Ten Major Trends for Local Churches in America in 2023


It is one of many blessings God has given me.

At Church Answers, we hear from tens of thousands of churches, church leaders, and church members every year. We are truly blessed to have our “ear to the ground” to hear what is taking place among the estimated 350,000 congregations in America.

We take each piece of data (we call them “dots”) we receive and connect the dots to understand developments in the present that will become trends in the near future.

Here are ten of the most common developments we’ve discerned. They will likely become trends in 2023.

1. Local congregations will emphasize evangelism more than at any point in the past three decades. Church leaders understand they can’t lead a church to growth with cultural Christians (a true oxymoron) and transfer growth. If churches desire truly to make disciples, they must begin with evangelism.

2. The increase in the growth of diversity in congregations will be its greatest ever in 2023. Millennials see a monocultural generation as out-of-touch. Gen Z cannot imagine anything monocultural, especially a church.

3. The year 2023 will be a record year for church adoptions. An adopted church is a congregation that comes into the family, care, and authority of another, usually healthier, church. Of course, more churches will seek adoption because they are about to die and close.

4. More churches will have specific global partners. Churches in America will seek to partner with churches in other nations, particularly where the gospel is spreading the most rapidly. This trend is more than an increase in mission giving; it is an intentional and strategic partnership with a specific church or churches.

5. The time between pastors for churches will be longer than ever. I can remember when a long-term interim period was twelve months. Today, many churches have these interim periods for two to three years or more.

6. The number of interim pastors will be greater than ever. This trend is obviously a corollary of trend number five. Some of these interim pastors are preachers only. Others are considered “intentional interims” with consultive roles as well as preaching.

7. More churches will request consultations than at any point in American church history. For example, we get ten times more requests now at Church Answers than we did just three years ago. Congregations are more willing or more desperate to seek outside help.

8. Church autopsies will be the fastest growing area of research in American churches. I wrote Autopsy of a Deceased Church in 2014 and the demand for the book began growing again in 2022. Thousands of churches have closed, and we are trying to discover the reasons for their death.

9. More pastors and staff will become bi-vocational and co-vocational. The latter term usually refers to those who chose to remain in the marketplace. Bi-vocational pastors are those who have work outside the church because their church could not compensate them with full-time pay.

10. More pastors and staff will get their theological and ministry training in the church. This trend has been growing the past decade and will continue to grow even more in 2023.

Yes, American churches have many challenges. But I see a lot of hope in the midst of these challenges.

My prayer is for your church to become a hope-filled congregation in 2023!


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Posted on December 26, 2022

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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  • Marilou Simmons says on

    Can I sign up for this and get access to a replay? I’m working my other job at that time.

  • Thanks for your report. That’s very interesting. But I wonder you included mainline denominations in your research. I work for one of the mainline denominations in Canada and many of your points sounds foreign to me.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Yes, we work with hundreds of mainline churches. Among the mainline churches, United Methodists represent our largest client base.

  • Hi Thom, thanks for sharing your insight. I’m curious about “4. More churches will have specific global partners.” I’m assuming most churches that form global partnerships are a part of a denomination that helps to facilitate partnerships. Do you have any non- (or inter-) denominational organizations you can recommend that help to facilitate partnerships between a US and a non-US church?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Paul –

      You are correct in your perspective on denominational churches. I would love for your church to look at the partnership we have facilitated with East African churches. We are starting in Uganda, but we plan to expand to other East African nations. You can get more information at our sister nonprofit, Revitalize Network (www.revitalizenetwork.org), or write us at [email protected].

  • Thom,

    Thanks for supplying the Christian community with helpful, insightful, and sagacious blog posts for 2022 and other helpful books and resources. Your blog posts and books have helped confirm many things that pastors and church leaders have experienced during and after the pandemic.

    Recently, I had to do a presentation for our College (Huntsville Bible College, HBC) during a church leaders conference on “The New Normal – Strategies for the Post-Covid Church.” The conference director requested practical information (she didn’t want presentations steeped in theories) that would help pastors and church leaders navigate the tumultuous waters of church revitalization post-pandemic. Thus, I developed a PowerPoint presentation from my pastoral experience related to the revitalization process I envisioned and implemented for our church.

    During the presentation, I offered a Six-Step Post-Pandemic Church Revitalization Plan entitled “REVIVE.”

    Remember to engage in strategic planning and change management
    Envision the future
    Vulnerability in a safe space
    Ingenuity through collaboration
    Viability through the three Ps of sustainability
    Empower people to fulfill the vision

    After I developed the PowerPoint presentation, I read The Post Quarantine Church (Rainer, 2020) and The Church Revitalization Checklist (Rainer, 2021). I discovered both books by reading your blog posts. Even though our conference director didn’t want theories, I knew, if needed, I could ground my presentation theme (six steps) in theories and principles I discovered after developing my PowerPoint presentation.

    Thom, I agree that many churches have died and are still dying, and like you, I would like to know the specific reasons for their deaths. However, even though I don’t have an empirical answer for their deaths, I do have a highly probable reason for these churches dying and staying dead: Pride and a lack of humility (James 4:10). Many of the churches in our area have died, and several will stay dead because they fail to address their inner “heart problem” that appear through visible symptoms (Rainer, 2014, pg. 36 – Autopsy of a Deceased Church). Pride has and will prevent many of these churches from seeking much needed help in acquiring information, knowledge, and understanding necessary to ensure church revitalization. Nevertheless, I pray more churches will overcome the subtle but deadly problem of pride before eventual “destruction” (Prov. 11:2, 16:18, 18:12, 29:23).

    Again, thanks for all you do for the body of Christ. Your work and tireless labor are much appreciated. Keep “do[ing] your best” (2 Tim. 2:15, NIV) for the Lord’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). I pray the Lord will bless you to offer more helpful insights in 2023 and beyond. Have a Happy New Year!

  • William A. Secrest says on

    The shortage of pastors and interims is going to make things very interesting for smaller churches. Churches that were used to having full-time pastors are going to have to switch gears and call on new ministers who are bi-vocational or co-vocational. Which means that they are going to have to be more active in the ministries of the church than they were before. Or their church is going to die a slow death. Many of the things that you wrote are spot-on and my church is currently working with the “Unstuck Group” and it has been a wonderful experience so far. Having an outside perspective helps any church. We recognized that something needed to change because our current trend showed that we would not be around in about five years. We have definitely made a course correction and I am about to begin preaching a sermon series about the vision for the next three years. Be praying for First Baptist Aurora, Indiana.