What’s Next for the Church in 2020 and Beyond?
Dave Travis and Leadership Network have given us a great, short look into the future of church in North America with the book What’s Next: 2020 Edition. Many have sensed that the future may require some adjustments and new thinking about some of the methods we have relied on. Churches are either digging in, hanging on for survival, or making adjustments to meet the future. The short book What’s Next: 2020 is a good short primer that will help church leaders adjust thinking for the future. It would be great to go through as church staff or to give to key leaders in your church as you think about the next 10 years.
Most of the book is confirmation of things we’ve heard over the last few years:
- Reaching Millennials is both a must and a huge challenge.
- Tax breaks and incentives for churches and parishioners will probably go away in the future.
- Church buildings will get smaller and less traditional.
- The church must embrace multi-ethnic ministry in the future.
There are a few surprises in the book. Here’s a few takeaways from my Kindle Highlights:
- In 2019, Millenials will overtake Boomers as the largest generation group.
- Almost one in three Americans is Millenial.
- 45% of Millenials are non-white, making them the most racially diverse generation. 20% of Millenials are Latino, 14% Black, 6% Asian.
- Millenials have a stronger desire to excel at Parenting than any generation before. And kids come first in priority for this generation more than ever before. (Think Helicopter Parenting).
- Millenials are delaying, but not rejecting marriage. 57% are unmarried, compared to 43% of Gen X’ers.
- Millenials have the highest percentage of households in poverty. The are also more likely to rent their homes. And they are less likely to migrate or move than previous generations.
- They are more educated, at least have more degrees than previous generations.
- Millenials are underrepresented in even the most thriving, fast growing churches in America.
- Travis notes several things that are working in efforts to reach millenials. I’ll affirm one here, that we definitely see in Louisiana – Churches planted by and led by millenials tend to reach more millenials.
On Decline of Christianity in America:
- Nominal Christianity is dying. Faithful Christians are still faithful to attend, pray, serve their neighbors, and accept the Bible as wholly true, and in the same numbers as prior generation.
On Outreach and Evangelism:
- Travis notes the opportunity to reach people with technology, giving great examples of churches who have effectively used tech for evangelism and outreach.
- Family ministry is on the upswing. We have the opportunity to help people get married and help young parents pursue effective parenting. “young people today may be confident about many things, but not about the daunting task of raising a child.”
- The role of Groups in reaching people. Travis asserts that radical hospitality becoming a core value will help us reach the future generations. The longing in today’s culture is for social connections. Groups and gatherings in homes provide that necessary element like few other things.
- “We have to be willing to be radical in extending ourselves, our homes, and our group life to those who don’t yet believe and may never believe or walk with Jesus. This can feel disruptive in a group. But those who can handle the tension will yield kingdom fruit.”
- Travis discusses in detail the role of media, Youtube, AI, Instragram in outreach and church ministry in the future. “We need to be thinking visually all the time, because that’s how people are reached emotionally today.”
On Church buildings:
- “Build it and they will come” is giving way to “take your show on the road.”
- We will see less 3,500 seat auditoriums and more 800-1200 multipurpose buildings.
- There are now and estimated 65,000 multi-site congregations in North America, with over one third of them beginning as the result of a merger.
- Growing churches are becoming more multiplication minded, thinking about a second and third site out of the gate.
- “healthy, vital churches should be multiplying, because that’s what creates a future for our beliefs, and hope for those whom we’ve yet to reach for Christ.”
On Tax Issues for Churches:
- Travis sees the future being dire for Property Tax Exemptions, Gifts from attenders to churches not being taxed as income or being tax-deductible for the giver, and Pastor’s Housing Allowance Tax Breaks.
- Implications: Church Building construction will be affected. Buildings will become smaller and less noticable. We’ll see more shared facility arrangements with churches and business and churches and non-profits.
- A Huge Implication: Churches must adjust to the non-tax incentive for givers by teaching attenders the eternal value of true stewardship beyond tax implications. The question I’ve asked: Will lukewarm people give without an earthly incentive? We will definitely find out in the future.
There is much more in this short book that will make for meaningful conversation among church leaders and staffs. Put it on your reading list for early this year.
What do you think will change over the next decade? How do you think these issues will affect your church in the future? Are you thinking differently about church than you were in 2009-2010?