Church Attendance Is Dying. Here’s What’s Next.


Church attendance is dying. Big time.

It’s not just reflected in the size of the decline, it’s reflected in the quality and nuances of those numbers.

At least two massive, seismic shifts are at work in our culture causing this. First, we’re moving from Christendom into a post-Christian, post-modern era literally in our lifetime.

Second, we’re in the midst of the biggest technological shift in human history. The digital disruption happening all around us. The digital disruption isn’t just coming. It’s here. And it’s changing attendance patterns at your church whether you recognize it or not.  (By the way, have you heard Clay Scroggins talk about the digital disruption on Episode 193 of my leadership podcast? Cue it up for this week.)

We could add a third reason: We western Christians have been anemic in our mission over the last number of decades. But that’s kind of one of the main points I make again and again on this blog. So we’ve covered that before and will cover it again.

Regardless, people who used to attend regularly aren’t. Whole groups of people are gone.

So what does this mean for today and for the future church?

As we’ve said before in this space, in the future church only the engaged will attend because only the engaged will remain. (Here are 5 reasons engagement will drive almost all future church growth.)

But what exactly does all of this look like?

Here are three trends as we head into the future.

1. The Future Church Meets Anytime, Anywhere, Sometimes

As Erwin McManus said, “to be a futurist in the church you only need to see the present clearly.” A little too true.

All of this is so obvious, but somehow we miss it.

On the positive front, done well, our whole model of church is based on community (the gathering of people) which will continue forever. The gathered church is here to stay. Not only did Jesus commission us that way, but as we are all experiencing in real time, the more connected we become technologically, the more disconnected we feel. All of us need community now more than ever, and the church is uniquely positions to provide the best community there is if we lean into it.

But our Sunday gatherings have not only been based on community. Much like cable TV and traditional broadcasting, our model has been based on scarcity.  In other words, we hold the means of production (the music, the message, the programming and the gathering space) and therefore you need to gather here at X hour to experience it. You can’t get until we say you can.

Of course, that’s no longer true. As I outline in this 2018 church trends post, church in a box is an outdated strategy and the digital has very much become real.

Life now slips seamlessly between the digital and the analog. After all, you’re reading this on your phone or on your laptop (digital) and in the next five minutes you’ll make some real-world interaction, ordering coffee, talking to a colleague or family member in real life.

Digital slips into analog, analog then slips back into digital. We all live there.

So will the future church.

Most church models are still mostly anchored in the past—gather here at a set time and we can be the church. Miss it, and well, you miss it. But as more and more churches move seriously into online and social, that will change.

In the future, the church will meet any time, anywhere, sometimes.

Let me explain.

In the future, the church will meet anywhere, any time, sometimes. You’ll have set gatherings and people will gather together in person, but the digital will supplement, enhance, expand and sometimes replace your local gatherings.

For example, when people are out of town, they’ll join you online. But through email (yes despised email…people read them every day), online church, social and more things we’ll invent, we can engage people daily in the mission. And we can reach people who haven’t been reached every single day, not just Sunday.

People may even choose to gather spontaneously on their own…meeting with friends and inviting new people. The expressions are as limited as you want them to be.

Even if your church doesn’t decide to invest in the internet, nothing stops anyone in your church or community from following dozens of churches and church leaders who have. When it comes to technology, the toothpaste is out of the tube.

If only the church would live like this was an opportunity, not an obstacle, our mission could expand dramatically.

And yet most churches don’t even spend 5% of their budget on their online presence. How’s that working for you?

Online is not a threat to the local church. It’s fuel.

2. Consumers are leaving…and won’t be back

Part of the tension we’re all feeling is that we live in a consumer-driven culture. While there’s been a backlash to materialism to some extent among Millennials, Generation Z appears to be embracing it with zeal (so far anyway). We’re not exactly in a post-consumer culture.

Add to that the fact that many churches have a consumer mindset (come to us…we’re the best/coolest/hippest/most orthodox/most whatever), the arrival of digital options means you no longer need to attend to consume.

It’s far easier to consume content on a treadmill or on your commute than it is to drive to a place at a set time and sit in a back row and consume.

As a result, many consumers have left and more will leave. It’s just more convenient.

Consumer Christianity isn’t about what you bring to the mission, it’s about what you can squeeze out of it. A podcast or online broadcast and a few songs on Spotify is just an easier way to do that.

Not much is lost in seeing consumers leave. It was hard to build the future of the church on them anyway.

3. The Contributors and the Curious Will Step Up

While consumers lean away, two more groups will lean in…hard.

The contributors are people who engage in the mission. They love to serve, give, do community and invite their friends. They aren’t into consuming nearly as much as they are into contributing.

Bold visionary leadership that calls people to give, sacrifice and exist for the sake of others will define the future church.  These will be life-giving people, and their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom and outsiders is something you can build the future of the church on.

The final group that will lean in are the spiritually curious. These are people who haven’t made a commitment to Jesus, but want to know more.

Despite all the disillusionment with the church (much of it deserved), over time the curious will become a growing group. I think we’re seeing early pockets of this in Canada, where I live, and perhaps in Europe. The angry, disillusioned and hostile generation of people who left the church gave birth to an indifferent generation, who in turn spawned a generation where curiosity is emerging (Jesus? Really? Tell me more…I’m looking for something…). It may take a decade or two for the curious to really emerge in the US, but they’re there now in pockets.

Curious people are open people. And they’re looking for Christians who can answer their questions.

The curious are looking for people to engage with. People whom they can bring their questions to…people they can do life with. And They’re looking for experiences and services (online and in person) that move them to inform, inspire and transform.

If you think about it, these are exactly the people you want in your church…the contributors and the curious.

So why not start building the future of the church on them now?

How Fewer Can Lead To More

So where does this leave us?

Well, if you’re watching consumers slip out the back door…there’s no big worry. Sure, pray for them and wish them well, but you can’t build the future of the church on people who are in it for themselves.

So who’s left? Well, if you can get your contributors more engaged, serving, giving, inviting and in community, you can build out from there. In fact, at a certain point, the growth and life in the community will become contagious.

Fewer gimmicks, less inertia, and more passion about the mission is a great recipe for the future.

Want to get people more engaged? Here are 7 ways to grow church attendance by increasing engagement.

Letting consumers go while welcoming contributors and the curious is a great step in the right direction.

Some Practical Help

The Church Growth Masterclass is everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that. But I believe you can position your church to grow. You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people. That’s what I’d love to help you do in the Church Growth Masterclass.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.


Didn't see it Coming

If you want help for the interior journey of a leader, my new book, Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Challenges Everyone Experiences and No One Expects can help.  It’s all about how to guard against things like cynicism (critics and consumers have a way of making you cynical, don’t they?), compromise, disconnectedness and the emptiness of leadership.

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


What do you see for the future church? What are you seeing in your church

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Church Attendance Is Dying. Here’s What’s Next.


  1. A. Amos Love on November 6, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Adam Mathis
    Seems Jesus has a unique take on “Leaders” for **His Disciples.**


    And, **His Disciples** must have believed Jesus… Because…
    In the Bible, NOT one of **His Disciples** called them self “Leader.”

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB
    Do NOT be called leaders;
    for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your “Servant”.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    Humble – a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.

    Know many? any? who take the postion of Leader?
    Who are Humble?
    Having a modest or low estimate of their own importance?

    Jesus also said…
    John 5:41 – I receive *NOT* honour from men.
    John 5:44 – How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another,
    and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

    When someone aknowledges you as a “Leader?”
    Or church leader? Or spirirtual leader? Or christian leader?

    Are you, “Receiving Honor” from men?

    Jesus also said…
    John 7:18 – He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory…
    John 8:50 – And I seek not mine own glory…

    When you let people know, you’re a “leader?”
    Or church leader? Or spirirtual leader? Or christian leader?

    Is that, “seeking your own glory?”

    Why do you want to be known as a “leader?”
    Why do you want people to follow you?
    And NOT follow Jesus?

    Isa 3:12 KJV
    …O my people, *they which lead thee* cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Isa 9:16 KJV
    For *the leaders* of this people cause them to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    • lenny Dobbie on December 14, 2020 at 11:34 pm

      the church has become a tax free haven and full of abuse physically and spiritually. People are tired of the hypocrisy in the church. there not getting my money anymore or my time. Christ is not dead, the church is dead because God is putting a stop to the evil in the church. Praise the lord the church is dead, a new resurrected church will arise for the faithful. By giving to your church you are encouraging evil to continue, let it be brought to ashes and then be raised up Holy.

  2. Frank G. Dunn on September 13, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    I have been an Episcopal priest for over 46 years. I have served five happy parishes. To my knowledge, one of them has folded, two are stable, and one is growing after a period of shrinkage and decline.

    All of us who are committed to the church and who quite likely love it despite its faults and warts more than likely continue to see it through the lens of the old paradigm with which we’re most familiar, as some of the comments above illustrate. Others continue to do what every renewal movement has endeavored to do and claimed to be doing, i.e., returning to the original vision of Jesus.

    Here are some conclusions that I draw from all this.

    1. The church is embedded in whatever culture it finds itself and is likely to be changed by the culture more than it is likely to change the culture.
    2. Human beings really have not changed all that much. We have evolved to be social animals for whom community is not just important but essential. The nature and shape of community changes, but the need for it is constant.
    3. We have evolved to be storytellers, and we are always exchanging survival information by means of narrative, no matter the form it takes, whether tweets, emails, film, sports, art, music, or comments like this. Whether our stories are true or not, whether or not they serve us well, we continue to communicate with each other just as we are doing here. Styles of story and modes of communication come and go. Attachment to form is delusional.
    4. Christianity made a Faustian bargain with Empire in the fourth century. At that point, we ceased to be a viable movement embodying the principles of the Jesus of the New Testament, i.e, ranging ourselves on the side of the poor, marginalized, and powerless instead of cozying up to power at the expense of justice. American religion at the present moment is Exhibit A for Christianity being detached from the counter-cultural Jesus, who is now for great numbers of people identified with systems such as capitalism and phenomena such as nationalism that he never remotely espoused.
    5. The churches in general are divorced from the actual data of people’s lives all across the board. Whether we do it with full pews or over the internet or with videos or however, we continue to pump out reams and rivers of teaching that leave people feeling miserable or unconscious or both. Starting with sex, we as institutions have proven ourselves to be clueless and irrelevant as to what actually goes on in people’s lives, only skimming the surface. We are complicit in the repression of the body (although the twin pillars of our faith are incarnation and resurrection of the BODY) on almost every level. And we almost never create safe spaces where people can honestly share who and what they truly are. Although there are exceptions, we have a poor track record of promoting wholeness, settling instead for promoting conformity to sometimes impossible standards which we imagine to be “God’s will.”
    6. Almost all efforts of churches, including emerging churches, are directed towards institutional survival. We imagine that when people appear to be happy they are getting their deep needs met, and that when we address deep needs (should we actually do so) people will be genuinely happy (and not disturbed, shocked, or resistant).
    7. There is a tremendous reluctance on the part of human beings, Christians being no exception, to becoming a conscious species.

    • Kevin on August 8, 2019 at 10:21 am

      I am a pastor in the United Methodist Church. I think the end of your #3 sums up the point nicely: “Attachment to form is delusional.” Yes. This is the message. We, the church and the church leadership, must adapt our form so that people can hear the message of God through us.

      Thank you.

  3. Sally Wise on August 16, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    If we see the church as the mother and our relationship with God our Father as one that matures us and refines us then we can perhaps understand the ebb and flow of church attendance. As children (new Christians) we are dependent on the church, after that perhaps we think we don’t need the church as much (like a self reliant teen) but as we age we understand an interdependent relationship is best. We serve and are served by the church. But coming to this understanding takes maturity. As a good parent, the church has a responsibility to foster growth in Christians and encourage healthy connection both between members of the body (Church) and between itself (the church) and the believer.

  4. Brad Johnston on August 16, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    I have spent a majority of my adult life as a spiritual seeker. I think the main problem for churches is really 2 fold. The message of churches (across the entire christian domain) is moving further and further away from the messages of Jesus. About love, and faith, and poverty. Most people see modern churches as exercises in hypocrisy. I lay some of the blame upon the Catholic Church, and how they handled the sexual crisis over the last few decades. I also suggest the whole notion of the “prosperity gospel” plays into the idea that somehow your faith can be leveraged for material wealth. You cannot serve 2 masters. God and Money. The second problem with modern churches are the people that are in them are not concerned with the values of Jesus, but of conservative political values. I have always believed that Jesus was a God of love understanding and forgiveness. I have a hard time sitting next to someone that thinks that muslims and mexicans are evil or that poor people are lazy, drug addicts are just people with no willpower, and other antiquated ideas of society. If the church is to have a renaissance, it needs to get back to basics. Start with the Sermon on the mount, everything Jesus expected his followers to be is right there. If someone is hungry, feed them. If someone is sick, comfort them, if someone hates and persecutes you, love them.

  5. […] In fact, Nieuwhof has a post on his blog titled: Church Attendance is Dying. Here’s What’s Next. […]

  6. Drain the Swamp – Catholic Excellence on August 4, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    […] pastor of Church of the Nativity and my first employer tweeted out an article entitled, “Church Attendance is Dying.”  He chose to highlight a line from the article that says, “In the future church only […]

  7. Gone, but not Done on July 26, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Yes. Times are changing. Pews are emptying. There are a variety of reasons but my point here is a Caution when you dismiss the Consumers leaving. It’s a bit like the Fox that wanted the Grapes but said they were probably ‘sour’ anyway.

    All those who leave were / are not the maligned Consumers. In fact, many of them still stay–after all, that’s what the seeker church created! Pretty pathetic to malign them now.

    No, those who are leaving fully understand that being the Church is NOT about being a regular ‘box’ attender and are dismayed when the local church doubles down on trying to get people to be a more committed part of the local clubhouse.

    I sense you are trying to justify and dismiss those who no longer fall for the ‘join our club’ mentality. Just sayin’…..

    • Angie on October 24, 2018 at 2:00 pm

      Love this point and how you stated it. I count myself among these you’ve spoken for.

  8. A. Amos Love on July 23, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Does anyone know what the word “Church” really means?
    In the Bible?

    A Building, with a steeple, and cross?

    A Paid, Professional, Pastor, in a Pulpit..
    Preaching, to People, in Pews.

    Makes an interesting study. An interesting challenge.
    Print out evey verse with the word “church” in it…
    Read every verse, over and over, again and…
    And ask yourself… Ask Jesus…

    In the Bible?
    Did any of **His Disciples?**

    1 – **”Go to”** Church?
    2 – **”Join”** a Church?
    3 – **”Lead”** a Church?
    4 – **”Plant”** a Church?
    5 – **”Pastor”** a Church?
    6 – **”Attend”** a Church?
    7 – **”Tithe”** to a Church?
    8 – **”Look for”** a Church?
    9 – **”Teach”** Go to Church?
    10 – **”Bring their friends”** to Church?
    11 – **”Become Members”** of a Church?
    12 – **”Apply for Membership”** in a Church?
    13 – **”Call themselves, Pastor,”** in a Church?
    14 – **”Call themselves, Leader,”** in a Church?
    15 – **”Call themselves, Reverend,”** in a Church?
    16 – **”Give Silver, or Gold, or Money”** to a Church?
    17 – **”Build a building with a Cross”**
    and call it Church?

    18 – ”Were any of **His Disciples,** ever Hired?”
    **As a Paid, Professional, Pastor, in a Pulpit?**
    **Preaching, to People in Pews?**
    **Weak after Weak?**
    **In a church?**

    NONE of ”These Things” exist in the Bible…
    For one of **His Sheep,** **His Disciples.**
    Who **ARE,** The Church of God.

    ”These Things” only exist in the church of man.
    They do NOT exist In the Bible. Oy Vey!!! 🙁

    If, In the Bible…
    Jesus did NOT teach **His Disciples** to do these 18 things?
    And, **His Disciples** did NOT do these 18 things?

    Why do you?

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

    • Grant Barber on July 24, 2018 at 11:56 am

      Well, yes to a whole lot of those questions. Most called it synagogue still, but attended weekly, gave money, etc. Paul certainly started churches.

      But that’s not really the point. I don’t always agree with Carey; I do with the points, throughout, in this article. I read it and get excited and say “I want to figure how to do this.” I’m retired but relatively young….I could do something like this. I think. With God’s help.

      • A. Amos Love on July 25, 2018 at 8:28 am

        Hi Grant

        Thanks for the reply.

        I asked…
        In the Bible?
        Did any of **His Disciples?**

        1 – **”Go to”** Church?
        2 – **”Join”** a Church?
        3 – **”Lead”** a Church?
        And 15 additional questions.

        You answer…
        “Well, yes to a whole lot of those questions.”

        You could be right. I cudda missed it.

        Can you help?
        Can you list those verses, “In the Bible?”
        That answer “Yes,” to some of these Questions?

        So, if someone…
        Who desires to be one of **His Disciples?**
        Can actually look a little like one of **His Disciples?**
        “In the Bible?”

        Haven’t you ever wondered? Why? In the Bible?

        NOT one of **His Disciples** called themself pastor?
        Or shepherd? Or leader? Or reverend?

        NOT one of **His Disciples** took the “Title” pastor?
        Or shepherd? Or leader? Or reverend?

        What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
        What is “Truth” is NOT always popular

        • Adam Mathis on November 5, 2018 at 3:16 pm

          Acts 11:19-26 example of where Barnabas taught the church for “a whole year” (vs. 26)

          Acts 11:29-30 The word tithe isn’t specifically used but the local church raised funds “to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.” So Tithe, in this example they did send money, also in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 Paul tells the church “on the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside adn store it up… I will send those whome you accredit… to carry your gift to Jerusalem.” The point being, they were instructed them as he also “direction the churches of Galatia” to gather an offering.

          Acts 13:1-12 A few were set apart and sent on a missionary journey, they went throught that whole land and although not explicitly stated, it can be assumed a church was planted as we define it today.

          Acts 13:13-14:7 A long account of Paul and his companions meeting at the synagauge, going to the synagogue. Going to a Church/Synagogue, they probably had to look for that church/synagogue.
          Acts 13:44 ” the next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” Probably because a friend invited them to come and hear it.

          Acts 14:26-28 As leaders of those churches they gathered them together. Why else would they gather together and “remain no little time with the disciples” other than because they were told and encouraged to be there as a church and be taught of God.

          Acts 15:1-35 Apparently there were church elders/leaders in Jerusalem that Paul and Barnabas went to about a question where they then, as leadership, decided to send local leaders to guide and shepherd (pastor) the congregation.
          In this passage there are inferences to people attending a church, if not who was the council of elders then writing to? There is also reference to local leaders in the church being established by this council of elders and apostles.
          So while the remaining apostles may not be the local shepherds, they are the ones that are establishing the local shepherds. Jesus established them as leaders and fathers of the early church, miraculously giving them theology, ideas and words to share with the rest of the body of Christ for their encouragement.

          Hebrews 10:25 we are told to not neglect meeting together, but to encourage one another.

          1 Peter 4:10 we should use the gifts given us by the Spirit to serve each other.

          1 Thes 5:11 Encourage one another and build each other up.

          1 Peter 5:1-4 Elders are commended as leaders because their role is extremely important.

          1 Tim 5:17 “let the elders who rule well be considered worth of a double honor…” This has been historically acknowledged (since it was written, and even before since the idea comes from the tribe of Levi, the priests needed the congregation to provide for them since they labored for the Lord) to mean giving of money and material goods, food etc.

          The word “pastor” is latin for shepherd, most translations only use the word shepherd thats why you don’t see the word pastor in the NT.

          Reverend isn’t quite as easy to explain, but it is a title meaning one who is to be revered or respected as we are told to do to the church leaders. So its not an extrapolation or anything out of context.

          As for membership, I don’t see why it’s that big of an issue, I think it has important implications but doesn’t really matter either way.. Just because something is done now that wasn’t explicitly ordered in scripture doesn’t make it wrong. There are a million little things we do that isn’t covered in scripture because it doesn’t matter. The principles that were given are whats important. Doctrine, charity, worship etc. Those are the things of importance, how some other things are done, or what title someone has, or what shape the building is in doesn’t matter unless it violates some other portion of scripture.

          I hope you do read atleast some of theses passages. I feel that you are at a crucial place in life and your walk in faith.. A place I’ve been. There are short fallings of our modern church organizations, and that can be frustrating but we have to be sure not to throw the baby out with the bathwater when reflecting on them.
          There’s lots of things we do that could change but until Christ returns and finally perfects His bride we will always have issues. I don’t mean that as a cop out.

          Please respond or correct me where needed, i don’t want this to be an argument I just want to lovingly show you some scripture that addresses your concerns.

          • A. Amos Love on November 6, 2018 at 10:43 am

            Hi Adam

            Thanks for the intricate and challenging reply.

            Was wondering…
            You mention “Leaders,” “Leadership,” eight times…

            Acts 14:26-28 As **leaders** of those churches
            they gathered them together.

            Acts 15:1-35 Apparently there were church elders/**leaders**
            in Jerusalem that Paul and Barnabas went to
            about a question where they then, as **leadership,**
            decided to send local **leaders**
            to guide and shepherd (pastor) the congregation.

            There is also reference to local **leaders** in the church

            Jesus established them as **leaders**

            1 Peter 5:1-4 Elders are commended as **leaders**

            Reverend isn’t quite as easy to explain,
            but it is a title meaning one
            who is to be revered or respected
            as we are told to do to **the church leaders**

            Was wondering…
            In the Bible, NOT one of the verses you recommended…
            Has the word “Leader,” “Leadership,” in it.
            Seems “Leader,” has been added to the sriptures.

            In the Bible? Can you name?
            One of **His Disciples** who called them self “Leader?”
            Or church leader? Or leadership? Or Christian leader?

            In the Bible? Can you name?
            One of **His Disciples** who was called “Leader?”
            Or church leader? Or leadership? Or Christian leader?

            Jer 50:6
            “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
            **THEIR shepherds**
            have caused them to *go astray,*

            1 Pet 2:25
            For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
            BUT are now returned to
            the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

            {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  9. A. Amos Love on July 23, 2018 at 11:05 am


    “Church Attendance Is Dying.”

    Was wondering…

    In the Bible? Did any of **His Disciples** ever “ATTEND” church?


    Seems those who do NOT **ATTEND Church.**
    Are more **“Biblical”** than those who do. 😉

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    **THEIR shepherds**
    have caused them to *go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    BUT are now returned to
    the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  10. […] This article originally appeared here.  […]

  11. bobby gilbert on July 22, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    we are most likely in two weeks and they will converge in the middle like jesus dying and the curtain tearing.

    Jesus dying can be the temple.
    The curtain tearing is the spirit leaving the temple.

    where is the temple?
    for the spirit to do anything, the spirit has to leave the temple. this time the curtain is made of flesh and blood. the temple is where the spirit is.

    the temple has to fall like jesus dying. the true church will die until enough blood is shed so the spirit can leave the temple.

    how do you know? look for the middle of the week and you will see where the vultures gather.

    one week will provide the carcus. the other week, the spirit will flee from the carcus. they meet in the middle, but one week gives rise to the children of god. the other week ushers in the kingdom of god.

    Jesus dies on the cross.
    the temple curtain splits.

  12. Karen on July 22, 2018 at 6:48 am

    Most Evangelical Churches are missing fellowship, which people do miss, we have DVD driven Bible Studies, which excludes people from interacting with each other, and learning from each other. People also miss singing Hymns in Churches today. Many women have told me this, and are always happy when a hymn is sung, instead of a chorus one Sunday, it rarely happens two Sunday’s in a row, yet most Churches still have hymnals. Why have we taken away what we grew up with. Most Hymns are a sermon in themselves. Choruses, are changed almost every month, but why? People do not like change. Please bring back both fellowship and hymns. Coffee time before or after Church Service or a Bible Study does not take the place of fellowship. Blessings, Karen

    • TERRY HANGER on October 24, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      I agree, Karen!

  13. Ron French (elder Cheyne Presbyterian, Stoney Creek) on July 21, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Very informative. We are seeing an exodus of consumers at our church. Many just “evaporate”
    As we re-tool our web site I am really prompted to set up a “got questions” mailbox.
    Our youth leaders talk about the hard questions that the kids are asking and I would like to extend that out to all the visitors to our web site. I intend to gather a small group of elders and staffers to answer these questions as they come in.
    Do you see this happening anywhere else in your travels and do you think it might be a good way to engage those outside?

  14. […] Church Attendance Is Dying. Here’s What’s Next by Carey Nieuwhof […]

    • Joe on July 21, 2018 at 7:13 am

      Here is the challenge I have with your stuff Carey. Now 90% of the time I agree.
      But when I pass it on to deacons or some other Christians in my realms of life to try to elicit conversation they say, there’s no scripture with it.
      And immediately disregard it.
      This makes some believe I get my “advice” from sources that are not biblical.
      Such is the difficulty of having to explain who you are so they will trust the source.
      If you even had one or two basic scripture references in your material it would greatly help many of us who are trying to win over the skeptics & deniers who aren’t wanting to recognize the state of where things truly are with church & Christianity.

      • Jerry McDowell on July 21, 2018 at 8:00 am

        agreed great stuff in all this.. i agree with it all but we can only plow the fields plant the seed and water the seed. God gives the increase not man . psalms says unless the Lord Builds the house our labor is in vain. the condition of the heart do we want what God wants .are we willing to yield the Holy Spirit winds have to blow and bring new life .it takes a want to and a desire many churches today does not want Change . i been told the church controls me the preacher ..not in my life time i am a servant and a shepherd to feed and lead the Church .

  15. […] Church Attendance Is Dying. Here’s What’s Next. by Carey Nieuwhof on As usual, this is a MUST-READ. Do not miss this one. […]

  16. Harry Court on July 17, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    Point 2 &3 were the most relevant. A Connect / Small group by definition is not a biblical church although that will be ignored who don’t want accountability, don’t want to give and don’t want to give – selfishness is served though.

    Would revival change any of this?

    • Jerry McDowell on July 17, 2018 at 7:43 pm

      hey for the most i agree with your blog very valid points ..but how is your book going to change hearts .it takes a want to and a desire .if the will isn’t book will help us other than the Bible .i respect your position. but today we live in the microwave oven generation pop it in 5 mins alter done

    • Jerry McDowell on July 22, 2018 at 7:44 am

      true revival would not a series of meetings .if we look in the mirror we will see the problem

  17. Bill Shaw on July 17, 2018 at 2:55 am

    Carey- I listen to your podcasts when stationary biking, and read your stuff almost daily. I currently work in the DR Congo (since 2013) and am still on the bottom half of my 60’s, so this old dog is at least trying to learn some new tricks! Good material- thought provoking and useful. I looked online for a “Contact Us” page but did not find the link. I would like to suggest something but do not want to do so in a public forum. Would you be so kind as to help me send a message to you? Thxs.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 17, 2018 at 7:18 am

      Great to hear from you. Send it along to Carey at careynieuwhof dot com. 🙂

  18. Gino on July 16, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Nice thoughts. Or could it be the church is missing a key component, Jesus! Personal encounter with a Living Christ that changes lives and brings a passion to know Him. The power of the Holy Ghost active in the Body of Christ to equip and give boldness.

    • kim riley on July 17, 2018 at 12:57 pm

      I think you hit the nail on thehead–kim

    • Jerry McDowell on July 17, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      { the church is missing a key component, Jesus! } AMEN ALONG WITH THE holy GHOST .THE THEME SONG I DID IT MY WAY

  19. Matt on July 16, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    I would be interested to see if models similar to that of the st. Thomas Church in England will become more common in the changing landscape.

    Good post!

  20. Wayne Andrie on July 16, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks Carey. Excellent insights. Two books that you may have heard of that may speak to this are Christians In A Secular World by Kurt Bowen (sociologist) who connects attendance and commitment. And So Much More by Debra Rienstra. Thanks for engaging, enlightening, and enlivening my life.

  21. Roxanne on July 16, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Times are a changing. It started when Jesus came and set a new understanding about God and now we live in a world that has been made much easier to connect with all kinds of things and the more understanding we have of God’s plan, the further the people are moving away from the old church ways into the dynamitic new. The Holy Spirit is doing his thing through avenues that reach into peoples hearts. It may seem unfair but each generation will bring something new to the table.

  22. Tim Fountain on July 16, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    I’m old enough to have been caught up in the frenzy of the church growth movement, which certainly yielded some short term impact but is, as you say, showing its own limitations and fading.

    Off of that, I feel a weight lifted when you talk about not being so hung up on consumers (they were the focus of the church growth stuff).

  23. Isaiah on July 16, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Appreciate this post, Carey! From my experience, I would suggest most, if not all, of the criticism church leaders are facing today come from consumers. In our current context, as we transition a church and try to engage more people, it is the consumers who are tuning out, but also voicing their critism at the same time. This post has confirmed some things for me. Thanks!

  24. Mike Duke on July 16, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Let me be the first to acknowledge I found Carey’s post to be researched, concise and accurate. Great job, Carey. The digital world is definitely here upon us. Embracing it, is our hope. As hard as that may seem to aging pastors, it is still a reality.

  25. Mat on July 16, 2018 at 10:13 am

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    If a church neglects engaging digitally with/in it’s respective community, it’s missing the greatest opportunity it has to reach it.

    Two thoughts…
    1. 8 in 10 Americans are shopping online. They are shopping churches online too. Almost 60% of millennial’s prefer an online experience over the personal at first.

    2. My teenage daughter had a sleepover this weekend with 3 of her friends. They were all in our living room watching a movie while engaging with each other on their phones. The digital experience isn’t going away. If anything, it’s an enhanced communication tool. Like any other thing in life there are always dangers but the church is charged with taking the their culture captive with the gospel. God has allowed ours to become a digital one. We can’t do properly if we’re unplugged.

    Love the content.

  26. Jamey Stuart on July 16, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Carey, you’re on fire. Your content is spot on! Love the analysis on the losing of the consumers. This is most definitely a trend that I’ve observed but couldn’t articulate. They consume from multiple churches in person or on line but don’t engage anywhere. I’ve been frustrated by the trend but couldn’t name it. This is it! The rising of the curious…couldn’t agree more. I truly believe, the best is yet to come as God continues to build His church! Thanks, Carey!

  27. Chris Ondrovich on July 16, 2018 at 9:24 am

    I love the article Carey! I’m a small church pastor of a 50-70 church. We are growing with regular visitors and continually working to shut the back door. I’m very curious about more advice and training on the digital church and how we can incorporate that more into the regular life of the church. We currently have an active website, Facebook and have just started Facebook live streaming. I’m leaning in and listening thanks for all your teaching.

    • John Ryerson on July 18, 2018 at 6:34 pm

      30 percent of audiences in the arts are not connected at all, we can’t leave them behind

  28. Jamie Davis on July 16, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Thanks for an insightful commentary on a timely topic.

    Your observation about the departure of the consumers is really powerful. It is hard to build on them. The shepherd leaving the 99 to get the one does come to mind though. I think pastors and churches will have to be intentional to strike the right balance between caring follow up and respecting their right to choose.

    Two other thoughts on the topic:
    1) Digital engagement is not real engagement. It does not satisfy. It is what leads to the curious. Depression is highest among those who are the most digitally engaged. Rather than embracing the digital, we should tell the truth about it. It is fake. It is shallow. It will not satisfy.

    2) Building with the engaged is a bit different than investing in the engaged. If the box model is dead, let it die already. Dont use up the enthusiasm and best decades of the energetically engaged trying to prop it up a bit longer. instead, turn the model on its head and invest in building people, helping them find their calling. We probably do need to keep thinking in terms of models and repeatable patterns but we need to be careful not to think of people as resources to build our kingdom. People are those who carry the gifts that the lost world need and they need on the job training and perhaps some coordination to discover how to discover and use their gifts. When all you’ve got is a box blueprint, everyone looks like a building block. Burn down the box so we can see people as uniquely called and equipped and we can then help them walk in their calling.

  29. Rick Chromey on July 16, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Good stuff, Carey. Long-time reader, first time commenter here.

    I just blogged on this matter myself today. My expertise is in generational studies and I’m largely seeing an American Church ignore this growing reality with postmodern generations (born since 1960).

    Last week the NYTimes had an insightful article about how dying restaurants in its urban centers were successfully reinventing as “spacious” collaborative work centers. The Millennials love these soft spaces to interact, share and present. I found it very interesting and wrote about it today. I thought you and your readers might enjoy it too (link below).

    Thanks again for your insights and ideas, Carey.

    • Jeff Courter on July 16, 2018 at 12:53 pm

      Good comments. I am a small church rural pastor where there is no cell service, so it’s a different world for most of us – Internet access is in the home, and many people don’t engage with FB, even many who are younger. Having said that, I understand social media and its impact on relationships, so we cannot ignore the digital space.

      I think engagement is key, though. A digital experience will not replicate actually helping someone. Hands-on ministries will be one way churches will distinguish themselves from other organizations. Being the “hands and feet of Jesus” is becoming more popular among younger people, who are seeking an engaged and authentic faith, rather than the artificial and superficial token beliefs espoused by too many who call themselves Christian. Mission is where faith gets a chance to be actualized.

      We have focused for too long on worship, rather than mission, yet scripture commands us to focus on mission (we are not commanded to worship, but we are commanded to love one another). I have often said, “Church is not what we do on Sunday mornings. What we do on Sunday mornings is called worship – church is what we do between Sunday mornings.”

      Getting people in the door to worship may be the wrong point. Perhaps what we should be doing is getting people to serve God by getting involved in our mission. If people are not motivated to go and do something from what they hear in our sermons, then what is the point we are making in our preaching? If the point of worship is not to be transformed, what is it? And what better evidence of transformation can there be but engaged action, showing the love of Christ?

      Thank you, Carey, for pointing this out. Hopefully the church of the future will be known more for what they do in the name of God’s love than for how and how often we meet. Our meetings should be geared towards how we should live, not an end in themselves, IMHO. When we think of our worship services this way, our churches will change.

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