Regarding the future, the famed theologian Yoda said, "Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future." What was true on the Dagobah System "long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away" is becoming more and more true in American churches. Unlike the stability enjoyed by past generations, the present generation of Christians is having to adapt to unsettling changes as we consider the future.
Thom Rainer is an interesting American religious writer. His blog is www.thomrainer.com. Rainer recently peered into our present to see our future. Here are his "16 Trends In American Churches." Much of Ranier's language is mainstream Protestant and has little meaning for us. I have reinterpreted as necessary.
- Church Security is a fast growing focus. Interpretation: threats of violence, various kinds of abuse, and various kinds of theft must be taken seriously.
- Decrease in church building size. Interpretation: gone are the days in which the size of our faith was measured in square feet.
- Churches must rethink revitalization. Interpretation: As memberships and budgets decrease, churches must take a "back to the basics" approach to doing the most what they do the best.
- Ministerial training is a good investment. Interpretation: is there a message for churches in the investment in training done by business and industry?
- Churches will continue to age. Interpretation: get used to it.
- Churches need to educate, reeducate, and reeducate again. Interpretation: we need to refocus on doctrine, leadership skills, relational skills, and practical ministry skill.
- Small groups in churches will continue to be important. Interpretation: programs like our Brothers Keepers are now considered to be essential and foundational (so why is there so much resistance?).
- Churches will continue to desegregate. Interpretation: church families must embrace the "family" image of different races and ages working together harmoniously and not as separate ministries.
- The trend toward multi-site (multi-campus) churches is creating new denominations. Interpretation: even denominational people see this.
- Longer preacher tenure. Interpretation: musical preachers doesn't pay for anyone.
- The rise of alternate ministry placement organizations. Interpretation: does not apply. The Churches of Christ have never depended on what the denominational churches consider traditional means of filling preacher vacancies.
- We will get more Millennial members. Interpretation: religiosity increases with age. Some Millennials will eventually come around.
- Accelerated decline in American churches. Interpretation: prepare for a post-Christian society; prepare for shrinking memberships.
- Churches will no longer be viewed sympathetically by the government. Interpretation: as tax bases shrink, the government will look lustfully at ways to tax churches.
- More bi-vocational ministers. Interpretation: we call them "part-time."
- Changes in ministry models from entertainment to activities. Interpretation: it's about time. It never worked anyway.