Eight Major Changes in Churches the Past Ten Years


Change or die.

Such has been the reality of too many congregations the past ten years as the rate of church closures has accelerated. Many have died; others are on life support.

But what are some of the major changes that have taken place in congregations that are doing relatively well? What are some of the ways these congregations have adapted to new realities? Here is a hint: None of the changes in healthy churches have compromised doctrine, diminished the centrality of preaching, or abandoned sharing the gospel.

So what changes have occurred in healthy churches in the last decade? Here are eight of them:

  1. Today: Smaller worship gatherings.
    Ten years ago: Larger worship gatherings.
    There are several factors impacting this change, among them more multi-site churches, more non-traditional worship times, and a desire among the Millennials to be a part of a smaller gathering rather than a larger gathering.
  1. Today: Smaller church facilities
    Ten years ago: Larger church facilities
    There are three major issues at work here. First, church leaders are more hesitant to spend funds on largely unused facilities. Second, churches are building with less space for adult small groups or Sunday school, and are choosing to have those groups meet off-site or on non-worship days. Third, the smaller worship gathering noted above means smaller worship centers.
  1. Today: First priority staff person hired: children’s minister
    Ten years ago: First priority staff person hired: worship leader
    This shift is largely influenced by the large Millennial generation and their children. Millennials are looking for a church that is safe, sanitary, educational, and fun for their children.
  1. Today: Ministry degree optional for church staff members
    Ten years ago: Ministry degree strongly preferred for church staff
    Churches today are more likely to call someone on staff from within their congregations. That person may not have a Bible college or seminary degree.
  1. Today: Emphasis on congregational singing
    Ten years ago: Emphasis on performance singing
    Healthy churches are seeing an awakening of congregational singing today. Ten years ago, contemporary churches emphasized the performance of the praise team and band, while traditional churches emphasized the performance of the choir and soloists.
  1. Today: Community focus
    Ten years ago: Community myopia
    Too many churches the past two decades all but abandoned their communities and are paying the price for their shorts-sightedness today. Healthy churches realize that the community is their place of ministry, their “Jerusalem” of Acts 1:8.
  1. Today: Vital importance of groups
    Ten years ago: Marginal importance of groups
    Healthy churches today make groups (community groups, home groups, Sunday school, life groups, etc.) a high priority. Ten years ago, many church leaders did not see how groups could enhance the health of the church in discipleship, evangelism, prayer, ministry, and fellowship.
  1. Today: Church leaders are continuous learners
    Ten years ago: Church leaders were “degree and done”
    For several decades, church leaders essentially ended their education process with a college or seminary degree. In today’s ever-changing world, leaders of healthy churches have intentionally established a discipline of continuous learning.

These eight major shifts took place in a relatively brief period.

More are on the way.

Are you ready?

Posted on May 10, 2017

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Joan Harrelson says on

    I wish church would go back to what I grew up I went to Sunday school and then I went to preaching I saw not in a classroom when the preacher was preaching from the world of God I learned about God and that he died for my sins and I asked him to come into my heart at the age of 8 cause I was in church and taught about God and in school as well

  • I have noticed as an older Christian that Mainline churches like the Baptist and most other churches are yielding to the wishes of the younger people and are changing services and dress codes just to please only the young. This has caused the loss of the true Worshiping of God as intended through music and the congregational spiritual experience. The Bible says God inhabits the Praises of his people but most churches rarely offer the opportunity to fully Praise and Worship God through music and they seem to limit time for a true spiritual worship. In seeking to please young people most of our we have lost the true meaning of going to church on Sunday. As a result we are now seeing a definite decline in Church attendance and membership and most people are scratching their heads about the purpose in these services which sing songs no one has heard of and Ministers are dressing like high school or college students all as an attempt to make young people comfortable while suffering the decline in the worship and traditional experiences. We should get back to the basics of our faith and stop worrying about pleasing the young people. They should come and learn about Christ and Worship him in Spirit and in Truth and treat church with respect and reverence. It should not be a party or day care center but should be a time to praise , worship, and learning how to serve Christ as he expects us to. In short, The Church is too Worldly.

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