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

So, in light of everything that’s changed and been disrupted so far in 2020, what future church trends should you be watching as a leader?

I usually do a church trends post every January, but with the almost surreal events of 2020 unfolding as they have, it’s time to rethink what’s ahead again. Hence, a fresh post outlining 7 trends to watch.

Crisis, after all, is not just a disruptor, it’s an accelerator.

Some of the changes that were likely arriving in 5-10 years (like the normalization of remote work) arrived in days.

The shift from facility-centered ministry to home-based ministry happened in hours.

And while there will be a return to some version of normal, normal as we knew is likely gone, at least for a while.  It’s hard to go back to normal when normal disappeared.

And because the future is unkind to the unprepared, the best thing a leader can do is prepare.

Disruption is hard because disruption is inconvenient. It’s far easier to keep doing what you’re doing, hoping for better results, or going back to normal as quickly as possible to regain what you’ve lost.

The future is unkind to the unprepared. The best thing a leader can do is prepare. Click To Tweet

The good news is that leaders who embrace change, who find the energy, passion and time to keep pivoting, will likely end up advancing their mission in the future.

So what are the new 2020 church trends you should watch in what is shaping up to be a very pivotal year?

Here are 7.

Let me just say I hope I’m wrong on some of them, but I’m including them because I think they’re happening.

As I’ve had to remind myself as a leader and Christ-follower for decades, just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

I don’t like all these trends either, but that doesn’t mean they’re not happening.

The best question to ask in a time of disruption is, “What does this make possible?”

There’s a lot that’s possible for the future church.

Crisis is not just a disruptor, it's an accelerator. Click To Tweet

1. The Church Will Further Consolidate as it Expands

This is a tough trend to handle, so let’s just start here.

Despite a reported initial surge in online attendance and subsequent slump, new polling by the Barna Group shows a rather surprising reality.

48% of churchgoers say they have not watched any church online in the last 4 weeks.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Almost half of all churchgoers haven’t done any online or in-person church in a month.

Double clicking on that information yields another insight.

Only 40% of churchgoers report watching their regular home church online. A rather surprising 23% said they streamed a different church (either in place of their regular church or in addition to their regular church).

48% of churchgoers say they have not watched any church online in the last 4 week. Only 40% watched their regular home church online. 23% said they streamed a different church. Click To Tweet

What does this mean?

Well, as hard it is to hear, the data suggests that even regular attenders are either not connecting with their church right now or starting to experiment with different options.

Don’t be quick to blame online church.

Crisis is an accelerator, and for decades the trend has been for even committed Christians to attend less often. The chaos and dislocation of the crisis may simply be amplifying that long-standing trend.

Stay with me though for a minute more.

We also know that as of late May 2020, 29% of churches are still reporting an attendance jump over previous levels.

So…the fact that 29% of churches are seeing an attendance spike and 23% of Christians say they are watching a church other than their home church might mean further consolidation is happening.

What exactly does ‘consolidation’ mean?

It means the churches that are growing and picking up people from churches that aren’t growing.

This has been happening for decades with the disappearance and decline of small and mid-sized churches and the growth of large churches and  mega-churches. And while growing churches are definitely reaching unchurched people, they have also been picking up Christians from other churches.

That trend might well be accelerating during the disruption.

Consolidation of the book market happened in the 1990s as independent bookstores went out of business as major chains like Barnes and Noble, Borders and even Walmart, Costco and Target took chunks out of their market share. Then, of course, Amazon emerged and took a chunk out of all the big box stores.

Similarly, General Motors consolidated after the Great Recession as it got rid of Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer to focus on fewer products.

In the future, the Church will prevail, but not every church will prevail. The crisis may be accelerating a trend that’s already happening.

So where’s the hope in this?

First, smaller and mid-sized churches will have to find their niche.

As I wrote about in my original church trends post for 2020, the middle is disappearing from culture as it is, so being focused on your community and the people you love and want to reach is a great place to start.

As large churches become larger, no one should be able to out-local the local church. I have more ideas on that in Trend 5 here.

Second, digital isn’t only the purview of large churches. You don’t have to have a big budget to have a big impact online.

Everyone you want to reach in your region is online. When you behave like that’s true, you stand a much better chance of reaching them.

In the future, the Church will prevail, but not every church will prevail. The crisis may be accelerating a trend that already happening. Click To Tweet

2. The Return to Church Might Not Be the Rush Leaders Hope for

As tempting as it will be to reopen the doors and believe everyone is coming back, the data (right now) shows that’s probably not the case.

To begin, social distancing makes full rooms impossible and, until it’s safe to do mass gatherings, unwise.

Full rooms are months away, if not longer.

As tempting as it will be to reopen the doors and believe everyone is coming back to church, the data shows that's probably not the case. Click To Tweet

Second, a recent related poll of thousands of church leaders facilitated by Gloo, showed people have little consensus around when they feel ‘safe’ to gather again in public.

Asked which other type of activity BEST signals to you that it is time to open in-person worship at the church, the most common answer was a low community level of COVID cases (21.5%).

Other responses included when:

  • Social distancing and stay home guidelines are lifted: 17%
  • Local businesses are open: 14%
  • Local restaurant seating areas are open: 8%
  • Testing is widely available and utilized: 6%
  • Schools are open: 4%
  • Vaccine available: 3%

But the following results also speak volumes:

  • 15% said they would only return when all the conditions are met (low cases, businesses open, restrictions lifted, vaccine available).
  • 10% admitted they just weren’t sure.

Essentially, 25% either aren’t sure or aren’t coming back for a long time.

An additional 30% of respondents said they’d rather worship at home and only return when they can be mask-free at church.

25% of church attenders aren't sure when they're coming back or aren't coming back for a long time. An additional 30% of respondents said they'd rather worship at home and only return when they can be mask-free at church. Click To Tweet

Combine that with trend #1 (48% aren’t doing anything right now and 23% are connecting with other churches), and the picture is very different than most leaders would hope for.

I know, that’s not encouraging, but it’s both real and understandable.

So what do you do?

First, you can  poll your congregations on these exact questions (for free) and add a few questions of your own, by creating your own (free) Return to Church Checkin here. Then you won’t have to guess.

Second, prepare yourself for the emotional let down of a staggered and less than optimal return. I know what it feels like to be hoping for a full room in normal conditions and seeing empty seats.

That may be the reality for a while to come. My guess is a lot of leaders are struggling with the lack of ‘normal’ more deeply than they realize.

Get counselling, talk to a friend, pray and prepare yourself for a longer period of disruption that you want. That’s what leadership requires sometimes.

Finally, focus on your mission and rethink your methods.

You’re not ‘locked’ into what you’re doing now.

Innovate. Experiment.

Make your mission more important than your methods.

Crisis may be an accelerator, but it’s also the cradle for innovations and breakthroughs.

Crisis may be an accelerator, but it's also the cradle for innovations and breakthroughs. Click To Tweet

3. Churches Will Become Digital Organizations with Physical Locations 

I never win popularity contests when I write about this, but I’m going to keep going. It’s just too important to ignore.

Growing churches in the future will become digital organizations with physical expressions, not physical organizations with a digital presence.

The difference in this trend is as stark as JC Penny and Amazon.

JC Penny (which recently filed for Chapter 11), like Sears and ToysRUs, were physical retailers that slowly adapted an online presence, behaving like most people still wanted an in-person experience.

Amazon, of course, started as a digital retailer that gradually moved into physical stores.

In the future, growing churches will be digital organizations with physical locations. Click To Tweet

What’s surprising is that sometimes the digital connections have been as or more meaningful than the in-person connections.

I realize there will be many who push back against this, but it’s foolish to ignore the fact that people connect more easily online and often admit the truth more readily online than they do in-person (that might not be right, but, as this Stanford research shows, it is often true).

To put digital church back on the shelf in the new normal is to ignore the greatest opportunity the church today has to reach people.

Seeing digital as optional really does mean your church will end up like malls in the age of Amazon, just hoping for people to show up again.

Seeing digital as optional means your church will end up like malls in the age of Amazon, just hoping for people to show up again. Click To Tweet

And it also ignores the fact that many will want digital to be at least an option, if not a preferred method of engagement where geography and other barriers prevent access.

Forget the fact that for the moment, everyone is Zoomed out and longing for human connection, and think about the past and the future.

Digital isn’t going away. It will continue to grow and advance.

Further, digital scales in a way that analog doesn’t.

Online church transcends geographic, physical and time barriers in a way that analog doesn’t.

Will we still have in-person, physical gatherings and services? Absolutely. But in the future church, if you care about people, you’ll care about digital church.

Will we still have in-person, physical gatherings and services? Absolutely. But in the future church, if you care about people, you'll care about digital church. Click To Tweet

4. Agility Will Become One of Your Most Valuable Leadership Qualities

I realize trends like these can feel exhausting.

Of all the qualities leaders will need in the future, agility is near the top of the list.

The fact that you are still leading months into the pandemic is evidence you have this quality, which is amazing. But like a muscle, you have to hone and develop it.

If there’s one prediction about the future that seems to be accurate, it’s that the dislocation and uncertainty we’re seeing now will continue. The new normal, whatever that is, is aways off.

In an uncertain climate, flexibility is ability and agility is a super power.

Agility will matter more in the future because the ‘innovation’ that happened in the first few months of lockdown wasn’t really innovation. It was adaptation.

Agility will matter more in the future because the 'innovation' that happened in the first few months of lockdown wasn't really innovation. It was adaptation. Click To Tweet

Quick pivots, regular experimentation and the ability to respond to a rapidly changing culture will be critical.

While your mission will never change, your methods will have to.

To help with that, I’ve put together a team training on agility called The 30 Day Pivot. It’s the exact framework I’ve used to pivot regularly in my leadership (especially since the crisis) and it will help you leverage change quickly to help you advance your mission amidst all the change happening.

You can learn more here.

Agility is a key quality for future leaders, because, as they say, if you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.

Agility is a key quality for future leaders, because, as they say, if you don't like change, you'll like irrelevance even less. Click To Tweet

5. Virtual and Flexible Staff Teams Will Be the New Normal

In the same way church went digital overnight, staff teams for churches and corporations did too.

I talked to a number of CEOs over the last week (who tend to be far more bottom-line driven than church leaders) who said as hard as the adjustment was for their teams to become virtual overnight, they’re not going back to the way it was before.

Some may close their offices and become entirely remote. Others will simply scale back things like square footage and travel along with the instance that everyone come in every day.

Twitter and Facebook both recently announced that employees can work from home indefinitely regardless of when the lockdown or social distancing ends.

Gallup has discovered many workers have a growing appetite for working from home as much as possible.

It’s the beginning of a new era for work.

Translate that for church leaders.

As inefficient as working from home might seem now (kids hanging off you, everyone signing into Slack for the first time and not quite sure how Asana works), one day the kids will be back in school and novel tools will be normal tools, and then the real efficiency of flexible and remote work will start to kick in.

Prior to the disruption, there was already an emerging trend that saw your most talented young employees asking for the most flexibility: To work from home, coffee shops or to flex their hours. That will only accelerate.

The future workplace for churches and businesses will be flexible workplaces: With an array of in-person and remote teams.

Again, move ahead five months, and begin to think about hiring the ideal Exec Pastor you’ve been wanting to hire for a long time who doesn’t want to move. Bringing him or her on board as staff and flying them in a few times a year suddenly looks far more feasible than it did even a month ago. And with Zoom and video calls normalized now, you won’t feel nearly as distant as you would have earlier in having team members join meetings remotely.

On future teams, insisting that everyone show up in person will become a competitive disadvantage.

8-4 stopped working years ago. Now it’s broken beyond repair. The future workplace is the flexible workplace.

8-4 stopped working years ago. Now it's broken beyond repair.The future workplace is the flexible workplace. Click To Tweet

6. Spiritual Formation Will Shift from Facility-Based to Home-Based

One of the most exciting trends to emerge so far is to see churches focus on everyday ministry, not just Sunday ministry.

With a slow return to church and the shift to digital church as the default, many church leaders will realize their focus in ministry will have to shift from their facilities to people’s homes.

In many ways, this is a solid theological move, as well.

To have people assume responsibility for their own spiritual growth, for evangelism, discipleship and even leadership of their own families can only be a good thing.

An unspoken assumption of the old model of church was that to ‘grow,’ you had to come to a facility and participate in a program or service.

In the future, church leaders will see themselves more as equippers, helping people bring their faith more deeply into the homes, neighborhoods and workplaces.

In some strange way, this is what many church leaders have longed to see but not really seen, and in part it might be because the focus has been on getting people to come to a building to grow, not on equipping them where they are.  Mark Sayers has a lot of thoughtful things to say about this trend on his Rebuilders Podcast.

Think of it as an application of something you’ve been trying to do for years through social media, online live events and even email marketing: Those forums have allowed you to show up in people’s lives every day, not just on Sundays.

When it comes to discipleship and evangelism, every day is more important than Sunday.

That trend will only accelerate in the future.

When it comes to discipleship and evangelism, every day is more important than Sunday. Click To Tweet

If people live every day in need of hope and resources to live out their faith (or to find faith) every day, church leaders have to start coming alongside people every day.

In the future, churches will shift their focus from Sunday to every day, because people need to find faith and live out their faith every day.

In the future, churches will shift their focus from Sunday to every day, because people need to find faith and live out their faith every day. Click To Tweet

7. On-Demand Access Will Eclipse Live Events

In many ways, this trend has already happened. It’s just few people are talking about it.

In the 80s and 90s, TV shifted from live-viewing (you had to watch your fave show Thursday night at 9 or you missed it), to on-demand viewing, at first through VCRs, then TiVo and finally, through streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+.

We’ve been an on-demand culture for a while.

Except, most churches don’t behave that way. We push everything toward a live event, assuming that most people who access an experience will do so exactly when it happens.

As Mike Todd of Transformation Church—which is reaching hundreds of thousands of people online each month—says, the live experience represents a fraction of their total audience.

So what should you do?

Well, you probably have an archive.

Some of you have an audio archive of MP3 messages. Some of you have a podcast. Others have years of YouTube videos or services captured in HD that sit on some website nobody visits.

Leverage those.

Just because your content isn’t brand new doesn’t mean it won’t be new to your audience. Especially a new audience. (And don’t flatter yourself…most of your church has no idea what you said last year, or last month. Neither does mine.)

Preachers, just because your content isn't brand new doesn't mean it won't be new to your audience. Especially a new audience you're reaching for the first time. Click To Tweet

Here’s what’s true: You may have done your last family series two years ago, but I promise you families haven’t stopped having issues in the last 24 months (quarantine might make that series way more relevant).

Your last money series may be exactly what someone needs to hear right now.

That message you did on hope from the Psalms is exactly what someone feeling at the bottom needs right now.

The amazing thing about email, social media and other online channels you have is you can repurpose and reuse content to meet people where they’re at and reach new people who have never met you.

Not sure how to run campaigns like that of have a budget to hire staff to do it?

Great older content works. If you’re having trouble communicating with your kids, do you care that Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages was written in the 90s? Nope. You don’t. You read it. It changes things.

The key is to share these on weekdays and on other channels  throughout the week while you’re still directing people to what’s next and new on the weekend.

People don’t care if a message is new nearly as much as they care if a message is great.

Don’t believe this? How many times have you rewatched The Office or Friends?

People don't care if a message is new nearly as much as they care if a message is great. Click To Tweet

Position Yourself to Thrive in the New Normal

 

Yes, there’s a ton of change happening right now.

Some organizations will survive, some will thrive, and others won’t make it.

I’d love for you to be one of the thrivers.

Who will thrive in the new normal? The future belongs to the pivoters.

How well positioned are you for future pivots?

My brand new online training, the 30-Day Pivot, will show you how to develop your agility as a leader and as an organization to position yourself for growth.

The 30-Day Pivot is a simple 3-step process you and your team can utilize every as often as every 30 days to respond to the change around you and capitalize on it.

In the 30-Day Pivot, you’ll learn:
  • A simple 3-step process your team can use to arrive at your next pivot in 90 minutes or less.
  • An approach that fosters team-generated innovation.
  • An implementation and evaluation framework that will help your team move quickly and accurately.
I’ve led teams through multiple pivots, and in the 30 Day Pivot, I show you the strategy and framework you need to make quick, accurate and responsive moves that can position your organization for growth, even in the midst of deep uncertainty and change.

Some organizations and churches will thrive in the new normal.

Others won’t.

While the future is uncertain, yours doesn’t have to be.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the 30 Day Pivot here.

Want More On Trends?

I’ve done a trends post every year since 2016, and many of the trends are still relevant to what we’re all experiencing right now.

You can access the entire archive for free here:

5 Disruptive Leadership Trends That Will Rule 2020

6 Disruptive Church Trends for 2020

5 Disruptive Church Trends for 2019

7 Disruptive Church Trends for 2018

6 Disruptive Church Trends for 2017

5 Disruptive Church Trends for 2016

Yep, that’s a lot of disruption.

But as we know from history, you either disrupt yourself or you get disrupted.

Disrupt yourself or be disrupted. Click To Tweet

What Are You Seeing?

There’s a lot here, but I’d love to hear from you.

What trends are you seeing? What do you think the future makes possible?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

In light of everything that's changed and been disrupted, in 2020 here are 7 NEW disruptive church trends every leader should watch in 2020.

64 Comments

  1. Rob Buckingham on May 28, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    This is brilliant, Carey. Thank you so much for your insights. I’m really excited about these trends and moving our church in a fresh direction. Same Vision, Same Mission. Different Methods!

    • Pam Trondson on May 31, 2020 at 9:56 am

      Jesus has a ministry of disruption. That’s what the parables were all about. The Spirit is not just the Comforter. On this day of Pentecost I pray that we get on board with God who Acts (pun intended) in wonderful ways to bring positive change to all, the beloved. Praise be to God who is pushing us out of the box of church buildings. Please pray for me as I intrepidly lead. in these times.

  2. Oliver Edwin (Eddie) Howard on May 26, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    We are working on securing a greater digital presence at Christian Fellowship Church, Albuquerque, NM!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 27, 2020 at 12:15 pm

      You won’t be sorry. Way to go Oliver.

  3. Phil Parsons on May 25, 2020 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Carey
    Here in the UK we have a mixed church economy as the traditional church is suffering with the older age group and the vibrant and young churches are excited by the opportunity. At Bridge Church UK we are only now entering into the digital online, “Live Sunday Service “opportunity. Already amazed at the reach and impact after two services but reading your latest research we need to be wise going forward. That said, we will keep praying into this vision and mission and its your excellent dialogue and conversations which provide a road map.

    Phil

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 27, 2020 at 12:15 pm

      So encouraged to hear this. Phil, I’ll have Nicky Gumbel on my podcast soon. He has so much to share about digital and the UK.

  4. Buka on May 25, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Well constructed analysis.
    But are not some of the observations contra-indicating?
    If the poll results reported were accurate, half of the prior church attendees stopped.
    It could be they don’t believe.
    Or it could be they don’t find fellowship in watching the equivalent of a movie.
    Or it could be that when they have the internet connection device on in front of them, the temptation to view more entertaining material wins the decision making process. Consider other poll results – like that every day 95% of men view material from the other end of the morality spectrum from a church service – and somewhere approaching 50% of women.
    Perhaps the people are faced with the possibility that they went to a church building for fellowship, as advised to do in the letter to the Hebrews. A place to escape the constant battle with who they are and feel loved, however shallow that love may be. If it was deep, they could talk about their struggles without being despised. Like you can with Jesus.
    For those of us who live in a very different reality than American christians, we have realized that, like Paul in 2 Cor, we can be “pressed far beyond our ability to endure”. Sanity teeters on the edge and contact with other followers of Jesus needs to be physical. In that passage Paul uses the word comfort many times, but does not explain the method of comfort. Perhaps because it transcends the limitations of language.

    The insights in your blog post are true, but there may be bigger changes that are coming. Now may be a good time to pursue resolution to the possibilities of what may come, and develop a view that provides some possibility of endurance.
    I find some great lessons in the blog soon.school.blog
    May the love of Jesus bless each one.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 27, 2020 at 12:17 pm

      I think you share some good point. There are much bigger changes coming. I think what shocked a lot of us is how quickly church goers opted out or moved elsewhere. I do think a new church is forming. I agree with you, it could be great.

    • Walter Swaim on May 27, 2020 at 6:51 pm

      “I realize there will be many who push back against this, but it’s foolish to ignore the fact that people connect more easily online and often admit the truth more readily online than they do in-person (that might not be right, but, as this Stanford research shows, it is often true),”

      But the data presented that the larger percentage isn’t watching at all contradict this? That’s the point… they’re not connecting, they’re disconnecting according to this and I’m seeing it in what we’re observing among many of our churches in our affiliation. They still seek entertainment and this change is giving them time excuse they’ve dreamed of. Just trying to confirm the data here.

  5. Don on May 25, 2020 at 6:45 am

    Very insightful!

    • David on May 27, 2020 at 10:43 am

      Last week I looked for that Barna poll about church goes not watching church online. I cannot find it on any of the Barna sites. Can you help me?

  6. LayKuan Khoo on May 24, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    Would you be able to comment on points that relate to the para-church organizations or missions agencies?

    • Caroline Lyall on May 25, 2020 at 5:17 am

      Very interesting reading. However, for Catholics, the summit of our faith is the Eucharist. At this moment in time we are unable to receive the Eucharist sacramentally but pray to receive Jesus spiritually. Most Catholics are hungering to receive the Eucharist sacramentally again. So on that note, whilst digital church has been wonderful in allowing us to still ‘participate’ in mass most will want to be at mass in person for the reasons outlined above. Zoom has been a wonderful way to keep our prayer groups going in lockdown but doesn’t fully compensate for physically being together. I think a mixture of bith real and virtual church will remain in the future which is a good thing, especially for elderly and housebound people. Yes we DO have to embrace the new normal and give thanks for what we HAVE received during lockdown. God bless

    • Steve Mason on May 25, 2020 at 7:05 am

      I don’t disagree with you but could it be that the data disagree with your point of consolidation? I think people will become suspicious of large crowds which could help the smaller church where people may feel more comfortable. Furthermore, it always harder to pivot a “large ship” than a “jet ski“.
      I would like to hear your prospective on the negative social pressures that are formulating against churches reopening. Now President has weighed in it seems to have become an even more divided political topic. At first it seemed like there was a spiritual awakening that was happening. Now it seems there is stigma to the Church right now in the worlds eyes with churches’ reopening. Could we be missing our opportunity to be a witness because we traded it for the right to be open?

  7. LeeCoate on May 24, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    Carey – awesome perspectives as always. My one “challenge” I’m having that I need you to address from your perspective is you begin by presenting data that people are not watching as much as we think digitally or as often as we think. This is a a shocker for many in the current reality. Yet … are you saying DESPITE that data, you believe that digital is the new normal and should be leveraged even more? I agree on the digital btw and am helping churches do just that, but my pause when I see the data suggest people may not be engaging as much.

    (Parenthetical: I DO believe our opportunity to reach beyond our current attendees and expand the kingdom is greater in the digital world. That’s why the rush back to physical meetings is interesting to me as very few “Ones” will be heading to physical church anytime soon. )

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 27, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      Great question. Digital is the new outreach and a side door for otherwise busy Christians. We are only in the first iteration of digital church. As it gets better, it will grow.

  8. Chris C. on May 24, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    “…In the future, church leaders will see themselves more as equippers, helping people bring their faith more deeply into the homes, neighborhoods and workplaces….”

    Absolutely stunning that this sentence appears as some ‘new’ thing! It’s been the intent from the beginning as gifts were given for the ‘equipping of the saints’. We’ve too long been entertaining them and making them feel good if they show up on Sunday. Oh, yes, we called it equipping but never stopped to ask whether we were effective in so doing. Losing access to the building has been the equivalent of the little boy who noted that the Emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes. Three songs and a talk is to equipping as walking in the rain is taking a drink of water…

    Carey is right, however. It’s a new day!

    • Rob Marks on May 25, 2020 at 7:37 am

      I really appreciate these thoughts but creating strategies from trend predictions can be dangerous. Out of curiosity I clicked on a previous article about the 6 trends for 2020 that were pre-covid19 and some of them aren’t really applicable or at least not very prominent.

      • Walter Swaim on May 27, 2020 at 10:42 pm

        Rob, this occurred to me too. I’m wondering after so many shift to this based on the data presented that a year or two from now we’ll read Carey blog that the new trend is physical presence and touch. I’m being only a little tongue-in-cheek, I seriously wonder if the pendulum will just as easily and briskly swing back the other way again sooner than imagined and we won’t be prepared for that either as we should have been.

    • Annette Wesolowski on May 26, 2020 at 2:14 pm

      Just before accessing this article, I read an article by C. Kavin Rowe on resilience as a characteristic. He saw it as ” a lived hope, a way to keep getting up again that has its roots in God’s permanent faithfulness. ”

      Both of these give me food for thought.
      I am a faith community nurse looking for ways to serve.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 27, 2020 at 12:21 pm

      Agreed. But it’s definitely not the way many leaders have led.

      • Karen on May 30, 2020 at 9:00 pm

        These points are important but this all feels like the church is a corporation and we are trying to save jobs by manipulating customers so they don’t jump ship. I note your points are even Twitter ready.

  9. Jake on May 24, 2020 at 6:59 am

    Hey Carey, Great post as always. Can you give me a link to the Barna research that says 40% of churchgoers haven’t been streaming services over the last 4 weeks? Thanks!

  10. Andrea on May 23, 2020 at 10:38 am

    So depressing. The whole view of the future church, as expressed here, is based on how we do it, the trends, polling members… how we manage our Christian ‘clubs’. Does Jesus have any part to play in building His church and His kingdom? He certainly doesn’t even get a mention here, from start to finish. Jesus never had a church building, worship band, multimillion dollar building programmes to make members more comfortable etc. He used the existing temple, and synagogues, and peoples’ homes, and travelled around meeting people and meeting their needs, and discipling people as he went. And faced persecution. Radical approach, from the One who started the church, and commanded us to follow Him.

    • Bobby Holley on May 25, 2020 at 10:30 am

      Jesus-style discipleship is His only strategy for building His Church. Every church should have the same mission statement: The Great Commission. Today’s Church has failed, especially in the United States, in the partnership Jesus established with His disciples 2,000 years ago. A 2016 Barna poll of pastors found that U.S. pastors believed only 1% of churches were doing discipleship effectively. COVID gives churches a reset to pursue His kingdom-building partnership the right way. The tactics of each church can be dramatically different, but there is only 1 strategy Jesus laid out for building His Kingdom.

    • Karen on May 30, 2020 at 9:02 pm

      Exactly my feeling.

  11. Luke on May 22, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    How did we get to 111% on your online church attendance chart?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 23, 2020 at 6:36 am

      Great question Luke. Those who streamed their own church and a different church have some overlap…people doing multiple services.

  12. Bruce D Southerland on May 22, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    The church is a gathering that grows by the presence and power of Jesus Christ. Currently, I’m on staff at a church of thousands that owns buildings, but meets online. The essentials of church life (birthing, growing and discipline) can be experienced in missional gatherings of two or three. No buildings, no internet, no problem. Perhaps the future will bring a new experience of Jesus’ presence in groups of two or three (sitting six feet apart?).

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 23, 2020 at 6:36 am

      I think that’s a great peek into what will be ‘normal’ a few years from now.

  13. Mark on May 22, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    For the 20+% who watched services from somewhere else, that tells me that a lot of ministers have some work to do and that the bar just got raised. I’d also like to know if those services were from a different denomination. Some churches need to think long and hard about they want to become. Some evangelicals may have needed a liturgy fix while some Catholics may have decided they liked the Latin mass or high mass better.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 23, 2020 at 6:37 am

      It’s a whole new world.

  14. Sally Stearns on May 22, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    We’ll see?? I’m looking more into the scriptures concerning 2020 and beyond. Yes, many will choose to serve and promote Religion this way, but some of us that actually have had to overcome are looking towards better answers. Ones that point more toward community. Things will be changing for sure but so many will be unprepared because they’re still focused on building a culture that’s causing problems! Many of us have anointed our eyes with salve and would rather build a healthy world based on community. And not subjecting our children such an electronic trap of a future. A state of surveillance is upon us if I were to have another child I would not subject them to these traps.

  15. Dave Dawber on May 22, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    Love this idea of prioritizing the online church, and maintaining the old normal. I’m still struggling to see how to build community, connection, and pastoral care within that online environment.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 23, 2020 at 6:38 am

      I hear you. It’s actually surprisingly easy. While you still need some in-person community, online community and relationship is very real.

  16. Jason on May 22, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    I appreciate your feedback here. I especially loved point #3. I believe that a change is needed because it has been hard for me to adapt and lead as a Worship Pastor when I don’t meet with my church. We’ve focused on some more things to post and be helpful on our FB/IG pages and we are still engaging online on Sundays.

    The post that will prove most helpful for me is about repurposing old material. And as you said, “people don’t care if a message is new nearly as much as they care if a message is great.” I have been trying to figure out ways to do it.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 23, 2020 at 6:38 am

      So true Jason!

  17. David Grout on May 22, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    Wonder if we might shift terminology from New Normal to Current Reality. I’m not sure some current realities will ever merit “ Normal” status.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2020 at 2:37 pm

      Sure. Call it what you will. It’s all changing.

      • Lee Coate on May 24, 2020 at 8:32 pm

        Carey – awesome perspectives as always. My one “challenge” I’m having that I need you to address from your perspective is you begin by presenting data that people are not watching as much as we think digitally or as often as we think. This is a a shocker for many in the current reality. Yet … are you saying DESPITE that data, you believe that digital is the new normal and should be leveraged even more? I agree on the digital btw and am helping churches do just that, but my pause when I see the data suggest people may not be engaging as much.

        (Parenthetical: I DO believe our opportunity to reach beyond our current attendees and expand the kingdom is greater in the digital world. That’s why the rush back to physical meetings is interesting to me as very few “Ones” will be heading to physical church anytime soon. )

  18. Jordan on May 22, 2020 at 11:05 am

    This isn’t negative but just something we’re seeing where we are. A lot of people are not saying, “Hey all I need is online.” I see most saying, “I can’t wait to have human interaction again.” Digital is great and we have been utilizing it to the best of our ability, but the overall consensus in our 4-location church is that there’s something special about people gathering together in person that will never expire or be fully replaced by digital. Again, not disagreeing or anything. Just sharing a thought.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2020 at 11:14 am

      I hear that too. And I think people will behave very differently. There will an initial surge, and then a drop off. Wish it wasn’t true. But nobody as more invested in live gatherings than pastors, so that’s where our hearts and minds will take us.

  19. Adam Ward on May 22, 2020 at 10:15 am

    I’ve been listening to your podcast for a few months now. Love it! Also, I have been listening to Church Pulse Weekly. Also, amazing. One thought has been nagging me: the “church” never was a building so why are we still referring to it as such. That “church” is a local brand/team/content producer now. Your 7 points prove why we need the new normal to be we’re all the church, and we are being discipled by multiple Christina producers. Let’s stop pushing the old paradigm. We worship, get inspired, and grow from a variety of services now but it doesn’t matter if we don’t change those around us.
    Keep up the great work!! Love you Carey!!!!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2020 at 10:38 am

      Glad to help Adam!

      Love your perspective on the future.

  20. Scott Sears on May 22, 2020 at 9:08 am

    I wish I could find the actual quote and give credit where credit is due, but recently I read from a recovering addict that what we are experiencing is “recovery.” Because of that the writer shared a bit a wisdom that stuck with me – “Normal is only a setting on the dryer.” Think agility. Think disruption. There is no normal.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2020 at 11:28 am

      Love that. Thanks!

    • Joanne Venneker-Louwe on May 22, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      Scott Sears: Patsy Clairmont a Christian writer wrote, “Norman is only a setting on the dryer” in one of her books years ago.

  21. Jay Dunston on May 22, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Great post Carey! Point 4 is exactly what I’ve been studying in school this summer. Leaders need the ability to be agile in our fast paced, ever-changing world. A great read on this is Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal! Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2020 at 11:28 am

      Thanks Jay. Stanley McChrystal is amazing!

  22. Gary on May 22, 2020 at 8:56 am

    Great observations and as you said; “just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” The “just preach the gospel and they will come and everything will be okay” crowd just got a dose of reality.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2020 at 11:29 am

      Gary…thanks for that. If “just preach the Gospel and they will come and everything will be okay” was the answer, we wouldn’t have had the deep slide we’ve had for decades. Appreciate your voice in this!

  23. Dr. Dan Tyler on May 22, 2020 at 8:25 am

    On March 15 we had 350 church members and a low live attendance of 149 because of Covid-19. On March 22 we did our first ever live streaming and had 152,000 viewers. Since then over 2.2 million people have viewed one of our 9 broadcasts. Our church leaders are still leading their ministry Teams during the live broadcast. Greeters are still greeting viewers, ushers are still making people feel comfortable, and our prayer team has grown from 60 requests a week to 600+. Income is way up, mainly from folks who once attended, moved away, and are back. Bottom line is we’ve grown from a local ministry of 350 people to a worldwide outreach to thousands.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2020 at 11:30 am

      And that, Dan, is the future. Wow. I’d love to learn more. Feel free to leave details of what happened and how it happened. From hundreds to millions is a rare story.

  24. Dale Brown on May 22, 2020 at 8:23 am

    When I began as a pastor at the age of 19 back in 1980 it was clear then that the old model of church was being exploded by cultural trends. God has been taking down the old forms of church and replacing them with new. It is great to see the refreshing ways God is reaching people through his people!

  25. Paul Haroutunian on May 22, 2020 at 8:11 am

    Thanks so much Carey, some of the best summary of upcoming trends or at least possible trends that we had better be thinking about. Appreciate the honesty, just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s not true. Will be sharing.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2020 at 8:25 am

      Thanks Paul. I do see a tremendous opportunity here too.

  26. Cameron Truett on May 22, 2020 at 7:52 am

    There’s been so much emphasis lately on how the church is going digital- I’d be curious as to thoughts on what you think the function of the physical church will be in your opinion.
    I see a lot of these stats your pointing to, and instead of thinking “oh sweet, things are going digital, lets go digital,” I wonder if we should be seeing this as more of a problem to be fixed.
    If remote church was fine then people would have just stayed home to read Spurgeons sermons that were published in the paper In the 1800s, or watched a televangelist on the 90s.
    Especially for more sacramental churches this data isn’t something to lean into, but a problem to be concerned with.
    Sort of like was said in your Tim Keller interview- how do you take the data and separate what is from what ought to be?

  27. Mitch on May 22, 2020 at 7:38 am

    I like this article even though some of the trends do cause some concern. The Church has adapted through every world change and will this one as well…But it is certainly going to be an interesting ride.

  28. Oupa on May 22, 2020 at 7:25 am

    Wow! This is truly fantastic! 😃

    I never really gave much thought on how the Church would operate in the future. I was just thinking about business and corporate organisations. We pray for wisdom as the Church transitions to a “new normal”

  29. Louise Cherrie on May 22, 2020 at 7:11 am

    This is absolutely brilliant and so helpful. Thank you!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 22, 2020 at 7:12 am

      Thanks Louise. I don’t like it all but I’m thankful to try to figure out how to respond together.

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