This week I've talked to the church staff and our church council about some trends in the church that are going to have an impact on churches in the next 10 years. I plan on addressing this in a sermon in a few weeks. As our church continues to seek a pastor it also needs to understand the changing climate in which it will be doing ministry in a few years.
It's always challenging to predict the future, especially when it comes to churches and ministry. However, we can already see many changes occurring in our society and in our churches, and I believe there are many others coming in the near future. We can complain about them, we can try to resist them, but they are the realities in which we will be doing ministry. Rather than fight them or ignore them, it's best to proactively address them now.
One that is obvious but tends to be ignored in many churches is the declining number of people in our churches from the Builder Generation. This is the generation born prior to 1945 and is often referred to as The Greatest Generation. They overcame two world wars and a great depression to help this nation become the most powerful nation in the world. They built many of our institutions, including churches, and supported them with their finances and their time.
As we look at our congregations we see fewer and fewer of this generation present in our worship services. Many have passed away while others have moved into assisted living facilities. The health of some prevent them from attending church services or being active in the church as they once were. What happens when this generation disappears from our churches?
As stated above, the Builder Generation were generous financial supporters of the institutions they belonged to. In many churches this generation is responsible for a significant amount of the financial support that comes to the church. That support will be gone when the generation is gone.
One thing churches will need to consider (sooner rather than later) is how to make it easy for younger generations such as millennials to give to the church. These generations are used to automatic withdrawals to pay their bills. They are also used to using their debit cards when making purchases and buying and paying online for purchases over the Internet. Many of them do not write checks.
Is your church set up so the people who attend your church can give their tithes and offerings to the church online? Many churches are now offering that option because they know their younger attendees are comfortable giving in that manner, but I don't believe most churches are set up to receive financial gifts in that manner.
The Builder Generation also makes up much of the leadership of the church. They are the ones willing to serve on boards and committees. They are often the ones willing to teach in the church's education ministry. Younger generations are often less likely to volunteer for these positions. How will this impact the way your church is structured 10 years from now?
Finally, how will the absence of this generation impact the worship services of your church? Will your church continue to offer the same worship experience it has for the past 50 years or will it need to look at different ways of doing worship as new generations replace the Builder Generation?
These are not easy things to consider, but they are the realities facing every church. The time to begin talking about them is now. Don't wait until 2027 and suddenly realize something is different about your church, and somehow it seems to have gotten smaller. Now is the time to have the hard discussions about what your church will look like 10 years from now and you can prepare for that reality.