I’ve been doing trends and predictions for churches for many years. My track record is good, but it has nothing to do with my sagacity. To the contrary, my approach is straightforward. I look at the data points and try to connect them to see the trends.
This COVID year is different. We know the world has been turned upside down by the disease, and churches have definitely felt the impact. My confidence level in projecting trends in past years has been high.
But this year is different. Indeed, much has changed.
You will see how significantly COVID affected my projections in each of these ten trends. Also, this exercise is biased for a North American context. Some of the points simply may not hold in a non-North American world.
1. Worship attendance will average 80% of pre-COVID numbers. We are essentially predicting that attendance will not fully recover in 2022. As more COVID variants enter the world, there will continue to be a hesitation by many people to attend weekly worship gatherings.
2. Neighborhood churches will become a movement. We think this movement has already begun, but we will see clear indicators of it in 2022. We define a neighborhood church as a congregation that is laser-focused on ministering to a specific geographical area typically described as a neighborhood.
3. There will be more community focus than any period in 30 years. While the neighborhood church movement is a factor in this renewed community focus, it is not the only factor. We are greatly encouraged by this growing direction. Anecdotally, we see it at Church Answers. Our Know Your Community report is our fastest-growing resource.
4. The micro church could become a movement, but there are challenges. We define a micro church as a congregation with 30 or fewer attendees. The growth in the number of these churches was on an upward trend until COVID. Now, we see hesitancy to invite people into homes. We will see where this trend heads.
5. There will be more emphasis on evangelism than any period in 30 years. This trend is mostly positive. More churches and their leaders are obeying the Great Commission. But it is also a bit pragmatic as churches see other sources of growth like cultural Christianity declining rapidly.
6. More churches will merge or be adopted than any period in 30 years. There is a greater willingness of struggling churches to be adopted, and there are more churches willing to adopt other congregations than at any point in many years. This movement will prove to be pivotal to keep the doors open of churches that would otherwise close. It is also an indicator that the multisite movement will continue to grow. Once a healthier church adopts a struggling church, the healthier church is immediately multisite.
7. Denominational structures will begin to look more like networks. Many denominations realize that a top-down structure does not work in most contexts. Leaders in the denominations that are adapting are getting their guidance and ideas from the churches and their leaders who are at ground level.
8. Departures of pastors will increase by 20%. The Great Resignation will hit pastors hard. It is a conversation we have at Church Answers almost every day. There is definitely a pastor shortage on the horizon.
9. Ministry training will begin to evolve into different models. Seminaries, Bible colleges, and Christian universities are not going away. But new models will begin to grow at a rapid pace. We will have more on this trend in the next several weeks.
10. Church giving will decline 5%. Many churches experienced increased giving or at least level giving in 2020 and 2021. We are grateful for the generosity and stewardship of many faithful believers. But we also know that a large amount of liquidity was injected into the market by the government. Billions of dollars made it into the accounts of church members. We don’t anticipate future governmental support at that level. I just talked with one pastor whose church’s giving grew by 10% each of the past two years. He has decided not to budget an increase in 2022 for the very reason noted here.
Many of these projected trends are good. Others are not. Stay tuned at Church Answers and our podcast, Rainer on Leadership, as we dive deeper into these projections.
Posted on December 13, 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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