MultiSite expert Jim Tomberlin, and author and researcher Warren Bird, talk about their latest research on the future church including why attendance will be lower post-COVID, why and how church mergers will increase.

And they offer ideas on practical, hopeful steps you can take if you fear your church won’t make it or what to do if you’re growing and need more resources.

Welcome to Episode 367 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey talks about five traps local church leaders fall into.

Guest Links

Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird

Jim – Instagram | Twitter | Twitter | LinkedIn
Warren – Twitter | LinkedIn

Episode Links

Remodel Health

Are you tired of your expensive, outdated group plan?

The health insurance industry is hard enough to navigate as a leader, but annual rate increases can make it feel painful. What if your church could provide the same or even better coverage at a lower price for both you and your employees? I know this sounds too good to be true, but I promise you it isn’t.

Remodel Health is the health benefits software and consulting service that helps employers save money and care better for their teams. By switching organizations from traditional group insurance to individual plans for each employee, Remodel Health helps you and your team tap into significant savings on health insurance.

To date, Remodel Health has helped Carey Nieuwhof listeners save $1.5 million in the last year and a half! Imagine what your ministry could do with that extra money. Plus, as a Remodel Health customer, you gain access to industry experts and advisors to walk alongside you and your employees as you find a solution that saves money and meets your unique needs. I know right now is a very challenging time for churches, so why not take healthcare off your list of stressors? If you’re interested in learning more, Remodel Health’s benefits consultants can run a free analysis for your unique team to help you evaluate all of your options.

Visit today to learn more and get access to their free Savings Calculator, Church Buyer’s Guide and brand new e-book!

Pro Media Fire

A multi-site church with 6 campuses ran into a huge problem recently. Each campus had a high demand for social media content and creative work in the new normal. The central team couldn’t handle the demand and it got worse, two key creatives overwhelmed resigned. The executive pastor’s dilemma was how do we staff up creatives for each campus to meet the demand, and be wise financially in this economy?

The answer was contact Pro MediaFire who provided a custom tailored church growth plan proposal to handle the creative demands of all 6 campuses. The CFO took a look at the proposal and realized Pro MediaFire was less than the cost of a staff hire at each campus. Are you facing the same dilemma?

Book your free strategy session today at


Better Together – Expanded Version by Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird

Better Together by Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird

ECFA Resources

The Unstuck Group MultiSite Solutions

CNLP 043: What’s Next in MultiSite—How New Locations, Mergers and Acquisitions Could Impact Most Churches

CNLP 223: How to Break the Growth Barriers that Will Move Your Church Past 200, 600 and 1,000 Attenders with Carl George and Warren Bird

CNLP 134: Carl George and Warren Bird on How to Break the 200, 600 and 1,000 Attendance Barriers

CNLP 028: How to Create High Performing Teams in Any Size Organization—an Interview with Warren Bird

The Church Health Trends You Need to Be Looking At by Carey Nieuwhof

Necessary Interruptions: Why Great Leaders Own It When They Get Stuck by Carey Nieuwhof

Now That You’re Online a Lot More: 5 Traps for Local Pastors in the Age of Social Media by Carey Nieuwhof

Text CAREY 33777 to join more than 70,000 subscribers to our leadership content


1. Your church can be dying with stable finances and volunteers (and many are right now)

According to recent research done by The Unstuck Group, there are thousands of churches that are financially stable, have plenty of volunteers, and are still dying. Churches like this are being propped up by older, wealthier attendees who have been committed for years to volunteer and give.

These life-long servers and donors give leadership false security that everything is okay, even though there is little to no new life inside their church. These churches should consider partnering with churches that are young, full of momentum and broke. They could learn from them on how to gain momentum while supporting them financially.

2. Pre-COVID church attendance isn’t coming back

Pre-COVID church attendance isn’t coming back for 2 major reasons:

  1. The frequency with which people have been attending church has been in decline for decades, and this crisis will only accelerate that trend. Pre-crisis, church attenders were attending 1.7 times a month on average. Jim and Warren predict that it could drop as low as one time per month after the crisis is over.
  2. The cultural expectation of going to church because “it’s the right thing to do” is gone. So, there will be no external pressure for people to attend church unless they genuinely want to. This might actually be a good thing. Guilt is a terrible reason for someone to attend any church.

3. Churches that are ready for a merger are Kingdom-minded

Jim and Warren have helped hundreds (potentially thousands) of churches successfully work through the church-merger process. There are a ton of questions that come with the process, but the most common question they receive is, “How can I initiate the church merger conversation with a dying church that we’d love to merge with?”

Jim and Warren’s answer is, “It’s all about relationships.” Churches that are Kingdom-minded, and are building relationships with other churches in their community, are much more likely to have a successful merger than churches who prioritize themselves over other churches.

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 367

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Watch Back Episodes of The Podcast on YouTube

Select episodes of this podcast are now on YouTube. Our YouTube Channel gives you a chance to watch some episodes, not just listen.


It doesn’t have to be.

Whether you’re a church that isn’t growing, has plateaued, or whether you wish your church was growing faster than it is, I’d love to help you break through. That’s why I created the Church Growth Masterclass.

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

Naturally, 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.

In the Church Growth Masterclass, I’ll show you:

  • The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The 5 keys to your church better impacting millennials
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change
  • 5 essentials for church growth
  • 5 disruptive church trends to watch—and how to respond
  • How to increase church attendance by increasing engagement

The Masterclass includes a complete set of videos that you can play with your team, board or staff, PDF workbooks that will help you tackle the issues you’re facing, and bonus materials that will help you navigate the most pressing issues facing churches that want to reach their cities today.

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

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Spread the Word. Leave a Rating and Review

Hopefully, this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

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Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Chris Hogan

Chris Hogan shares surprising data and insights from a 2017 study of 10,000 millionaires and the habits that made them wealthy. It’s not what you think. In fact, many never made a six figure salary. Ever. Chris contrasts broke money habits versus millionaire habits, and gives practical advice to young leaders about making progress even on a low salary, and to Boomers who haven’t (yet) saved enough to retire.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 368.

CNLP 367: Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird on Future Church Attendance, the Rise of Church Mergers and What to Do If Your Church Won’t Make It


  1. Dow R Tippett on September 16, 2020 at 7:29 am

    So yeah, my favorite episode. I have listened to them all, but recently my favorite episode was Dharius Daniels. I am reading his book now. This is probably because his teaching and my own work merge so we’ll.

    However, the episode in recent memory that I reference the most is Ravi Zacharias. He is so deep, and the church needs leaders like him to rise up.

    Thanks for what you do,

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 16, 2020 at 9:40 am

      Absolutely! So glad to help. 🙂

  2. Michael McLendon on September 15, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    Barry- Amen! Thanks for speaking out. Most churches have been community examples of resilience to the secular world. Rather than beating the doom and gloom drum louder and louder; lets rejoice, be thankful, and celebrate how good our God is to us in all circumstances. We know the challenges, so stop reminding us of what we have and are experiencing. Stop digging in the negativity and pessimism well…

  3. Barry Bandara on September 15, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Let me start off by saying that I appreciate how God has made you and how God is using you for His kingdom. I have pointed a number of pastor friends to check out your site and resources. I have learned a great deal by who you have interviewed. But…

    Lately, I am really struggling to read/listen to your blog/podcasts. It seems that a lot of your topics are negative in their core – why churches are failing, attendance isn’t coming back, why you are losing this age group, etc. EVERYTHING in our world is negative and depressing these days. The last thing I need in my life (and heart) is more negativity and pessimism. Please, take a closer look at your content and see if you can be more positive. We are drowning in negativity. More HOPE, please!

    Our church is “open” when most are not in our community. We are able to offer Children’s Ministry and Student Ministry when other churches are not. Our staff is amazing and has been creative in reaching out to our people and our community. But honestly, we are all tired and weary right now. Yes, we know attendance is not where we were. But reminding us of the obvious just makes it harder. I am not one to be critical because I know how it feels when it comes my way. However, after feeling this way for the last several months, I felt I needed to share as I may not be the only one who may be avoiding clicking on the email you send because the title reaffirms a negative we are experiencing. I hope you hear my heart in this.

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