This article will get me in trouble.
It began with a simple and informal poll on social media followed by several direct conversations. The question I asked was basic: “What did you have or do in your church ten years ago that you don’t have or do today?”
The top twenty responses were, for me at least, a fascinating mix of the expected and the surprises. They are ranked in order of frequency.
- Sunday evening services. It is amazing how quickly these services have disappeared. Except for Sunday evening services that are an alternative to and replica of the Sunday morning services, there are fewer and fewer churches meeting on Sunday evening.
- The stand-and-greet time. A discussion of this issue generated much banter and controversy at this blog several months ago. But the respondents told us it clearly was a practice falling out of favor.
- Suit and ties. Ten years ago, church members expected the males on the platform to wear a suit and tie. Casual dress is now the norm in most churches.
- The organ. This instrument was a standard in many churches ten years ago. It is now unusual to see an organ still played in worship services.
- Print newsletters. The digital world has come to churches. Most church members are fine receiving information digitally today.
- Prolonged and frequent business meetings. Many churches decided to limit the amount of time for business meetings because they became a platform for the most negative and contentious members. One church leader called it their “monthly fist fight.”
- The name of “Sunday school” for the groups in the church. As the traditional name as fallen out of favor, it has been replaced with community groups, life groups, home groups, and many other names typically ending in “groups.”
- Choirs. Many churches have moved from choirs to praise teams and instrumentalists.
- The parlor. I didn’t see this one coming. The parlor is a room for special occasions, such as a reception or a bride’s dressing room. One church leader called it “the most unused sacred cow in our church.”
- Weekly visitation in homes. Uninvited guests are no longer as welcome in homes as they once were. Several leaders told us the home visitation program did more harm than good.
- Hymnals. Hymnals have been replaced with projected words on a screen by many churches.
- Wednesday night fellowship meals. Indeed, many churches in the past had paid cooks on staff.
- Casual approach to recruiting children’s workers. Today most churches do fairly extensive background checks before they allow someone to work in the children’s ministry.
- Program-driven philosophy of ministry. In the past, many churches determined most of their entire schedule by programs resourced by denominations and other providers. The programs drove the ministries and the schedule.
- Large pulpits. The big pulpit has been replaced with smaller pulpits or stands.
- Special music/anthems. This item was another one that caught me by surprise. But, as I reflect on the many churches I visit, I see why it was a common response.
- Food pantry. Many churches have disbanded their food pantries and, instead, contribute to a community food bank. The local church leaders simply did not have the expertise to discern if needs were real.
- King James Version. This one was another surprise to me, because I have been in very few KJV churches the past 25 years.
- Office hours for ministry staff. Again, I had not expected this response, but it does make sense. If someone wants to meet with a pastor or other staff member, he or she is likely to make an appointment rather than drop by during prescribed office hours.
- Land lines. Some churches have done away with them altogether.
Thanks to those who participated in this survey. And now . . . let the discussion begin.
Posted on June 14, 2017
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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