Five Things Churches Should Do Differently in 2021


As I am writing this article, I was notified that my grandson, Joshua, had broken his ankle. My granddaughter, Collins, broke her arm this year. My son, Sam, broke his leg a month ago. And my wife, Nellie Jo, broke her wrist earlier this year.

That’s four different Rainer families with broken bones in the same year. 

2020. Ugh.

Come quickly 2021!

For certain, there are many of us looking forward to leaving 2020 behind and entering a new year. We anticipate that 2021 will be much better. Indeed, we have every reason to believe it will be a better year. 

As our team works with church leaders, we are often asked what changes or pivots their churches should make as their congregations move to a new year. Though this list is not exhaustive, we find ourselves making these five recommendations consistently. 

  1. Triple the amount of time your church dedicates to outreach to the community. It’s all about the Great Commission. For years, many of our churches have gradually reduced their commitment to reaching their communities. We are incredibly excited that thousands of churches have adopted Pray and Go (see with a new commitment to make a difference where they live.
  1. Have a backup budget. The economic outlook for 2021 is murky, but we do see some troubling signs. Indeed, we are already beginning to hear from church leaders whose churches are showing signs of deteriorating finances. We are encouraging many leaders to have a backup plan if giving does not meet expectations. 
  1. Move from incremental change to substantive change. In the past, I advocated an “eating an elephant” posture toward change in established churches. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and thus you lead change in a church one small step at a time. I can no longer advocate incremental change. We simply do not have the time to wait on people like we once did. If we wait on some of the more resistant people in our church to change, we may have closed the doors long before they are ready. 
  1. Cut back on the clutter and activities. Many of our churches are simply too busy. We are sacrificing our families and opportunities to develop relationships in the community because of church calendars. COVID has given us a new opportunity to focus on doing a few things well in our churches. The simple church will become the effective church. 
  1. Approach ministry with a church planter mindset. I have called this new opportunity “the blank slate.” Instead of doing things the way we’ve always done them, ruthlessly evaluate everything your church is doing. If your church were starting anew, what would it start doing? What would it stop doing? COVID has given us a new opportunity to rethink church. Don’t let the opportunity pass. 

I am watching the calendar closely. For sure, 2020 has not been a stellar year for many of us. But it has been a season where we can re-evaluate our lives and our ministries. Indeed, it can lead us to 2021 with a new enthusiasm for our churches and the people we lead and love.

 So, come quickly 2021. There are incredible opportunities just around the corner.

Posted on November 23, 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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  • Terry Allen says on

    Awesome post and very encouraging.

  • Robin G Jordan says on

    In many cases what we are doing is really replanting a church. What congregation we have left is essentially the core group of a new congregation. The problem as I see it is that it may not be the ideal core group for a replant. With a new plant you seek to start with a core group that is onboard as far as to what needs to be done to give the new church a good start. The remnant with which we may be left may have more invested in doing things the old way. They may have come back to church because they are attached to the building, miss what has become a familiar Sunday routine, and that sort of thing. They may really not be the best folks to relaunch the church. I was involved in church planting for a number of years and it was my experience that folks with fixed ideas of how to do church did not make good new church pioneers. They lacked flexibility.

  • What about the signs all around us as it relates to bible prophecy? The emphasis is for the church to wake up and draw close to God and get ready for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Too many spots and wrinkles in churches because Holiness and repentance is not on the fire front. America is being judge for its acceptance of the Sodom and Noah time frame lifestyle. According to the world the church is non essential and this is alarming. You talk of programs and strategies when the allowing of the Holy Spirit to move is kept at Bay. The book of revelation is playing before our very eyes and the church is silent…..I am saddened but in prayer.

  • Point # 5 resonates with me. As pastor of a small congregation, the decision has been made to abandon renting space again. We are Zooming with a steady 15 – 20 dialing in, with their family present. We are scattered as some who have moved away to other states are zooming in (ex, TX, CA), and others are still “local”, but at least 45 mins to an hour apart. We offer Bible study on Tuesdays at 9 AM and 6 PM. Prayer meeting is Wed at 7 pm. The fellowship has been told that the goal is for THEM to be able to be the voice of truth, calm, and reason wherever they are. People are ready now more than ever to hear from someone who is not fearful of the world narrative. The fellowship is prepped and urged to not “call Pastor Brad”, but rely on Holy Spirit and implement what they are learning on Tuesday, and how to zoom a simple, from home (not church bldg.) worship service. Using a media company, we are posting messages on Facebook from the Sunday Sermon. I see this as the Acts 28:30, 31 moment because we are entering into another lockdown, and folks are beginning to panic again.

  • Thank you!! Still pondering step 2 but the rest is like a “Great Commission or Bust” plan. Should get everyone sailing out of the Doldrums.