Thinking Out Loud

December 31, 2008

National Trends Affecting Your Local Church in 2008 — Evaluating Our Predictions

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith, theology, worship — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:16 pm

This blog began in February, but has a previous history as a bi-weekly e-mail that was sent out to about 250 people in our local area.  On December 30th last year, I published a list of fifteen trends I saw in play that I felt my original, Ontario readers might want to consider.   Now, it’s time to check the scorecard and see how I made out.

First things first, the rest of you need to see the original article.   It’s been placed as a “page” on this blog, or you can simply use this link.    Then you can return and read the comments below.   Later today or tomorrow, I’ll post a new list for 2009 which I think contains issues that are going to be more relevant, and makes last year’s list look somewhat superficial.

>>> pause to read the original article, if you wish <<<


  1. Longer Teaching Time — The ‘originals’ did a good job of this, but some of the ‘copycats’ can’t sustain audience interest past the 32-minute mark.   I see the sermon length continuing to expand to 35-40 minutes in places where it heretofore has not.
  2. More Expository Preaching — I was wrong on this.   Didn’t see the trend grow, though I got personally hooked on Greg Boyd.   For many others, I think verse-by-verse is a rather lazy approach if you aren’t going to include background material and related texts.   But it’s easy to be a critic if you’re not crafting a weekly sermon.
  3. Less Sung Worship — I was wrong.   For most worship leaders, it’s still largely about the musical material; though many are now busy designing media pieces.  (See 2009 trends list.)
  4. Fewer Overt Offerings — I was wrong.  This turned out to be more of a 2007 trend than anything new playing out in ’08
  5. More Direct Involvement in the Third World — Yes!  Financial and personal through mission trips.
  6. More Direct Involvement in Meeting Local Poverty — Yes!  Though it’s still not affecting every local church.
  7. More Small Groups and Smaller Churches — Yes!  It was the smaller churches part of the prediction that became more relevant.
  8. Church Closings — I was half right.   The closings that took place weren’t for the logical reasons given but often had to do with the economy or leadership scandals.
  9. The Youth-ification of Sunday Morning — (Only I didn’t phrase it that succinctly…)  This trend continued, although since Ancient-Future means that everything old is new again, it’s actually hard to tell if “Be Still My Soul” is a hymn of antiquity, or the coolest, new, ” in” worship song.
  10. Increased security at Church — It’s been awhile since 9/11 and while larger churches have plain clothed and uniformed security people, as well as detailed emergency plans, most medium-sized churches didn’t spend time this year considering this.
  11. Empowering the Broken — Giving voice to divorced people or single moms at the leadership level is something that is taking place very slowly over a longer period of time.
  12. Real Community — If this is playing out more at all, it’s playing out in conjunction with factor #7.   Larger churches which do their small groups by zip code instead of just having homogeneous interest groups are ahead of the curve on this trend.
  13. Continuity Throughout the Church Year — With so many pastors preaching ‘series’ messages, the only way to measure the ‘interruptions’ is to see if there’s a break Sunday between series.    This item should have clarified to include not only the quality of the teaching, but the quality of the worship.  The issue of ‘disruptions’ should have been dealt with separately.  Also, some pastors are simply away from their church too often.  There.  I said it.
  14. Unity across Denominational Lines — Yes!   Heard  more good stories of cooperation and financial support.   The younger generation doesn’t really care whether the sign outside says “MacDonald’s” or “Wendy’s” as long as you can buy a hamburger.   (Okay, so the analogy has some issues…)
  15. Several Sabbaths — I’d guess I was wrong on this.   Most churches still focus on “weekend” programming as the high point of the week.   Don’t hear too many stories of amazing things taking place on a Tuesday or a Thursday in most cities, and now, even New Community on Wednesdays at Willow is part of history.   (We drove from Canada just to attend a New Community; drove the border guard nuts trying to explain we were driving just to see a church service!)

So, like I said, this list is going to seem somewhat superficial when we look at some trends I’m concerned about for 2009.    Stand by.   In the meantime, don’t comment on these unless you’ve read both the above and the original predictions on the link.

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