The concept of “place” has changed dramatically during COVID.
Perhaps it is more accurate to say the COVID accelerated the trends that were already underway. “Place” is different.
Think about it. For centuries, the home has been a place for family and retreat. Now it has become our theater with streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, Disney +, and many more. Home has become our stadium and athletic arena. We have become accustomed to viewing sporting events rather than attending them. And for some, home has become our fitness center, since we elected to buy a Peleton bike rather than keep our gym membership. And, of course, the home has become an office for millions.
Think about offices. They were the daytime domain of employees. Many of those employees are now at home, in coffee shops, and in workshare places.
Think about theaters. COVID closed many. Some are barely hanging on. The viewing place of tens of millions has moved home.
We are in a post-place world. “Place” has been redefined and reimagined.
So, what are the implications for churches? Is the world of in-person services going away? Are small groups becoming small Zoom groups?
Though we can’t know with certainty, we can see some profound implications for the place called church. Here are five of them:
- The church will become a destination place for many for gathering. Call it a contrarian view, but I am seeing more signs of this reality. While digital worship will still be very important, there is a pent-up desire by many for some type of regular healthy gathering. Churches can satisfy this desire, but there is a presumption that the church is healthy. Unhealthy churches will decline faster. Healthy churches will grow faster. Most churches, at least initially, will have fewer people gathering. Those on the periphery, such as the cultural Christians, will not return. The median decline of churches once in the post-pandemic phase will be around 20 percent.
- Because the home will be prominent in the post-place world, neighborhood churches will become more important. Home is the entertainment center, the physical workout place, the office, and the athletic arena or stadium. Home will be at the center of places. Those who live in the homes will look to local venues of close proximity. The neighborhood church has the opportunity to be a big factor in the post-place world.
- Churches have the opportunity to be a post-place option for those in their community. Most churches have an abundance of space. Really, most churches have too much space. The churches that are creative in the post-place world will find Great Commission ways to reach their communities by making their facilities available to them.
- Fewer small groups will meet in church facilities in the post-place world. This trend has been exacerbated by COVID. For a long season, many churches built large educational facilities for their on-campus groups. It was not a bad thing. We saw much better assimilation metrics with on-campus groups versus off-campus groups. But the existing trend to move groups to homes, coffee shops, and other non-church places has accelerated during COVID.
- Church facilities will be built dramatically differently in the future. Worship centers will be smaller. Some churches will build a facility specifically designed to be shared with members of the community. Education buildings will almost disappear. And so will buildings for church staff to have individual offices. At most, many churches will build a coworking room for their staff. Most church staff have already discovered they really don’t need the church facility for an office.
The post-place world is changing much in our culture. Local churches will be a part of this dramatic shift.
How will your church respond? What other shifts do you see churches making?
Posted on February 26, 2021
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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