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.