On January 1, 2011, church consultant and founder of Auxano, Will Mancini posted and article on his blog titled "Vision and Strategy Church Trends for 2011 and Beyond." Mancini's writing is always challenging and in most cases he's been right regarding trends and church and culture analysis.
I thought it would be interesting to look back at his predictions and see how many of these items have truly trended (not from a statistical analysis viewpoint, but from a totally unscientific view based on my opinions.
So, here are Will's trends, as he listed them with my 20/20 hindsight:
TREND #1: Expect Increasing Diversity of Opinion on What Good Vision and Strategy Look Like.
Over the past few years, I have attended conferences and viewed webcasts featuring authors, pastors, leadership consultants, denominational and corporate leaders all focused on the same thing - vision and leadership strategy. In each case, the information gathered was helpful, but as Will stated, there are so many diverse opinions and plans, that it is easy to be overwhelmed with the options. Therefore, it seems that the danger many pastors face is hitching their vision and strategy wagon to one idea and then changing gears after the next book or conference has come out. There are many opnions on how to cast vision and develop strategy. This reminds me of the story (maybe true) when D.L. Moody was asked which translation of the Bible was best and he responded "The one you read." In this case, it may be the best vision and leadership strategy implemented in the local church is "the one you use."
TREND #2: Articulating the Biggest Picture will be the Leader’s Greatest Asset Like Never Before.
For years, even under my leadership, church members and staff members have made statements like "We're not even sure who we are or why we do what we do." That can be a hurtful statement if one keeps his feelings on his sleeve. However, beneath this statement was a declaration of frustration that I needed to hear. Unless the church (and especially the leadership team) understands the big picture - the "why" of what we are doing, the ministries, activities, events, community actions, etc. become little more than things that keep the church looking busy and eventually leads to burnout and shallow service.
TREND #3: The Digital World and Social Media will Open New Possibilities for More Churches.
Churches are behind in this area, and always will be. However, that doesn't mean that we must remain disconnected and refuse to utilize the tools available online and through digital media. At one time, cost of equipment and fear of technology kept many churches out of this realm, but with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites, there are no longer any excuses for churches to not have an online presence.
We now have a Director of Social Media who is responsible to continually keep communicating through social media sites as well as seek new venues to help the church find an online presence.
Just having a presence on social media isn't enough and the technology keeps changing. Who knows what the next five year holds, but the church needs to be prepared to step into this realm, not just to be trendy, but ultimately to fulfill the BIG picture vision (TREND #2) of reaching people.
Our church members and attenders are already engaged online. We now have wifi throughout the church and use the YouVersion Live Bible for notes during services. Our app is available free online, but as with websites, unless there are regular updates and new options, these will not be regularly used.
Online giving used to be a no-no in our church, but once instituted, it has consistently grown as a viable option for giving tithes and offerings and especially for registering for camps, mission trips and events. I believe in the next five years most of our giving will be online.
TREND #4: Visioning and Spiritual Formation as Disciplines will Merge More Visibly.
I have begun to see this develop in our network. There's still quite a bit of the corporate visioning in place, and with value, but the focus has shifted.
TREND #5: Small Will Continue to Be the New Big
It's interesting that within the last ten years or so, at least two churches in our county sought to reach more in the community by using a 1980s "Field of Dreams" strategy where "If we build it, they will come" became the apparent theme. As of this writing, each of these churches faced dramatic downward spirals in giving and attendance (due to various reasons beyond just entering a building program) and ended up with newer, bigger buildings, mounting debt and ultimately merging or partnering with other churches just to survive.
While this isn't always the case, (Celebration Church Jax) new, bigger buildings don't seem to impress people as they apparently did decades ago.
At the same time, we have seen a dramatic increase in our network of church planters and new starts. Some of these new churches are meeting in homes, in schools, workplaces and even in other church's buildings. Some would be described as "ethnic churches" (which, I believe we will eventually see the end of the racially divided church designator soon) but most are multi-ethnic, designed to glorify God by connecting with the unchurched.
Through multiple, smaller plants, we are seeing more engagement in the community and local churches (at least, that's my perspective.)
Within the church, we are seeing a growing increase in small groups that meet off campus, in homes or restaurants. Rather than begging people to come to the church, we are seeing a greater trend of the church going to the people.
Overall, I'd say that Will Mancini is right. These trends continue to impact the church in our culture. May the church continue to be as the men of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32) and know the times and impact the culture for Christ.