9 Things That Worked in the Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today


So you entered into church leadership full of enthusiasm and fresh ideas.

And for a season, a lot of those ideas worked.

You saw your ministry grow, people come to faith and the mission advance.

But times change.

And—these days especially—culture is changing faster than ever before.

As a result, the shelf life of ideas, assumptions and approaches is shorter than it has ever been.

What used to work, doesn’t. Not anymore.

The challenge is to know what’s stopped working and what hasn’t.

Not everything that worked a decade ago in the church was great. But the truth is many churches saw growth anyway.

And that’s changing and will continue to change.

What got you here won’t get you there.

Here are 9 things that used to work in ministry a decade ago that aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be.

1. Relying on an automatic return to church

There was a day when you could fairly safely assume that once young adults got married and had a child, they would automatically come back to church.

Those days are gone or largely gone.

The average unchurched person doesn’t think about going to church anymore than the average Christian thinks about going to synagogue. It just doesn’t cross their mind.

Having an exceptional next-generation ministry that reaches out to the community is critical.

Want a better way to impact families? I know of no better approach than this.

You can’t assume families will reach out to you, so you need to reach out to them.

2. Appealing to people out of guilt or obligation

The number of people who feel guilty about not being in church on Sunday shrinks daily.

Ditto with the number of people who will serve at a church because they feel they should.

Interestingly enough, Jesus never appealed to people out of guilt or obligation. He invited people.

The future church will as well.

3. Simply being better than other churches

When people went to church, being a better church than other churches got you mileage.

Most people no longer go to church.

Saying “we have a better church” is kind of like saying “we have better, organic, locally grown watercress” at a burger cook-off.

Most people just aren’t going to buy.

Better isn’t going to get you the mileage it used to.

Different will.

The church is an alternative. And an alternative, clearly and effectively presented, will do far better than simply saying we’re better than something you weren’t interested in in the first place.

4. Gimmicks

So true confession. A decade ago we drove a car on stage to get people’s attention.

We also built elaborate sets for every series hoping it would captivate people.

And all of this did. For a season.

But I also came to realize that whatever you use to attract people is what you need to use to keep people.

‘Gimmicks’ every week get old fast.

If you play the ‘next Sunday will be better than last Sunday game,’ you eventually end up losing and lying (because it can’t be).

In addition, eventually people ask “So what? So what if next Sunday is a little bit better than last Sunday? What’s this all about anyway?”

Don’t get me wrong. We still have fun moments, powerful moments, surprising moments and memorable moments, but they’re moments. 

We’ve stripped down our services and moved back to more of the basics: the Gospel, engaging moments and engaging messages.

We can sustain that. And the basics, done really well (with a little extra from time to time) really do engage people.

Why? Because Jesus, authentically and clearly presented, engages people.

5. Inauthentic leadership

People’s fake detectors are set at a higher level than ever.

In a culture that markets everything to death, people are longing for authenticity.

Fortunately, that’s at the heart of the Gospel.

What has to die, of course, is the leader who acts like he or she has it all together: the plastic veneer we put on hoping nobody sees the real us.

Well, none of us has it all together. And while there shouldn’t be any gaping unaddressed character holes in your life, letting people see the real you (even if it scares you) is essential.

These days, letting people see you’re human is a prerequisite for ministry to fellow humans.

6. A self-centred mission

You have to be careful not to make the mission about your church.

When your church has had a little success, it’s easy to become self-centred.

The people you’re trying to reach aren’t interested in your church.

What they’re interested in (whether they realize it or not) is Jesus. And his mission.

Churches that are obsessed about how big they are, how many programs they offer, and how much better they are than other churches have a limited shelf-life.

The true mission isn’t about your church. It’s about THE church. THAT resonates.

7. Random programming

The bigger your church, the more you will be tempted to add programs and ministries.


Because people demand them.

Leaders—afraid to disappoint people or lacking an alternative strategy—cave and allow dozens (or hundreds) of random programs to emerge in their church.

These programs can be counter-productive for numerous reasons:

They compete for money, time and attention.

Lead nowhere in particular.

Cause more division than unity (ever try to shut down a women’s ministry or men’s breakfast?).

They become their own mission and compete with the overall mission of the church.

Why does random programming not work?

Simple: because random programming pleases insiders but rarely reaches outsiders.

Instead, be strategic and focused. Do whatever helps move people the most clearly and deeply into a growing relationship with Jesus, and do whatever advances your mission into the city.

Make no mistake: What people become involved in becomes the mission. So choose carefully.

Make the mission your mission.

8. Assuming people know what their next step is

A decade ago, in a more churched culture, it was commonplace to assume that most people knew what they needed to do to become a Christian or to grow as a Christian.

That era is gone.

Now the average unchurched person arrives knowing almost nothing about Christianity, what to do to become a Christian or how to grow as a Christian.

To understand how radically things have shifted, imagine you converted to Hinduism.

How would you know you’ve actually become a Hindu?

What’s your next step?


Just remember that the next time a completely unchurched person begins to attend your church.

At Connexus Church, where I serve, we reorganized our approach to new people around two key phrases: “I’m New” “Take a Step”.

We’re doing everything we can to ensure people understand how to become a Christian, how to engage in spiritual growth and what steps they can take to help them grow.

We even set up two hosted kiosks in the foyer under the phrases “I’m New” and “Take a Step”. Our trained guest services people help orient guests around what step might be best for them to take next.

Leaders, if you’re not clear, no one else is clear either.

9. Relying on what you’ve learned in the past

I suppose at one time there was a day when seminary adequately trained church leaders for what was ahead.

That day has long since passed.

The basics—biblical knowledge, theology and the likes—don’t change dramatically. And shouldn’t. That foundation is reliable years, even decades later.

But there’s a growing gap between what leaders need to know about the culture and what they actually know.

Some seminaries are catching up, but with change happening faster than ever, every leader needs to become a self-learner.

So how do you keep up?

Here are three ways I keep up and try to help you stay current, both as a fellow learner and a content creator.

1. Podcasts

370+ episodes ago, I started a Leadership Podcast…largely because the conversations I was having with key leaders were changing how I approached leadership and ministry.

First, I wanted everyone to be able to hear what key leaders were telling me. And second, I wanted an excuse to have more great conversations with key leaders. Hence, the podcast.

It’s an interview format in which I interview top leaders about church trends on a weekly basis to stay sharp personally, but also to help you.

2. Conferences and courses

Conferences that really dissect practical leadership are so essential. And now that most events are online, events like The Online Church Engagement Summit will only take a couple of hours of your time to deliver massive value.

I’ve also developed 6 online, on-demand courses that can help you navigate the complexities of ministry and leadership:

The Art of Better Preaching walks you through 12 ways to anchor and improve your preaching content, writing and even delivery.

Church Growth Masterclass will help you eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people.

The High Impact Leader will help you beat overwhelm and get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

The 30 Day Pivot will help you learn to thrive in uncertain times. Inside I give you a framework to pivot your organization every 30, 60, and 90 days.

How To Lead Through Crisis is a free course where I outline strategies for navigating rapid and unexpected change.

Lead A Better Team is all about helping your team accomplish your mission and crush their goals. It will help you start making progress with your team right now.

3. Current Reading

I read a lot of books. Many are timeless in nature (great leadership is). But there are also a few that can help you digest changing trends in leadership.

That’s exactly why I wrote Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges Everyone Experiences and No One Expects. It will help you navigate the personal issues that plague so many leaders: things like cynicism, compromise, disconnectedness and more.

Brian Houston and Andy Stanley call Didn’t See It Coming ‘powerful.’ Nancy Duarte says it’s a book that ‘pierces the heart.’ Ann Voskamp’s take? “You have to read this book.” And Jud Wilhite says “Seriously, this may be the most important book you read this year.”

You can learn more and get your copy of Didn’t See It Coming here.

Bottom line?

However you decide to stay current, you have to stay current.

What’s Not Working For You?

So let’s help each other. What’s no longer working for you that used to work?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

9 Things That Worked in the Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today


  1. Nellie on November 15, 2021 at 4:55 am

    1. We continually allow the world and its culture to influence what we do.
    2. No fear of God
    3. Money goes more to missions and ministries than helping the poor.
    4. We have lost the art of worship.
    5. Wrong change in leadership (woman, homosexual, etc.)
    6. Too many pastors are building kingdoms instead of discipleship for HIS kingdom.
    7. Spirit of true prayer has all but died.
    8. We do not teach as directed by Scripture.
    9. Man believes it can help God run His Church better than He can.
    10. Churches desire to be relevant than holy and separate.
    11. Too many denominations and doctrines
    12. Too many interpretations/translations of the Word of God
    13. Not of one accord
    14. More selfish than selfless.
    15. Trying to feed the goats instead of guarding the sheep.
    16. Evangelism is weak/Sinner’s prayer decisionism.
    17. Seek blessings than an affliction to help transform us
    18. Little anointing to convict the sinner in the church.
    19. Laodicean in spirit
    20. Is the Lord among us?
    21. Teachings no longer lining up with Scripture
    22. Great at cherry-picking verses, isolating them, and creating new interpretations.
    23. Plenty of false prophets to go around.
    24. Cheap grace is practiced among the younger generation.
    25. Spiritual lethargy among worship.

  2. Diana on October 29, 2021 at 1:06 am

    If you’re looking for a new church, Check out this site https://www.gracelifetriad.com, Know God’s purpose in your life. He surely has a plan for everyone!

  3. Mike Reich on October 8, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    Though somewhat old by now (2021) the article is still relevant. Very good points, and ones I recognize from nearly every church I have attended. What I think I missed in both the article and all the comments is what I believe is the whole original and primary point of church: it is to worship God together as believers. Everything else, including prayer, repentance, discipleship, growth etc can and will probably flow from that if it is done. Unfortunately many if not most churches in the USA miss the point. I have attended worship in other countries/cultures and there is a stark difference in genuineness, tone, and fellowship. Thanks for the encouragement to share ideas and to grow to be more faithful!

  4. Joseph Bonchek on September 2, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    The church hasn’t changed only the people have taken a back seat to ministry. Let’s remember the church is a living organism as well as an organization. The church is defined by its fellowship, community, prayer and communion and as such is a vital part of what the Lord treats as sacred. There is every reason to believe that the virtual church is not accomplishing what the life in the body was created to be, a living organism. The spiritual life of the church accomplished nothing by sitting in front of a television set drinking coffee and eating one’s breakfast and showing absolutely no honor for the One who died for the church and to bring its people together to honor the glory of an all-wise, powerful and great King.
    As faithful as our God has been to His church throughout time it’s our responsibility to remain faithful to what He has called us to do as well as what our responsibility is outside its door. The church today is undergoing many challenges one of which is disinterest. The reason for many of these challenges isn’t the season we are experiencing as much as it is the absolute self-centeredness and self-righteousness of the Body of Christ.
    The Lord Jesus Christ suffered great pain and underwent a murderous crucifixion to establish His church for the well-being enlightenment of His children as they are empowered by His Spirit. You will not receive any spiritual benefit sitting in front of a television set expecting to be blessed all the while all you are accomplishing is being a bad example to many around you who are watching your every move.
    Our God has put His church on this earth for one reason and one reason only and that is that it would bring glory to His Son. The pandemic, the scores of reporting falsehoods and the virtual effects of what a church is not will have no use towards being salt and light amongst their neighbor(s). Staying home is not the answer. We are called to self-sacrifice and faithfulness to the cause of Christ and it’s our time to shine.
    The fellowship of the church is the greatest thing to happen since the pandemic and it will maintain its existence throughout. It’s just a matter of who is in it to stay and see how our God will bless His church.

  5. Gary Coker on August 10, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    I belong to a good biblically oriented church. The preaching is always kept within scripture. The problem is that we have very few people aged 25-45 (or so) and there doesn’t seem to be much support for doing anything to change that. It appears to me more of a “maintain the comfort of the status quo at any and all costs”. There are several things about our status quo that are very good and vibrant but there are as many or more which just seem to be forgotten. And frankly, there doesn’t seem to be any willingness to even consider the problems, much less a solution. The congregation is pretty much dependent upon a handful of overworked and, I daresay, exhausted volunteers. These volunteers continue to serve faithfully and are to be commended for it. However, there are virtually no other member willing to step up to the plate and revive what could be very effective ministries within the community. I guess the biggest problem is the fact that no one, including many in church leadership, are willing to face the problems with any real inclination to seek a solution. Some say we just need to wait on God to rain down His blessings while not making any preparations to receive those blessings. Rather than “waiting on God”, it looks a lot more like just waiting around. It seems to me that those waiting on the Lord would be making preparations to receive those blessings rather than the “wait and see” approach.

  6. Don Davies on July 18, 2021 at 5:42 am

    I agree. Nowadays, a lot of young people don’t really make God a priority in their lives. Black churches in Houston like https://lhhouston.church/ have really taken lots of steps and strides to really catch those young “fish” or “sheep” back into God’s arms again!

  7. Jim on July 11, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    I’m in pretty much agreement with the article, but would like to mention…

    It’s not that the church is changing, I think people are changing. Television and the Internet has exposed Christianity’s bad side and people want nothing to do with ‘church’ anymore. Christians are viewed as judgmental hypocrites who can hardly agree on anything these days. The churches history of torture and the killing of ‘heretics’ over things like Trinity and Baptism between the 3rd century up to the 18th century is a total abomination. Makes me wonder why anyone would want to be a Christian today.

    Too many denominational churches today are going through the same motions they did even 100 years ago. The same structured type service every week, the Gloria Patri, the Our Father, singing hymns that are even 100-200 plus years old, pastors reading their sermons, etc., it does nothing for younger people. I’m almost 70 and quite honestly I’m have difficulty with it.

    Then there’s so many disagreements within Christianity that people just don’t know WHO to believe or WHAT is true. So they avoid it altogether.

  8. Karen Adonis on May 6, 2021 at 1:35 am

    What you saying is so true. I have decided to disconnect from church as most are becoming social clubs. I have a very personable job and I get out and meet my friends, christian and non- christian often, therefore I have fellowship with others. I love my quiet times and to dive deeper into scripture. Unfortunately today in church we don’t get anything we can take away and think over. My last church service was Easter as I just love the Crucifixion and the Ressurrection. Worship was amazing and then came the sermon, the pastor talking about a health scare. Not really something to talk about on Easter Sunday morning

  9. BJ on April 3, 2021 at 6:06 pm

    Agreed. Church feels so limited to me. It’s not comfortable discussing real life and solutions to tough real life problems. We can pretend not to have any challenges or expect them to just disappear soon as we get prayer and when they dont, we go home miserable time after time.

    I get more help for struggles from outside the church, from Christian and Christian people.

    No church is perfect of course. Just ineffective. So many people who if resources were pooled we could really make a difference!

  10. Rob Ayer on October 23, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    Hey Carey. Respectfully, I had not heard of you until more than a year ago when I was given your latest book by a friend. We were both taking Transitional Ministries Training at the time. Thanks for stepping out of law and into what you do today. Thanks for saving and working on your marriage. Thanks for tongue-in-cheek and grace. I have been tracking with you since the beginning of this pandemic, and I have been grateful for your heart and wisdom. Blessings on you and your team as you (like me) seek to honor Father-God within your gifts and calling.

  11. Brent F. on August 13, 2020 at 9:51 pm

    The Geico Lizard just saved 100% on his defense budget by switching to Christianity. 10 years ago, identifying your non-binary gender as a firecracker and blowing yourself up at a competitor’s church seemed normal in the 2nd world. Or overheating and bursting into flames when it’s 29 degrees Celsius indoors and no one wants to put on the air conditioning or dump a bucket of water all over you. To succeed in religion it’s best to show the advantageous biological adaptations of your religion. Simply put, bog-standard Christians operating within the bounds of the performance envelope are just more peaceful and cause less death and live longer. What the world needs to hear from your preachings is that its OK to be normal. You aren’t broken, possessed, or a heretic, if you act prudish and civilized and have a respect for human life, statues, airplanes, and buildings.

  12. rod on December 7, 2019 at 2:33 am

    The answer to the question is equally provocative. The church is itself relatively meaningless. In my youth I struggled through life. When I reached the age of 45 I came to the startling conclusion that what I really needed and had failed to learn was not available to me. Not at home. Not at school. Not at church. A case in point: sex education. Ideally I should have been learned it at home but it was not available. At school it was the film strip and the vinyl record, what a joke. In the church the approach was, don’t, don’t, don’t. Oh, your married now then go ahead and enjoy. I read on a Christian web site, the answer to control urges to masturbate was read a good book. Really? God gave us creative minds. Why don’t we use those creative minds and move beyond the three songs, preview of coming attractions, pass the offering baskets, sermon, benediction and go home. Is it a sin to sit in church while singing? Some people seem to think so. I could go on but nuff said.

    • BJ on April 3, 2021 at 6:01 pm

      Agreed. Church feels so limited to me. It’s not comfortable discussing real life and solutions to tough real life problems. We can pretend not to have any challenges or expect them to just disappear soon as we get prayer and when they dont, we go home miserable time after time.

      I get more help for struggles from outside the church, from Christian and non-Christian people.

  13. Jack on September 17, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    I love intentional and strategic church ministry, I’ve done it for 7 years now in a thriving church. Don’t forget who’s job it is to build the church.

    Matt 13:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

    It’s not ours, but Jesus’. We’re are merely his servants. Our job is to submit to him, that’s it. Everything else we do is a response to what he does in our hearts and lives and the hearts and lives of others. We often think that we are the “key” and without us the ship will sink – if it goes well or not, then it’s a result of us. That self focus outlook is ultimately pride. It’s just about God and the most we can do is jump on board and see where he takes us. I’m a strategic future-thinking team-building leadership-developing discipline pastor, I’m not a fly by the seat of my pants kinda guy, yet I still believe this about who controls the church. It’s not me and my leadership, it’s God almighty. That actually releases a massive burden, knowing it’s not all up to me and my fellow staff.

    • Ray Ulmer on January 16, 2021 at 5:33 pm

      Love it! Hope this isn’t too old to reach you..
      I’m a 74 yr old Elder in a congregation of 15 +/- and I (well the preacher (30 yo) are trying to figure out how to REALLY disciple – whether community or virtual – but need advice from someone with your enthusiasm!

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  15. my singing monsters on March 27, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you

  16. Wm. Pederson on February 24, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Churches have become the watered down churches that Jesus talked of in the last days. They accept everything now, sin is irrelevant, the old testament is no longer in play. With grace you can go and sin all you want. Homosexuals serving as pastors is right out of Satan’s playbook. Churches used to help their own families in their church, their local community and that is why they receive tax exemption. NOT to send billions to heathen nations to allow them to maintain their sinful ways and NOT even getting any conversions to Christianity. Pastors of mega churches make salaries of $300,000 plus and tell poor, working families they have to give their 10% even if they lose their house. This is a lie from HELL. They are nothing but money hungry organizations and the preaching is way off base. People are smart enough to see the hypocrisy. Mega churches are just theatrical performances, rock and roll worship, send money to AIDS, work your butt off at the church so they can increase staff salaries. IT is a JOKE. Read you bible, pray yourself, you are ahead of the game. Give money to local families in need and local food banks. Do not distribute American wealth to heathen nations that serve satan and less than .01 ever accept Christ.

  17. Ptr.Roland Cinco on January 15, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    I am not give my comment but I would like to ask, how can be a part of your fellowship in Christ..I am a Filipino Pastor, I am here living in the Philippines , I find a church like this to be part of this ministry, if GOD’s will..thank you and GOD bless u more.

  18. Mark Beavers on December 15, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    Thank you Carey–You are a tremendous inspiration to Pastors and an outstanding, significant and gifted contributor to the growth of the Church. Looking forward to enrolling in your course before the end of the year.

  19. Edith Munga on November 15, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Please pray with us that God will provide us with all the resources required to build our planned international christian school(Camp David Green Academy) in Kenya.

    Waiting upon the Lord.

    In His service,


    • Brian Sutton on January 13, 2019 at 12:22 am

      Praying that God wants that church to flourish & get the funds needed <Briaaaan Sutton West Australia

    • Brian Sutton on January 13, 2019 at 12:23 am

      Praying that God wants that church to flourish & get the funds needed <Briaaaan Sutton West Australia.

  20. christy on July 15, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    thanks for the post. agree with points.

    are you going to do a new interview with David? (barns group) … since last one seems to be 2015 and clearly lots of trends and things have changed since 2015? 😉

  21. Timothy Fountain on July 14, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    So dang true. I had a couple of decades of fruitful church development, even breaking the 200 barrier. Then, all of a sudden, stuff that “worked” ceased to have impact.

    I appreciate your insights into rolling with the rapid pace of change and learning to be “all things to all people” in Paul’s original sense: learning enough about peoples’ reality(ies) to communicate the Gospel and win some.

    • Sheila Beers on July 14, 2018 at 7:33 pm

      The scene of the current-day church you describe is quite accurate. However, people today are so geared toward technology that they believe technology and science will protect them from the consequences of their choices and their sin — if they even can acknowledge there is such a thing as sin or anything wrong with any of their attitudes, choices, and actions. Most people are so caught up in their jobs and a quest for worldly success that they do not see how much society has deteriorated in morals and the low caliber of the average, spiritually indifferent person. As a result, they do not see any need for God in what they perceive as a “science-ordered” universe. The current political strife in Washington, DC, and the falling away from the original founding principles of the United States are immeasurably frightening to anyone who can comprehend the current political and social conditions of our society, to say nothing of our damaged and toxic environment that is a threat to everyone’s health and well-being. As a result, one would think millions of people would see these perils and would be turning to the Lord as the only hope of a fallen world. However, this is not the case because most people cling to their “business as usual” routine and remain in their own self-absorption. You say the church needs to change its methods, but what is needed is for the Holy Spirit to give spiritually indifferent people a “wake-up” call. Who knows what judgment can be in store for the free world that largely has forgotten God and sees no need of Him? I still believe all born-again Christians should pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to people and to lead them to seek the Lord.

      • Ernie on December 15, 2018 at 6:33 am

        Your comments are spot on. But for most churches ” business as usual” will remain the norm. I agree with prayer. However, I would hope that most churches are already praying for the Holy Spirit to touch lives.

  22. Jason Lieberg on July 14, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Super Helpful! It Helped to center my mind and heart heading into Sunday.
    It’s so easy to get sidetracked by things that don’t matter, discouraged by never feeling like we do enough, and troubled by the choices others are making that aren’t reflective of the gospel or the ministry.

  23. Stacy Yeager on March 12, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    I’m in volunteer ministry, I am your congregation, I’m a single mother (never married), and I began a single moms group 4 years ago out of our church that grew to 100 women. I am now part of the core planning team for the #LoveEpidemic Faith Collective Impact to fight the drug addiction in Ohio. Scrolling through many of these comments on your post just broke my heart because I AM the community Jesus is calling us to reach and not only am I hearing the bitterness and sarcasm from Christians in this post, but I am also on the receiving end of conversations with countless church leaders I speak with almost daily who also have these views (especially when speaking of cutting through racism, descrimination, and deniminational differences). Your post was correct, but nothing will work for the church if we have random transactional outreaches with programming that doesn’t have a systematic process of collaboration, communication, and commitment. I follow and listen to you weekly and I love your podcasts! One thing that I would love to hear more of is to not only develop leaders within the church walls, but how we, as the church, mobilize the congregation out of the pews into the community spreading the hope of Jesus Christ. Thank you so much for everything you’re doing and may God use you in incredible ways!

    • A servant's heart on March 30, 2018 at 9:30 am

      Carey I understand (slightly) your plight. This post addressed some of the issues within congregations. The main issue is that we are the church and the focus tends to always be on the actions of the congregation and the leaders than saving souls. These mega ministries (I’m a part of one) are not primarily concerned with new converts they focus on new members.
      “In the spirit of authenticity I will share what my Pastor said in a message a few Sundays back. He stated that he only teaches saved people and unsaved people are for other preachers since God called him to be a pastor/teacher and not a preacher.”
      This among other things that he has said from his platform caused my heart to weep as a follower of Jesus because I felt there was no empathy in his heart for the lost…. this did not sound like someone with the heart of Jesus.
      The “church” has become like the Pharisees and Sadducee during Jesus’ time. All of these ministries do not work cohesively with each other but rather separately fighting for people that have been ransom to freedom by God. Purchased with blood by Jesus. We can’t work our way into the kingdom. Heaven is not a capitalistic government, and because our minds can’t conceive the things of God we try to equate it to the things of this world to better understand it.

    • theartist on July 16, 2018 at 10:51 am

      Dear Stacy,
      YES YES YES. ..
      “random transactional outreaches with programming that doesn’t have a systematic process of collaboration, communication, and commitment.” (From your post).

      I am a layperson. Random “Evangelical Events” are ultimate failures. In my surrounding communities-Dozens of Churches sponsor “Back to School” Backpack give-a-aways, free haircus, food, snowcones and bouncy houses-then dissapear with nothing between the 11 months until the next school year.
      No consistency
      No follow-up
      No interactiion with school, principal,staff, faculty, nor students.

  24. Jessica Berry on January 17, 2018 at 9:36 am

    The only think I didn’t agree with in this article was using the Orange curriculum for children. I (and all my teachers) found it dry, outdated and not enough good content to actually disciple children. As a Children’s Pastor there are so many fun and easy ways to reach and connect a child to the gospel and encourage them to have a lifelong relationship with Christ. The same boring recycled bible stories do not cut it anymore. Research show that by the time a church going child is 13 they have decided whether or not they will serve Christ. And the statistics are dismal to say the least.
    Children’s Ministries should be such a high priority that a significant amount of the church budget needs to be dedicated to it. Dr. Bryan Cutshall suggests the the CM budget should be at least 15% of the total church budget. While in years past CM was viewed as glorified babysitting, this is not the case. One of the top things a newcomer family looks at is the quality of The CM. If the children did not like it, most likely you will not see that family again. Guest culture now applies to CM and we should have the highest quality possible for the next generation. Our CM services should be fresh, fun and relevant.

  25. Jessica Berry on January 17, 2018 at 9:27 am

    The only think I didn’t agree with in this article was using the Orange curriculum for children. I (and all my teachers) found it dry, outdated and not enough good content to actually disciple children. As a Children’s Pastor there are so many fun and easy ways to reach and connect a child to the gospel and help them to have a lifelong relationship with Christ. The same boring recycled bible stories do not cut it anymore. Research show that by the time a church going child is 13 they have decided whether or not they will serve Christ. And the statistic are dismal to say the least.
    Children’s Ministries should be such a high priority that a significant amount of the church budget needs to be dedicated to it. While in years past people treated CM like glorified babysitters I have found this is no longer true. One of the top things newcomers look for in a church is the quality of the Children’s Department. CM should be fresh, vibrant and relevant.
    If the children don’t like where they spend their Teo hours on Sunday morning, you can guarantee that the parents, however much they enjoyed their service, will not be returning.

    • Jessica Berry on January 17, 2018 at 9:38 am

      Oops, I apologize. I got a notification that my comment did not post so I had to rewrite it from my cell.

  26. […] By the way, here are nine things that used to work in the church a decade ago that don’t today. […]

  27. […] By the way, here are 9 things that used to work in the church a decade ago that don’t today. […]

  28. Ray McKay Hardee on December 7, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    The WISDOM continues HERE.

  29. Big Jake on December 1, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Why do you begin sentences with “so”? It makes you appear ignorant.

    • Captain Kevin on January 13, 2018 at 3:07 am

      Really?!! That’s the first thing you want to comment?)

      • Karen Faunce on April 2, 2019 at 12:49 am

        Yes, the superficial semantics patrol, alive and well

    • Dennis on December 15, 2018 at 10:24 am

      Why do you ask such a trivial question? It makes you appear to be a troll.

  30. Holly on August 24, 2017 at 6:04 am

    Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!

  31. Linda McMillan on July 12, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Congratulations to the writer. This is a great way to promote your book and your seminar. Apparently most of the readers took you seriously and didn’t even realize that it was all a big advert. Very subtle. But for those of us with a synapse… Just shut up.

    • Ronnie on September 2, 2017 at 10:07 pm

      When you give quality content away for FREE it is acceptable to promote a product. Welcome to 2017 Thanks Carey, well written article!

  32. Christoph on July 9, 2017 at 9:15 am

    to#1 why did they left the “church” in the first place?

  33. Chuck on July 8, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Having just returned from the PDC “Renewed Hope” conference at Saddleback Church, I was thinking of what I heard from Rick Warren and the things you wrote in this article and they are almost the same. Rick’s whole point is building your church and ministry around God’s 5 timeless purposes. He made this statement, “When you focus on what’s eternal, you are always relevant”. We all fall into the trap of wanting the “next big thing”, but we need to find a way to clearly and creatively and passionate share God’s timeless truth in our generation – and do it with love.

  34. T T on April 24, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Or maybe church just isn’t for everybody.

  35. Sharon Norton on April 24, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Where are the women leaders in your line up of great speakers and pastors and podcast hosts? Don’t even tell me they’re too busy doing women’s ministry and children’s ministry. The Gospel of Jesus is good news to all–including releasing women to use their God-given gifts for ministry on the same basis as men, like in the New Testament–prophetess Anna, Susana, Lydia, Damaris, Prsicilla, Phoebe, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and on and on. Misogyny and paternalism also aren’t working anymore. Add that to your list.

    • Joanne on July 10, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Sharon: And Junia was a woman too. I agree with you that misogyny and complementarianism aren’t working any more. The churches are setting aside 3/4 if not more of their congregations due to paternalism which isn’t even biblical. Two misinterpreted verses in the entire Bible should not be the premise for such doctrine. When the Bible is read in its entirety there is clarity that women played a big part right along side their brothers in Christ in The Great Commission. Complementarianism started a few decades ago as a way to encourage men to attend church and participate. Unfortunately it has pushed many women and young women out of the church by placing such a low ceiling of expectation for them and giving them a sense of unworthiness in comparison to their brothers in Christ. I realize complementarians will argue this and disagree completely, however this is my view. Good news is that new churches are starting up with Egalitarian doctrines. There is a good change moving, slowly but surely Sharon and I thank God everyday. God bless you.

    • Julie on July 10, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      Amen, Sharon, I don’t see the church growing until it repents from its antiquated (and un-Biblical) ideas around women in leadership.

      • Dr. Charles Hughes on July 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm

        Perhaps the church will not grow until they speak out for convictions worth standing for ….
        Learn to have a greater allegiance to the Word , and make time to make the Gospel story known …

      • Ron on July 11, 2017 at 6:48 pm

        In the ELCA half or more seminary students are women. The presiding Bishop is a women.. What difference has this made?

        • Ernie on July 14, 2018 at 7:49 am


      • Jeff on January 10, 2018 at 8:14 am

        YEAH!! Let’s just toss that pesky bible aside, all it does is hinder our self gratification! So what if the bible prohibits something, it’s not like “God” wrote it.

        Nothing like people picking and choosing which parts of the bible they want to follow. The real issue is straight out disobedience to the word and folks thinking they know better than God does.

        • Truth on May 18, 2018 at 1:29 am

          And taking one sentence totally out of context to keep your discrimination against women is also picking and choosing which parts of the Bible you want to follow. I bet you don’t have a problem with women in the nursery teaching/taking care of boys though, right? Keep those women in the menial tasks because the Bible says so right here in this one sentence. The real issue is disobedience to the word, no kidding, and you are guilty of doing it.

          • Mom on December 15, 2018 at 10:39 am

            Dear Truth, if, as this article states, most children make a decision about whether or not to follow Christ by the age of 13, then how is “teaching and caring for children” (including boys) a menial task??? Sounds like anything but menial to me.

      • Adam Hall on March 12, 2018 at 3:16 pm

        Some of this depends on specific denominations with these views, but women in ministry (outside of women’s and children’s ministries) is on a huge rise! I am going to way more conferences and seeing women speakers and workshop leaders. I would agree the church has struggled with this in the past, but I whole heartedly believe this is changing.

    • angie on July 10, 2017 at 6:39 pm

      that was my reaction, too!

    • Ros on August 31, 2017 at 12:43 am

      Yes I thought the same thing Where are all the Great women Leaders!!!

      • Joanne on August 31, 2017 at 9:30 am

        They are sitting in the shadows because they are highly discouraged to stand in the light. Most denominations do not encourage women to become leaders in their churches. Many women congregants as well as men, still prefer to have men as their lead pastors and mentors. The women who are sitting or standing in the shadows of the church are usually the ones who keep the church operating. They are the ones who tend to 3/4’s of the churches needs such as children’s ministry, youth ministry, women’s ministry, fundraising, dinners/meal programs and so on. Yes, men do help in these areas too, but I am talking generally. There are a few denominations that are much more open to women ministers and encourage women to be leaders and speakers of their church but they are few and far between. Men and women will come out to hear a male speaker but less men will come out to hear a women speaker. It is no different than sports games. Both men and women will go to an all male sports game but not to an all female sports game. Same thing happens in the church environment. Mind you there are some very powerful women speakers and leaders that men will listen too but again they are only a few compared to the many men speakers and leaders.

        Is there hope for women to come out from behind the shadows of the wrongly interpreted church philosophy of women to be silent? I think we are seeing more women today stepping out from behind the shadow of men and proclaiming the gospel. And I think we are starting to see more men who understand the Scripture correctly, encourage women to be who they were intended to be–labourers of the Lord right along side the men as preachers, apostles, prophets, teachers and evangelists as mentioned in the wonderful book called the Bible.

      • Jo Ann on July 14, 2018 at 11:05 am

        There are plenty in my denomination [PC(USA)].

    • Dennis on December 15, 2018 at 10:31 am

      You obviously are an insecure, angry woman who hasn’t listened to more than one or two episodes of Carey’s podcast. Ann Voskamp, Cheryl Bachelder, Shannon Miles, Margaret Spicer, Esther Fedorkevich, Allyson Evans, and many more women have been on the podcast and were treated as the female leaders they are. Stop focusing on gender and focus on Jesus.

    • gs on June 13, 2019 at 10:54 am


  36. ServantHeart2012 on March 30, 2017 at 8:16 am

    A church I left in 2011 (I’ve only left 2 in my life) used and is still using something called a “spiritual gifts assessment” to ‘guide’ people who are interested in serving in the church. You sit down and answer a rather long set of “would you rather” questions on your computer. Then an algorithm ‘classifies’ your answers and voila! Out pops a list of your “spiritual gifts!” Then you “communicate your interest” in serving in whatever area and maybe . . . MAYBE someone will contact you and “allow you to shadow” in that area. Not only is this process impersonal, it’s ancient and inaccurate as well! However, they insist it is still relevant.

    • Brent F. on August 13, 2020 at 10:14 pm

      Also another thing you can try is to search around your habitat in case there are other lesser gods that you didn’t notice on the first inspection. Be nice to your deity friends, the sun doesn’t rise for no reason…thank Amun-Ra for pulling the chariot across the sky every morning that he decides that he should punch the clock and show up. And sidelining your women because of a middle eastern game of telephone made 2000 years ago rather than personal knowledge of God and his soft plush love is silly. You can’t learn safe handling from a book or a video. Being a tape recorder and repeating what everybody else says is ancient and inaccurate too! Take notice of the measurements around you and find what God and his Friends And Family can do to make you a more successful person (Also works in the atheist mode of operation…try LARPing in your brain…if he doesn’t seem real to you just pretend for a short period.). And did I mention that Jesus is so soft and bearded and HAIRY….I want to cuddle, snuggle, and snurfle with him. Russian orthodox man-kisses for a stuffed furry guy.

  37. adamski on February 8, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    I speak from an Australian context, which has some similarities to North America, although I’d guess we are further down the road of ‘church abandonment’ in the wider culture.
    It seems to me that as ‘Christendom’ has passed away (praise God for that!), churches have resorted more and more to the tools of capitalist consumerism to attract members.
    Hence we have glitz, novelty, trends, prosperity teaching, busyness and distraction occupying an increasing amount of what the church does and is.
    The problem with this model is that it encourages consumers, rather than builds disciples, and it is based on the false gospel that the church needs to give people what they want, rather than what they need.
    We should start with the assumption that people are searching for authenticity and depth in a barren consumer culture where choices abound, and where people are bombarded daily by false promises of happiness and contentment which ultimately prove to be hollow. In this climate, the church needs to offer something different, substantial and true, i.e. the gospel and Jesus Christ.
    The second assumption we should make is that the church should not offer a point of continuity with capitalism and consumerism, but a point of disruption. The church should not engage in marketing, but in anti-marketing. This goes right to Jesus’ teaching about being ‘the light on the hill’. The light shines in the darkness, but that means there must be contrast!
    The wounded, dispirited, cynical , poor and marginal must be able to see the church like a lighthouse in the gloom – when I was a young man, I knew that there was something seriously rotten at the heart of the wider culture, but the church to me in that context represented itself as the guardians of the status quo, the home of the well-to-do, the champions of a staid conservatism which celebrated and enforced the 10 commandments, but which did not share the good news of Jesus Christ. The church of law. Not the church of grace. A church of winners, not a church of losers.
    So lets abandon the consumerist temples and the churches of law, and become the church of grace, whose behaviour is inexplicable to those who ‘have eyes but do not see’. We should not expect that people who feel successful and content with their lot, will be attracted by the message of the gospel. We cannot give those people something extra to what they already have, we are at the heart of what we are trying to do, challenging the indifference that lies at the root of our careless lifestyle.
    In the 19th century Kierkegaard warned presciently about the dangers of the notion of a ‘Christian nation’, leading us to believe that the ‘job is done’. For too long has that notion been at the heart of the church life in the West. Now we are under no illusions that we have work to do! the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few!
    This is of course a shock to many who mourn the death of Christendom and grieve that the church is no longer respected, or holds a privileged place in society. But, the persecuted church on the margins is the church that we see in the New Testament! It is rightful that we are disabused of our notions that we have been living in some kind of ‘heaven on Earth’ Christian paradise.
    Let us be salt and light friends, in a society that has no flavour, and is consumed by darkness.

    • Hinton Shockley on July 8, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Right on the mark Adamski.

    • A servant's heart on March 29, 2018 at 9:46 am

      This fed my soul “Let us be salt and light friends, in a society that has no flavour, and is consumed by darkness.”
      Thank you.

  38. PreacherJT on February 3, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Conference recommendations for senior pastors? I have never attended one, but my new church has a significant budget to send me. I will for sure check out the Rethink Leadership conference. What else is out there?

    • Paul Worcester on June 7, 2017 at 9:17 am

      Exponential is a good one!

    • Thomas Carreras on July 12, 2017 at 1:19 am

      Catalyst conference as well as Exponential!

    • Michelle on March 11, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      Catalyst and the Global Leadership Summit are good as well.

  39. Yvette Bride-Causey on September 28, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    If I can just be honest I spent 28 years and church had some good experiences but has eyes growing in my relationship with the Lord I’m finding church is staying the same it’s just plain boring the structure come and look at a man or woman sitting on the podium talking about the same old Bible stories over and over has gotten boring what we need plain and simple is the presence of almighty God to shower down on us nothing else that we do or say can take the place of that.

  40. Rod Pickett on May 1, 2016 at 6:08 am

    I’ve read many significant books over the course of my 40+ years of ministry that have caused me to rethink many of the assumptions that have become “baked-in” the Evangelical culture. Perhaps one of the most important was The Crucifixion of Ministry: Surrendering Our Ambitions to the Service of Christ, by Andrew Perves. It addresses many of the issues in this post and the comments.

  41. Wesco on April 15, 2016 at 11:54 am

    This is all true, and has been. Nothing new here (which isn’t a criticism). Back in the 70’s a best selling leadership book was “The Gospel Balloon.” it was about a mythical church which used a Hot Air balloon as “promotion.” The book was about gimmicks. The social media of the day was newspapers, which everybody read. They had big religion sections filled with half page ad’s of large, bigger, better churches and preachers. And the same is true about change and growth, authentic leadership, engaging sermons, energized worship. But there wasn’t TV or the mountains/beach to tempt you away on Sunday mornings. History is just repeating itself. I’ve been in ministry 41 years, hopefully in the forefront. My gifts it seems was taking tired, old and broken congregations and bringing them to growth and grace.

  42. GMC3MOM on February 6, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    I would love to get rid of the line… “Other churches do (or don’t) —fill in the blank—“.

    Instead of deciding what we do or do not offer based on other churches in our area, size, etc… we need to simply look at the question “Does OUR church need —fill in the blank—?”

    A church in S. FL doesn’t need to base it’s decision on having a Women’s Ministry b/c of how a church equal in size based in Seattle WA has decided. A church in New York City doesn’t need to base it’s decision to have a strong Youth Ministry based on how one in S. CA has decided. Even a church one county over shouldn’t decide to offer a singles ministry b/c of our decision to offer one or not.

    Each church needs to decide what it’s members and community needs.

    • GMC3MOM on February 6, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      I also think that #8 is really important. If your staff has grown up in the church they understand how it works. So, for a new member that’s been in church their whole life, they too know the routine. Visit. Join. Bible Study. Volunteer.

      But in an unchurched area, or for visitors/members who have no past experience with church, sometimes we need bridging activities that help them navigate the waters. Larger corporate events are a great way for unchurched people to get to know the body and build familiarity and trust, that will eventually lead them to the small groups/bible studies.

    • GMC3MOM on February 25, 2016 at 9:48 am

      An additional thought on #7, I think different programs are great additions to engage people into the body of believers, but the key word used in the article “random” is important.

      Any program must be intentional, not random. Even a women’s brunch or men’s breakfast must have a purpose and fulfill the mission of the church.

    • Carol on March 11, 2018 at 7:30 pm

      And to prayerful seek what God wants the church to do.

  43. 4word on January 31, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    […] 9 Things That Worked in the Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today – Carey Nieuwhof revisits common church practices from the last 10 years to see why they no longer have an impact. […]

  44. Julio Roberto Vega Sánchez on January 31, 2016 at 4:19 am

    Even this written article is irrelevant! Jesus (Immanuel) came to this world to be among the sinners, people’s lives were transform! We keep making the same mistake, the church doesn’t change people, that institution in the year 2016 is irrelevant for most of the people in our western world. We every single christian are the church and you and me just as Christ did, have to be able to be the salt among the sinners, many of us are scare of what is out there in the “world” so we must bring the people to the church, to our own world of entertainment!

    • Yvette Bride-Causey on September 28, 2016 at 10:42 pm

      Amen, every word you said is truth to the max!!

  45. […] Nine Things that Worked in the Church A Decade Ago that No Longer Work – Carey Nieuwhof […]

  46. […] 9 Things That Worked in the Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today […]

  47. […] 9 Things That Worked in the Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today –Carey Nieuwhof “You saw your ministry grow, people come to faith and the mission advance. […]

  48. Miles Hall on January 25, 2016 at 9:14 am

    10. Man centered, therapeutic worship.

  49. […] 9 Things That Worked In The Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Work Today via Careynieuwhof.com […]

  50. Tammy Hallam on January 23, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    I appreciate this forum Carey. I think its important to delineate between programs for program sake and creating transformational spaces for discipleship, healing, spiritual growth, etc. Gimmicks were not needed as we see Jesus ministering and the church after him because they were helped to experience the very presence of God, the real. No-one had to tell them to go to others and share grace, because they experienced the love of the kingdom as Jesus touched them in that very personal place of need. Developing a leadership and a people that are learning how to connect with Christ, heal from their wounds, have healthy spiritual rhythms and ongoing relationships that encourage authenticity and transformation is the church focusing on making disciples (which of course is the one thing Jesus told us to be about). We need to have as part of our DNA that we reproduce ourselves. Meaning we need to invest time, care and spiritual coaching with at least one person. You can have the most amazing worship and do all the “big” things and yet the individual is ignored and opportunities to help a person experience God and explore their gifts and purpose are overshadowed by “big” events and that can even include mission. Mission and outreach is a natural outcome in the trajectory of spiritual formation. I see at times we push people into serving without any real foundations. Many end up not being able to sustain what they’re doing “for Jesus” because they themselves have not experienced him. So he ends up passing on what he knows, which is a powerless religious exercise. Let’s be about this important work of discipleship (which might be doing abuse ministry at the local shelter) and see the rest as options depending on our context.

    • Barney Strange on January 25, 2016 at 9:48 am

      I’m with you all the way on this approach. As members of the body work into each other’s lives we grow together in spiritual maturity and become more equipped for kingdom work. This is the example Jesus sets for us and means for us to follow.

    • Yvette Bride-Causey on September 28, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      Say it!

  51. Dan Martin on January 23, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Regarding gimmicks/programs, I am tired of investing time and energy into things that aren’t producing results. I refuse to do that any more! Since when is the Gospel not enough?

  52. synthmeister on January 23, 2016 at 10:53 am

    I’m of the opinion that most of those things you mentioned weren’t really working 10 years ago. Sure, they might have put people in the pews, but they weren’t transforming lives. If those things had actually worked, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

  53. Scott Peters on January 23, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Define working.

  54. Rev. C on January 23, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Great thoughts Carey, would love to see you put out a list of top ten books for ministry leaders.

  55. Dorfpastor on January 23, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Wonderful, it hits the points, even concerning european churches! Thank you!
    Now, write 9 articles to change each aspect and have an effective ministry. Michael

  56. […] Carey Nieuwhof: things that used to work in the church that don’t anymore. […]

  57. JLP Pastor on January 22, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    […] Carey Nieuwhof: things that used to work in the church that don’t anymore. […]

  58. Trending This Week (1.22) | Youth Specialties on January 22, 2016 at 9:44 am

    […] Carey Nieuwhof take a good look back at “9 Things That Worked in the Church a Decade Ago That Don’t Work Today” — CLICK TO VIEW […]

  59. John Finkelde on January 21, 2016 at 1:20 am

    Top article Carey.

    I think #8 is crucial but also hard for pastors because it calls for a laser like focus on what is central to mission. There are so many distractions today!

    I think also the challenge moves to the next stage of ‘next steps’ when some one has connected, started serving and even moved into leadership.

    The path can get fuzzy at this stage so I’d be interested in any thoughts you have on ‘next step’s for developed, mature leaders or is it a matter of keeping on, keeping on?

    Hope that makes sense!

  60. Bud Brown on January 20, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Auto Pilot.
    When you’re making a deep water passage across oceans (I recently did a reverse Transpac from Honolulu to Santa Cruz, CA) the auto pilot allows the captain and crew to leave the tiller from time-to-time to perform other maintenance. If you’re sailing solo or short-handed, the auto pilot will even let you get some sleep.
    But when you encounter storms, following swells in a headwind and other unfavorable conditions, you need to grab the tiller for a bit – until things smooth out.
    In today’s American culture, you cannot afford to let your church run on auto pilot. Back in the 1950s you could do that – write up your annual planning calendar, develop a three year strategic path – and then just work through the objectives.
    Those days are gone.
    Pastors who are not continually scanning the horizon for changing conditions and new opportunities are being of disservice to their churches. Make sure that you are putting your hand to the tiller FREQUENTLY and REGULARLY to make midcourse corrections!
    If not, you’ll end up drifting off your way points and miss your destination.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 20, 2016 at 11:16 am

      Bang on Bud. Thank you!

    • sisteract on October 27, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Well said.

  61. jeanmbaker on January 19, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    I LOVE the Global Leadership Summit sponsored by Willow Creek Association that’s held every August. Lots of great leaders – both church and secular – and everyone who is a leader can attend. It’s not “exclusive” to senior leaders. I learn so much every year, and consider it a nonnegotiable – I’m going to be there.

    • Michelle on March 11, 2018 at 1:51 pm

      They booked Denzel
      Washington this year for GLS. Interesting choice.

  62. Leslie on January 19, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Carey, I clicked on the link to check out the Rethink Leadership conference and I am disappointed that none of the communicators shown on the website are women. This feels out of touch and sexist. It is difficult for me to take this conference seriously as a female pastor when female leadership is not included.

    • Catherine MacDonald on January 20, 2016 at 6:26 am

      That was exactly my response as well.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 20, 2016 at 9:26 am

      Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate it. We are still adding speakers and this is not a final list.

      • Leslie on January 20, 2016 at 2:13 pm

        Thank you Carey. There are plenty of amazing female (and trans*) leaders out there who would certainly have wisdom to contribute.

  63. BrotherRog on January 19, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    It is a very good article — as far as it goes. However I am surprised to see
    that it doesn’t address needed changes in Christian theology.
    Particularly American Christianity. Examples: a needed move toward fully embracing the insights of contemporary Science -including embracing evolution and homosexuality; the needed shift away from substitutionary atonement (which most people find ludicrous and untenable) toward the moral influence theory of the atonement; and the needed shift away from Christian exclusivism – and toward recognizing and honoring that God is fully at work in other world religions as well.

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity”

    • Rev. Zachary Bartels on January 21, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Soooo…the “needed shift” toward not-Christianity. [Napoleon sigh]

      • Craig on January 21, 2016 at 4:21 pm

        (Maybe there are good reasons why Carey didn’t include these “needed changes” as Top 9, or Top 90).

    • Jon Cleland Host on January 23, 2016 at 6:44 am

      Wow, I was looking over the comments and seeing a lot of denial about the fact that all the changes in the article are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic unless the real issue is address – which is that many aspects of Christianity aren’t based on reality and are just repackaged bronze age superstition. Until I read your post. Yes! You show a path to a future where Christianity still exists. Thank you.

    • David on January 23, 2016 at 9:38 am

      I guess I should just shut off my mind and accept whatever the materialist culture tells me is true and then adapt my christianity to that to make sure it is relevant. The underlying assumption for evolution is that only material causes can be considered. But the start of life demands more than any material causes, it demands a mind. Homosexuality is a wrong use of the body at the very least and being dishonest about this does nothing to help. It is currently cool and chick but horribly destructive to the persons involved (medically as well as physiologically). Why should I embrace what harms others?

      • BrotherRog on January 23, 2016 at 10:38 am

        I don’t know, why do you? Anti-Science, bigotry, and homophobia harm many others. Some because they don’t vaccinate their children, and many gay people are beaten up, killed, or driven to kill themselves – because their families and churches don’t accept them.

        • David on January 23, 2016 at 11:08 am

          Anti-science? Are you saying that there is an evolutionary explanation for the origin of life? I would love to see the link to that discovery. That there is an evolutionary explanation – in detailed step by step fashion – for the existence of DNA and the several other codes in the cell? I would love to see a link to that description as well!

          Bigotry is alive and well and I suffer from it as well as do many others. Working outside of the USA I see many people who are persecuted from bigotry, anti-christian bigotry. It is hardly limited to homosexuals. But you are avoiding the massive health issues that come with practicing a homosexual lifestyle. We are dishonest with people when we avoid telling them about this and urging them to celibacy.

          So, you are blaming families and churches for the suicides of some homosexuals? The lack of acceptance? I know that in some places this is a popular meme, but you do have any studies that do actual comparisons between the suicide rate of homosexuals and that of other marginal groups? Did you know that one of the fastest growing suicide groups today are white males over 50?

          I have been a minister for over 30 years. I have spoken to hundreds of churches and traveled across dozens of countries. I don’t see the bigotry and hostility you claim coming from local churches. I do see a rejection of that lifestyle as healthy and normal. That is not bigotry, but simple biology and I would be Anti-science if I did not notice it.

          Are you saying that only if we accept all aspects of the homosexual lifestyle as “Christian” can we be relevant to people who suffer from those tendencies?

        • ConservativeAmerican on January 23, 2016 at 8:02 pm

          I don’t know what your source of authority is , but I do know that it isn’t the Bible and anything else is only so much heresy. The Holy Scriptures alone are the only source of absolute truth. What you propose is diametrically opposed to scripture. You sir, need to repent and ask the real Christ into your heart for I fear you have never known Him.

          • BrotherRog on January 25, 2016 at 12:17 am

            Fundamentalism is just plain stupid. Jesus wasn’t a fundamentalist, why would you want to be? The Bible is great. So are many other books – including science texts. I highly recommend that you read some.

        • RWilliams on February 17, 2016 at 9:49 am

          So you are saying that Christianity is to blame for gay people being beaten up, killed, and driven to kill themselves? Seems like quite a stretch….

      • Ruth Tramison on July 18, 2017 at 1:34 pm

        David – God made homosexuals, they didn’t make themselves or choose to be that way. Are you saying God made mistakes?

  64. Alex on January 19, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Carey, your post drove me all over the map with a host of different emotions. I’ve been in ministry for 30+ years and I have seen all your points as you’ve mentioned. These realities are both good and bad. Good because it is important for the church to keep moving forward and not become stagnant. Regardless of where we are or where we minister, culture is ever changing – if we don’t adjust to the culture around us, we become ineffective.

    Having said that, the sad news is just as you said: “The church is an alternative” That’s exactly what it has become. The reality, however, is that the church is the life of the world – especially of the believer. Without the church you wouldn’t have much of Christ exemplified. The church was never meant to be an “alternative” it was meant to be “the body of Christ.” Various services and activities are always methodically different, but “the church” and its services/outreaches have become one and the same. Thus, much of what worked before (which are essentials to the body of Christ) are not working today.

    Partly, most of what used to work in suburban America for me, has not worked at all in rural America. I’ve pastored in both and both are distinctively different. One thing, however, will always remain true and will work every time – in anything we do, regardless of our different cultures and approaches to ministry/outreach, authenticity reality and demonstrating the gospel of the kingdom works every time. It must be embedded into every outreach/idea we can craft next. Without the kingdom of God and its authenticity as well as the reality of our faith, the best approach will always fall and fail.

    Thanks for your great posts, brother. Much of what you post helps me generate conversations with my staff and sometimes my bible studies 😉

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 19, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      Thanks Alex. Appreciate the comment and your faithfulness over 3 decades. Inspiring.

  65. RJ on January 19, 2016 at 10:41 am

    One thing that I’ve seen not working for the church is separating youth and adults for the primary worship service. It is possible to build a big youth group that way, but when they go off to college, the youth who are taking a big step toward adulthood find that the service is no longer designed specifically for them. They often drop out at that point.

    I guess that might be part of a larger pattern of treating members like consumers, which is part of the gimmicks thing. Consumers are not part of the organization. They come to purchase what the organization is selling. Members need to be seen as part of the organization (or better yet household). We serve each other and we serve the world.

    • Paul Willis on January 19, 2016 at 11:43 am

      RJ, we have an intergenerational worship. It works because we weekly incorporate youth and children into the actual worship order.

  66. Andreas Kjernald on January 19, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Good points. I agree with most of them.
    I have found that the trick is when you know that “church is not working anymore” but have no clue how to make it work/attract people again.
    As I see it, there are some serious issues at hand where I live:
    1. As a UMC pastor in Norway/Sweden I live in a culture heavily influence by a centuries old state church (Lutheran) where “free” churches including the Methodist church had their “good old days” 80 years ago. That makes a big impact on how we do church and relate to society. Not to mention how it has colored what people think about when they hear “church” or “Christian”.
    2. We are small, to the point where 70 people in church on Sunday makes you a big church. That is a challenge, to say the least.
    3. Norway and Sweden are the most secular, or openly atheist/agnostic, countries in the world. The “Humanist” association of Norway has around 80000 members, the UMC has around 4500 confessing members.
    To be honest, I am not sure what would work over here to attract people to Christ. I am thinking that the only thing that works is people in love with Jesus, for real, living out their lives much like missionaries do.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 19, 2016 at 8:26 am

      I think you hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph Andreas. Also, I have become good friends with Martin Daland. He’s leading a growing church in Norway. You may want to look him up and connect with him. Amazing guy!

      • Andreas Kjernald on January 19, 2016 at 8:28 am

        What’s the name of his church?

        • Carey Nieuwhof on January 19, 2016 at 8:36 am

          Skien Misjonskirke. 🙂

          • Andreas Kjernald on January 19, 2016 at 8:45 am

            Ok, thanks. I know where that is. I have a local Misjonskirke closeby that also does good stuff. It seems that it is either them (Mission Covenant) or the Pentecostals that make it happen :).

          • John Redmond on January 19, 2016 at 4:17 pm

            Andreas I am the pastor of the only English Speaking UMC church in Prague, CZ. I was wondering if you know of any resources for new pastors like myself with church planting? My family has been here for 18 months and trying to do just as you said above has been challenging. I would love to talk and brainstorm with you sometime soon. I will be going to a Migrant Leadership Conference in Germany next week. Not sure if you would be going or not. Peace

        • Louisa Braley Oelgeschlager on July 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm

          Good commentary but….ten years ago? Would you consider 20? Twenty-five? The big difference I see today is more churches closing, more rapidly, both in America and in the UK. People walk through the doors for community, first, last always. After that they come for reasons too many to count, certainly not always the so-called right ones. Fail to welcome them because they’re straight, LGBT, brown, white, black, old, young, middle, rich, poor, politically or theologically incorrect, blue collar, white collar, clerical collar, no collar, too devout or, apparently, not devout at all (here, you may add a host of other excuses) they will not come back. Focus on worship and the worshippers; then, together, create an agenda. Without this crowd of undesirables — those who have formed the Communion of Saints since long before Paul preached in the Upper Room, those who have found joy at being a member of The Body — there would be no discernible Church at all. I believe in the creeds … still … and I believe in the struggle.

  67. Butler on January 19, 2016 at 1:00 am

    Church in general some are born and raised and obligated to go. I agree with your post some things need to change the way we look at church. Maybe I’m just tired of the same O’le mundane routine, ritual.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 19, 2016 at 8:27 am

      Jesus is anything but boring!

      • robb1952 on January 23, 2016 at 9:38 am

        He is far better than the alternative!

  68. Ryan on January 18, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Hi Carey, I don’t know that I’ve ever commented on a blog post in my life and I’m sure I will regret breaking that tradition. This is the second post I’ve read of yours in the past two days and I feel compelled to respond. For context, I’ve been a pastor in a lead role for 8 years and our church is growing. So I don’t think I’m looking to excuse away not wanting to change. There is always areas that we need to improve on. However, as I look over the headlines of your posts that get retweeted and shared on Facebook most of them have such a negative connotation to them. As you know pastoring is very difficult and the lies the enemy tries to pass off as truth can affect us even on our good days. I’m curious what benefit comes from telling a leader he had “peaked”? Does that mean God can’t use him for greater things? Although I don’t disagree with the content in this post and im sure there are things i can improve on as a pastor, I would love to hear “5 ways the church is making a difference in this world”. Or “7 reasons to keep pastoring your church”. When people read your headlines, it feeds a sense that everything is wrong with Christians and the church. Why not give people some hope as to why they should be in a church community? I haven’t read all of your blog posts so maybe it’s more balanced than I realize and so I may be out of line. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m aware of areas that need improvement I just need someone to say “you know, what you do has eternal significance and it has come at a great cost and sacrifice to you and your family. Keep pressing on” “5 reasons why bi-vocational pastors are the real heroes of ministry” (im in a full-time vocational position) I hope that makes sense and I mean no disrespect to you just a thought I had two days in a row reading your lists. Blessings, Ryan

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 19, 2016 at 8:29 am

      Ryan…thanks for this. I appreciate it and I’ve thought about the same issue myself. Here’s the sad reality. I write the optimistic posts regularly. They don’t get shared nearly as much as the others. I write both because I want to help leaders, and I hope that you always find hope in whatever I write. But people behave in specific ways and the negative gets outshared significantly. I’m not saying that’s good. I’m just saying that’s true and real. I hope you know that what you you do has eternal significance and the cost and sacrifice are worth it. I try to point to the hope we have in every post and I am a HUGE optimist about the future of the church. We just have to overcome our obstacles.

      • Ryan on January 19, 2016 at 9:47 am

        Thanks for responding. I followed up and looked at some older posts and I do appreciate your insight. I especially liked your post on adapting/borrowing/stealing mega-church models. I plan to spend some time reading some of your other insights. I do find it terribly unfortunate that people tend to latch on to the negative. I understand it and I know the Church has wounded many in the process. Maybe its the Lord challenging me to do something myself about it. Blessings to your church and ministry – Ryan

  69. TMac on January 18, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    The whole concept of “what works” is troubling to me. I doubt that Peter and the boys got together after Pentecost hit the upper room and devised a model for how to make church “work”. If the Holy Spirit is on fire in a leader’s soul, simply letting him burn will build a church. Anything less means church becomes what we see just about every week in the vast majority of Sunday services…..a religious exercise. I’ve done religion and I’ve done relationship…..relationship is better.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 19, 2016 at 8:31 am

      I hear you. I think the reality is that we are always changing, and what was effective in the past isn’t effective in the future. While there are some differences for sure, reading Acts is like reading a constantly changing strategic playbook, with a major reorganization in Chapter 6, and a massive shift in direction when Paul went to the Gentiles and broke up with Barnabas and planted more churches. What worked on the day of Pentecost isn’t where the church stayed. It kept using new methods to advance the same mission. We’re trying to do the same.

  70. Bob Cleveland on January 18, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    I would observe something. If those things you mentioned were what the church has been doing for 10 years or 20 years, then they are what built the church today. The one in which 30% or so of the members actually participate in the church, and in which no Baptist I’ve spoken to can tell me why one must be baptized to join a Baptist church. So my thought would be that they never really did work, and we can go on doing them and produce the same results if we want, but if we want to fix it, we’d best start making disciples.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 18, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      Good points. But I think all of these gave some kind of lift to churches at some point. It just ain’t the same anymore. Thanks Bob!

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