By Thom S. Rainer
There is a small army of church consultants on the field now.
After three years of training and certifying church consultants at Church Consultation University, we get regular input from the field about the churches they are serving. They are our “boots on the ground” and provide us with incredible insights. Here are seven of the most common trends they are reporting.
- Church leaders are more willing to ask for help. That is indeed a good sign. Admission of need is the first step toward moving toward a path of recovery and health. One of the downsides, if there are really any downsides, is the demand for consultants now exceeds the number of consultants available, especially in normative churches of under 200 in average worship attendance.
- Church leaders and members recognize that evangelism in their churches is waning. They thus want to hear how best to mobilize and engage the members to reach the community with the gospel. A corollary trend is a renewed interest in the composition of a community, its demographics, and psychographics. You can’t very well reach a community unless you know your community.
- There is an increased interest in church adoption. This process goes by different names such as church mergers, church replanting, and church acquisition. I like the term “church adoption,” coined by Sam Rainer. It reflects the uniting of two families into one. It indicates the “parent” family chooses to adopt and love the congregation it is adopting.
- The attendance frequency issue is a topic of increasing interest. Church consultants are sharing with us more and more the concern of attendance frequency. Simply stated, “active” members are attending with less frequency. It is the number one reason for decline in many churches.
- The issue of deferred maintenance is a crisis in many churches. Our consultants are reporting a number of churches that simply don’t have the funds to maintain their deteriorating facilities. We have recommended Cool Solutions Group on many occasions to help churches deal with both problems and preventive actions.
- There is a greater interest in non-Sunday worship times. One of our certified church consultants reported more churches asking about alternative worship times than any time in his life. It seems church leaders are learning that culture has changed significantly on the workdays of many people in our communities. In many communities, as many as one-third of the population works on Sunday mornings.
- Many church leaders are asking for help with worship centers and sanctuaries that are too large. The consultants tell us they are getting these inquiries from both declining and growing churches. One church built a sanctuary in 2002 to hold 750 people. At the time the church had an attendance approaching 500. The church has grown modestly over the years, where the attendance is about 545 today. But those 545 people are spread between two services, preschool care, and children’s church. The current pastor laments the excess space they have today.
We are in our third year of training and certifying consultants through Church Consultation University. I am incredibly grateful for their ministries and how they are helping us to understand local congregations better. We are opening enrollment for our next class soon. You can get the information here. The class will be limited to 30. If you are ready to join this army of church health consultants, jump in quickly. You will be glad you did.
Posted on January 6, 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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I am wondering if it’s too early to make drastic moves within church structure based on the results of the COVID-19 Pandemic, that started less than 12 months ago. Perhaps it would be a better tactic to look at the needs prior to the Pandemic, which could be the main reason a church is in the situation it is in now. For example, consider the need for more evangelism. I suspect that most churches have needed this for years. The same in declining attendance frequency of “active” members. I wonder if there is more thinking about home churches.
Dr. Rainer. Several of our leadership members have read your book “ I am a Church member”. After reading your book I felt so blessed. I have been pastoring a now for Almost 9 years. It has grown from a small Bible Study to over 100 people. There are wonderful testimonies here. Our main focus is to glorify God in everything we do. We have reached out to the community with great response. The Spirit of God is alive and well. We are preparing to teach the congregation the principles outlined in your book we just read though group study lessons. I look forward to a on going relationship with you and your wonderful books. God Bless.
Thank you, Charlie.
As far as non-Sunday worship times, when are some churches looking at having a a worship service?
What I would love to see is a church thriving where there is no consumer based reason to do so – no big worship show, no modern buildings, no carefully crafted, culturally relevant marketing strategy, no entertainment for the kids, no charismatic leader, just men and women committed to God’s word and making disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s when you know the Holy Spirit is truly working.
I guess we need to define “thriving”. (being serious)
The consumer driven church has to adapt to changing culture or it will die. That’s basically what this blog is about. Of course the first century church was counter-culture, which is one of the connotations of the word “church,” but the first century church was also discipleship driven and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit…something you can’t get from a consultant.
Any thoughts or stats on how the proliferation of live stream / Facebook live etc. may impact negatively the attendance for worship services?
I am currently leading a church through an “adoption” process now. This church of 8 will vote in 2 weeks to come under the “spiritual leadership” of stronger, healthy church that is about 20 miles away. What I have loved about this process is the attitude from both churches. The adopted church has vocalized, “this is not about the name of the church or our names. It is about the name of Jesus.” The adopting church has stated: “We gain nothing from this venture. In fact, as a church, we “lose”. We will “lose” members. We “lose” a staff pastor. We will “lose” finances. So this isn’t about our expansion. It is about the gospel and kingdom expansion in a community in need.”
CC.U training has been very helpful in leading in this process, thank you Dr. Rainer!
Thank you so much, Brian. Blessings to you and the church.
What are the attendance frequency numbers your consultants are reporting? I saw a figure a while back for 1.6 times per month, but don’t know where I saw it.
We are hearing more trends of diminished frequency rather than specific numbers from the consultants.
Thanks for the insight Dr. Rainer. As I have begun to use what I learned in CCU it is now not simply the knowledge but the experience in seeing these types of things in real life settings. They are true and it is an opportunity to help churches.
You are doing a great job, Elbert!