I know. The number “2020” has taken a new meaning.
It used to mean perfect vision. Now it means lousy everything.
But 2021 represents a fresh start. In that context, our team at Church Answers is recommending to church leaders that they use 2021 as a new base year. In other words, comparisons with previous years are apples-to-oranges. We are in a post-quarantine era that behooves us to make comparisons from 2021 forward. It will likely not mean a lot to compare church metrics using 2020 and prior years.
Numbers and metrics are not our goals. They are not all-important. But they are good indicators of church health. Just like the thermometer we use to measure our body temperature, metrics can be pointers to measures of church health.
We are thus suggesting 2021 become a fresh start for churches, a blank slate if you will. Church leaders have the opportunity to lead their congregations anew. Here are five of the primary reasons we are suggesting that 2021 become a new base year for your church.
- Because so many things changed in 2020. Your church is not returning to a new normal. It is returning to a new reality. For sure, biblical truth is unchanging, but the way we “do church” will change dramatically if our churches are to thrive, even survive, in the days ahead.
- Because churches have the opportunity to restart with a blank slate. Though the pandemic has been tragic in many ways, it is still an opportunity to look at how we lead our churches forward. In a September 26, 2020 article in the Wall Street Journal, the authors noted that new business starts are at amazing levels. Look at this quote: “Americans are starting new businesses at the fastest rate in more than a decade, according to government data, seizing on pent-up demand and new opportunities after the pandemic shut down and reshaped the economy (see “Is It Insane to Start a Business During Coronavirus? Millions of Americans Don’t Think So.” by Gwynn Guilford and Charity L. Scott, Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2020). While churches should not mimic the business world in everything they do, it is a good reminder of the unique context in which we live.
- Because metrics are changing. More churches than ever are looking at digital metrics. Most of them have no previous years’ comparisons. We also see metrics of conversion growth becoming more important than ever. And as we note below in the fifth point, new metrics will have to be used to account for the new sites, venues, and campuses that will open.
- Because around 20 percent of attendees will not return. This data point is more anecdotal at this point, but we are hearing it from hundreds of church leaders. Most of them are telling us that one out of five of the pre-COVID attendees will not return. We refer to this group as “the stragglers” or “the ex-churched.” This new reality is yet another reason why 2021 should be a new base year.
- Because the “multi-movement” will become more pervasive. Worship gatherings will be smaller. Churches were moving toward new sites, campuses, and venues well before the pandemic. That trend has accelerated. We will begin to see new metrics to account for new sites and gatherings.
The year 2020 will become a marker for history. For certain, it will be a marker that includes sickness, death, and dismal economic realities. But it will also be a marker for new opportunities. You are about to see God do an incredible work in thousands of churches in 2021.
I pray your church is among them.
Posted on October 12, 2020
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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