderstanding: This is NOT the difference between “teaching” and “preaching”. In the New Testament, teaching is explaining God’s words (the Scriptures) and God’s ways. The audience is believers. The goals are faithfulness, godliness, obedience, etc. Meanwhile, “preaching” is proclamation of gospel content — toward unbelievers. The goals are repentance, faith, belief in Jesus, i.e. salvation.

      So, the distinction Carey is making could be better described as “informational teaching” vs. “inspirational teaching.” But, if he’s referring to edifying believers at church, he’s still in the realm of “Teaching”.

  6. Ben DiStefano on January 16, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Great article Carey. The church team I joined recently — right at the time we saw each other at the Back 40 Conference in Indiana, PA — is full in on everything you shared here. We are seeing these things happen in our little corner of NW Pennsylvania. We are multi-site (3 locations) and have been for about 10 years. In the fall of 2017, we launched an on-line campus that is truly interactive (worship, communion, chat rooms, etc.) and we’ve seen a great response. I think we even have some international viewers. We’ve seen people come back to faith in Christ and the church and find faith for the first time. On a practical side, one of our physical campuses had a mechanical failure this weekend and the building was closed, but no problem because we re-routed our people to both a different physical campus or the online campus. Both saw an increase as people didn’t check out they just changed plans. Great stuff. Thanks for the wisdom and encouragement.

  7. Justina on January 7, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    I definitely agree that people in the world don’t just come into a church these days their opinions of church have been defined a lot by social media. If there is a way forward that can include more people I think it is worth further consideration. I value community that being part of a church entails greatly it has changed my life. I am of the strong opnion in God’s word where it states don’t forsake the meeting together of believers knowing I have another family I meet with my church family on Sundays has been a tremendous place for me to be healed and grow alongside others in their faith journey. An Internet despite all its mod cons can’t provide that intimate fellowship

  8. Mike Amos on January 5, 2018 at 4:55 pm


    Great article! Thanks for getting us thinking about the challenges of this new year. I have been scouring the internet for ideas on engaging our online folks. We run around 300 every Sunday at church and have anywhere from 600 to 1,300 views on our fb live broadcasts. We have to figure out how to engage these folks in a real and viable way. Thanks for your information and your help!

  9. Jerry Sweat on January 4, 2018 at 11:45 am

    Carey, not so much an additional trend comment but I wanted to express appreciation! I always love your insights and have learned so much from you over these past few years. I listen to all your podcasts and read all your blogs! Thanks so much for continuing to challenge the church to move forward in the ways in which we engage with our culture and the rapidly changing context of the twenty first century while remaining faithful to our mission! You are making a huge difference for the Kingdom of God!

  10. Nellie on January 4, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Ironic that many of the “positive” responses are based on experience and ” hanging with the culture” apart from the true message of Jesus Christ. Some are now readily accepting traditional, or old, ways as out of date and saying today the generation is “seeking His presence,” as if the older generation did not have this desire.
    All here is allowing many professing Christians to nonchalantly connect thru social media atmosphere, just like world today. Are we not to be separate from the world and it’s influence?
    Preaching and teaching must be synonymous, it can’t be one without the other. All I see is life groups where ppl now follow study guides; this generation knows nothing of teaching and creating their own to fit the needs of the group. Just charge $$ to the group, and leave those who can’t afford it.
    The Church may be “growing,” all many are doing is reshuffling the disgruntled to find a church that will keep their ego under wraps and their sin unchecked. Humanism and pragmatism galore, masqueraded under Scripture and weak worship songs that speak to us more than praising Him.
    This shows more satisfaction in numbers more than holiness and repentant hearts.

    • Tamika on January 10, 2018 at 9:17 am

      I believe this article is spot on and I’m thankful my local church is has been in line with preaching the Gospel of Christ and meeting the needs of people. Of course preaching and teaching must be synonymous, the author is not saying it doesn’t have to be or that one takes precedence over the other.
      You don’t change the message you change the method with the needs of the people, that’s all this article is saying. Due to changing our methods to minister to people we have seen significant growth (spiritual) among all members. It’s not about numbers at all but truly meeting people where they are and fostering spiritual growth.

  11. Angela Craig on January 3, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Thank you Carey, These are the exact reasons we started Pursuit Church Live (A Network Affiliated Church with AG as of Nov 2017). Our main campus is on Facebook with pop up communities around the globe. This is the first in the world as far as we know. Our focus is on the 60+ percent of people who cannot or will not attend a traditional church like you and I attend every Sunday. Jesus and the disciples went where the people are. PCL is doing the same.

    Being on social media gives us the opportunity to disciple everyday, not only on Sundays along with many other benifits you mention.

    It is out of the box and working.

    I appreciate your influence to create change. What we are doing at PCL is something all churches should be integrating into their plans for 2018.

  12. Glenn Davies on January 3, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    Hey Carey,

    Love the thrust of what you’re saying here, just one push back. On #1 you say, “That’s a remnant from a day when everything was done on a set clock. You sat down Thursday night at 8 to watch your favorite show, because you didn’t want to miss it.”

    I know you know this but that is not why we gather on Sundays in one place together as a local church and that the real reason is still important. That said, thank you for helping us push forward with courage and boldness and not fear. Blessings man!

  13. Michael Davis on January 3, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Sounds like something written by a night club owner trying to keep up with the
    latest trend. Disco out Zongo in! So redo the club to draw in the zongo crowd.

    Not one mention of some book of instruction…what was that book…oh yes! its called the Holy Bible. Not one mention of GOD I am your servant use me as YOU will to your great Glory. The only way such a thing will happen is by following GOD’S Most HOLY WORD. GOD does not share HIS Glory with anyone or anything. Least of which is the latest social trend.
    JESUS started HIS church with twelve uneducated men. Not one gave one thought to the latest social trend! They did not even allow themselves to become involved with the Jewish religious system. Which interestingly was very busy accepting the latest socially accepted values of the day. They simply preached CHRIST and CHRIST alone was the answer to mans one and only problem. SIN! Without that one and only message then the church stops being a church and becomes a religious club. Always looking for a better business model. But, of course never finding one. The church is dying because it has lost the message of the Bible. Without that message the church will become what it is fast becoming. A social chasing religious club.

    • Alex on January 3, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      THE church is NOT dying. Your specific congregation…. judging (yes, judging) by your comment – quite possibly is…. Christ was (and is) always on the move, and so is His Spirit in His Church. Follow or don’t – the choice is yours (always has been)

      • Michael Davis on January 4, 2018 at 7:17 am

        Sorry to disappoint you my friend, I am not a pastor. I have been called to the work of a Evangelist. Thus, i see far more of the “church” system then a local pastor. The church is indeed dying in its original commission. There is a Hell. It is a horrible place and a lost soul will spend eternity there. I have not heard a message on Hell in years. Plenty of messages on GOD wants you to be rich, feel good about oneself. But, not one word about SIN. How it is destroying lives, families. marriages and society. The modern ever changing (some) spirit led church has as much POSITIVE influence on society as CNN! There is only ONE morally positive organization on the face of this earth…the church! When the church loses that one and only message then the society the church was charged to constrain from sin. Will then become one with the now “cold” church and sink to and exceed the level of immortality we find this once great GOD blessed nation in. In ten years , or less. The majority of southern Baptist church will begin to accept “married????” homosexuals because some “spirit’ is always moving and chasing society. If we don’t accept society latest “fad.’ we will fold. With that lack of logic one has to wonder what “spirit” was leading a Billie Sunday, or Edward Hills, and other unnamed hero’s of Heaven who through preaching JESUS lead this great nation to the highest it once achieved. A honest theological interpretation of history will teach much about GOD’S plans for mankind. Not one has a thing to do with chasing society and its latest fads. Amen!

        • Ben DiStefano on January 16, 2018 at 9:58 am

          “A honest theological interpretation of history …” Kind of like the Old Testament men of Issachar, who God specifically recognized as men who understood their culture and came up with strategies to engage it and were called to lead people in that way. Hmmm.

          “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.” 1 Chronicles 12:32 KJV

          • Michael Davis on January 16, 2018 at 3:50 pm


  14. Mike on January 3, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    Carey, great post. I look forward to how you continue to break this down in the future. One thing for leaders to consider is their own community and if resources are limited what they need to provide most – the digital immanence, or the analog community. I think this is where small churches need to leverage the available quality material of others that already have a digital presence while pursuing excellence in local relationship and discipleship.

    One thing to improve: grammar/spelling check.

  15. John Finochio on January 2, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    This is an accurate evaluation of trends that have been already occurring and increasing in the church for the last five years or so. The question that every church needs to ask is what if any of these do we need to adopt, which of these can we do effectively with the resources of people and finances we have and where do we start. Knowing that many churches have limited resources it might be wise to start with those that are easiest to implement. Having said that I think the salient point made in this article is #6. Because Christianity is designed to be lived out in community our gatherings must offer something that cannot be obtained as a downloadable resource and therein is the tension you’ve described. The culture has unquestionably trended toward the downloadable resource but the church must offer a compelling ‘koinonia’, ‘Presence’ and ‘ministry’ experience that keeps people wanting to come back through our doors! Great article!

    • Chuck on January 4, 2018 at 10:39 am

      I feel the need to tweak this response just a tad. Even though I agree with a lot of John F. Iabove) has said here, I would say that this comment is just acknowledging something that’s been “going on” for a few decades now. I got into my first real small group experience with authentic community back in the mid-80s when I was an undergraduate. I was part of small group ministry all through the 90’s and 2000’s. While John’s premise is spot-on (re: Community and such), it demonstrates part of what I think Carey is trying to get at: the Church at large is finally starting to take notice only recently. That “taking notice” needs to pick up and act more effectively to include those that are just now figuring this out. Sometimes, that involves helping someone from a more old-school background experience, say, a small group, or a house church, or whatever your “modern” venue might be, and see that it’s not such a bad thing after all. This is one way to take notice. Any others out there?

  16. Dennis on January 2, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you for this – it’s very helpful.
    My observation is that nothing was mentioned in regards to children and ministry. My thought is that the church really needs to do an over the top job of providing a children’s ministry experience that simply can’t be replaced with a video or live feed at home. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think live feed from a grade 1 class into a home will have the same impact as if that child were present in room.
    I love offering live feed into homes and believe it is so helpful in many ways – both to the believer and those we are seeking to reach. But I have a huge value on the attendance of children at our church.
    What are your thoughts in this regard?
    As well, could you comment on what you did to increase the viewership of your live feed ? Thanks.

    • Jacqueline on January 3, 2018 at 5:25 am


    • Rick in Canada, eh? on January 4, 2018 at 6:26 pm

      Hi Dennis.

      I don’t think there is one answer to your question about engaging young people in the life of faith, other than to engage them! I think virtually every point Carey makes is completely relevant to ministry with young people. If anything they are probably further down these roads than some of our leaders, and much further than many of our seniors.

      (Note – When I say “further down these roads,” I do not mean more advanced or more progressive or leading the way. I mean they are already at the point of being digital people living in a virtual world which is completely real for them. And this means that the aches of living virtually are theirs as well, probably mores than some of us older types. They’ve never known anything different. It’s the water in which they are already swimming.)

      I think the real question is how will we, as leaders, and as leaders of leaders, respond to these trends as we see them operating in our various contexts. And, as usual, the first step is awareness of some of the issues.


    • Ken on February 12, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      While I feel like there is a lot of carryover from this article into children’s ministry, I don’t think Carey was suggesting all of these points are the same for adult services and children’s programming. There are a lot of great blogs more focused on that area by people who lead those programs, while Carey focuses on broader church leadership, because that is what he does. I think the big difference between adult services and children’s services is that adults can stream a service at home and attend a community group and get close to the same experience. For a lot of children’s ministry the message is mixed in with their version of a small group, so just a streaming service might equate to watching Veggie Tales (not hating on Bob or Larry).

      But perhaps there is a benefit to finding a way to introduce online elements for the days that don’t start with “Sun”. Maybe even something simple like hosting a video of a skit done on the previous Sunday with follow up questions for parents to ask their kids to give some middle of the week reinforcement to the concepts discussed on Sunday. Just a thought off the top of my head, but the point is it is worth pondering over. I think the Orange philosophy handles #1 and #7 very well as it makes small group leaders the real heroes and empowers them to partner with parents.

      To actually answer one of your questions, my thoughts on live feeds and children attending a physical church is a both and situation. For me it’s the same thing with pop up churches. I believe there is a huge benefit to a consistent Sunday service, but we can also do more to reach our communities and make it easy for non-believers to interact with God.

      Jesus completely shook up the traditional ministry model, and I think that gives us permission to do the same. As long as His teachings stay at the center, I believe God enjoys watching our creativity in bringing His Word to the world.

  17. Jim Van Leeuwen on January 2, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Carey, is there any easy way to get the posts from here in a printer-friendly format? I’d love to share this in a non-digital way to certain people. Just wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing something.

  18. David. Daniels on January 2, 2018 at 12:29 am

    I like your thinking! Most churches is where to go to get a shot of Religion so they don’t get the Real thing! We have made the Church a physical box where people go at an event/performance on a certain day at a particular time! Church buildings and uses have been out of Business for years. No Secular business could afford to be in business as their building only being used for 3 or 4 hours a week.
    Jesus is our model of the shepherd of a church He is building! He never needed buildings, religious enterprises , but told people that if you follow me you will be Light , salt, be showing everyone Jesus’s love displayed on the cross in the market place. Maybe showing people how to BE the Church in the world would have the influence in the western World that our so called Church with all its Money don’t seem to be doing.
    Are we following the Jewish synagogue religion who has maybe numbered 18 million worldwide . They refused to let the Wineskins-traditions the flexiability for the New Wine / Jesus way.
    You leaders today are sharp, smart!
    We are getting close to the Rapture and we can’t afford to not do it the way Jesus wants to do it so none will never blame His Church to keep them from being a player in reaching His World!


  19. Jim Van Leeuwen on January 1, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    Carey, I wish I could get you to speak to leadership at my church. We just started streaming in the last two years and because my church is so focused on having strong community, it’s been tentative to embrace an online campus. These are the things that could totally change that. I’ll be passing this along with prayers that these trends will play into our reality. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  20. Aussie Dave on January 1, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Love this. Awesome stuff mate! I think you’re spot on with all of these. The church needs to be working towards omni-channel experiences in the same way Walmart, Starbucks and Home Depot.

    • Scottish Dave on January 2, 2018 at 4:55 am

      Omni-Channel experiences – Aussie Dave – superb phrase !

      • Aussie Dave on January 2, 2018 at 4:38 pm

        Thanks! It’s not the future … it’s the present for the rest of the world. The church needs to catch up.

  21. Nweike on January 1, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    Thank you Carey for this wonderful article. I am already aware that there is need for catching up with the changing trends but not sure on how to adapt these suggestions in a local church in rural Nigeria.

    • Scott on January 1, 2018 at 8:50 pm

      Take/use the concepts, not the specifics/details?

  22. William on January 1, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks Carey. Decoding the city we live and serve means we should assess trends each year and make adjustments. This kind of list helps so many. Thanks for giving it thought and presenting it so well.

  23. PAHerrington on January 1, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you Carey! These trends are a part of facing the brutal facts of doing ministry today! After 24 years in one SoCal church, I have seen lots of changes, but none like the last 2-3 years. You are spot on…keep the conversation coming. As an aging team, we long to stay relevant without losing our edge to speak truth in a transformative way.

    In your coming podcasts, I’d love to hear more creative ideas about getting the church beyond the weekend meeting and into the neighborhoods, sports fields, and coffee shops.

  24. Heather on January 1, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    #5 occurred to me just this week. We attend a very traditional church with an older congregation and yesterday we visited our son’s church – one with just as strong doctrine, but is much more modern in presentation. I’ve seen for a long time the difference in worship – the traditional being more focused on the message of the lyrics and the modern wanting to experience God’s presence (neither of which I think are wrong, by the way, but they are very different animals), but I realized listening to a very good sermon, Biblically based, full of teaching, yet prodding the soul to reflection of one’s own faith and what that means in how we live. Again, both are perfectly valid, but there is definitely a difference in how those over 50 and those under 50 look at church. Thank you for your insights that help us all see these trends and how to address them! I am looking forward to this conversation continuing! (PS I am the Music Director at a very traditional church, working with our pastor toward change that will make us more accessible to today’s world.)

    • Chuck on January 1, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      See? THAT’S what I humbly think needs to start happening more! Right there. Traditional and modern need to meet and appreciate each other’s strengths and utility. Not try to run each other outta Dodge. I apologize if this is presumptuous for me to reply in this manner, but see my comment above. THIS is what I’m talking about! KUDOS!

      • Heather on January 1, 2018 at 1:27 pm

        Thanks, Chuck! Our seniors are so worried that they’ll be marginalized and ignored in favour of the modern, but what I think churches like ours are failing to do is to teach those older congregants how important they are to the young people! If the young can see the old willing to embrace more modern ways for their benefit, those young people will be so much more willing to learn to appreciate the traditional things and learn the value in that. It could be a win-win scenario, everyone learning from each other, if only we would all focus on giving to each other instead of holding so tightly to what we want. This struggle between generations/styles is far from new, but it is incredibly sad that it exists at all.

        • Chuck on January 4, 2018 at 10:42 am

          Heather. We should talk. Seriously. This is a HUGE conviction of mine.

  25. Kevin on January 1, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Great post Carey. I’m going to share this with my team. One of our biggest challenges is on the digital side. If you’re going to do it, I think it needs to be done well, or it can push people away instead of bringing them in. My question for you is, if you don’t have that skill-set in the church naturally, how do you go about finding people who can manage social media, or help with a live stream? It’s like a chicken and egg thing. You can’t attract the people without a good digital presence but you can’t have a good digital presence without the right people.

    Also, I took the High Impact Leader course and it was incredibly helpful. If anyone reading this hasn’t invested in it, do so. You will be more effective in 2018 as a result!

  26. Talmadge Hobbs on January 1, 2018 at 11:59 am

    This is a lot to digest, especially since I have moved from a struggling reStart in one city to a “thriving” jail population in our former hometown as chaplain. But I’ve also thought about this team concept, both within the jail itself and volunteers coming in to lead Bible studies. While I will recommend this article to others, I will take time to pray over and digest this to see how that applies to jail. Thanks for this more than I can say.

  27. Chuck on January 1, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Happy New Year, before I get started. To get right to my response… I see currently, and continuing, a battle between cultures past and present. Preachers vs. teachers (and not just in pulpit!) Team leads vs. “administrators”. Babysitting vs. actual engagement in the youth/children’s areas (call them whatever you like). There’s a “resistance” from the 80s and 90s mentalities (and before…) in how church is “done” and the mindsets of today’s church leaders. Find the secret sauce to make those two entities work TOGETHER, as opposed to resist each other, and you have healthier, more intergenerational community and a healthier church environment. Do I have the answer as to how to do that? That’s my current quest. And I may never find it. But I’m looking for it this year. Such is my first actual New Year’s Resolution.

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