Lot's actually, but let me come to that in a minute.
I hope you have had a good break and/or holiday? Like mine it has probably begun to fade although living and working at the beach (Raglan) as I do is kind of nice and tends to keep holiday 'feelings' alive for a bit longer.
There's no doubt about it that we are living in a critical juncture of time. Old paradigms of ministry are struggling to survive on the one hand and new ones are struggling to get air borne on the other with one exception perhaps, namely the newer, younger(predominately U40), independent1 and larger churches in NZ.
Here are seven trends (there are many more) that I think we as pastors and leaders need to continue to wrestle with for the foreseeable future.
- The audio revolution. Audio books and podcasts continue to rise as more and more people want to listen to podcasts as they jog, drive, cook and mow the lawns. This being the case then there is a new opportunity for churches to reach and disciple people through audio ministries.
- The foyer has moved. With the advent of more and more churches having an online presence, visitors will have 'visited' you online long before they have visited/attended on site. This being the case then what are you communicating online?
- Deferred Maintenance. So many churches have done little to keep their churches in an acceptable condition. For many they will be facing the music any day soon. As the saying goes, 'you pay some now or you pay more later'. This in turn could lead to the next trend.
- Church Closures. This has been a trickle in NZ but I foresee thistrend picking up speed. What may also happen are mergers and acquisitions and perhaps even re-plants. This being the case then there will be a need for a remarkable openness on the part of church goers to accommodate new styles of worship and accept new leaders.
- Networks. This will continue to rise as denominations struggle to stay relevant. More and more networks are populated by pastors that have a denominational affiliation. They will gather around a common cause, a common purpose AND a common DNA. A growing number of networks are online, international and flying below the radar. Make no mistake about it these networks have influence.
- The Dones. There is in my opinion no stopping this trend. To be clear, the Dones are Christians who are 'done with church attendance'. They have and are coming from all sorts of churches including the newer independent churches (they too have a back door). The interesting question here is I think, will they in time form new communities of faith? I see some signs of that. For now at least it may be hugely helpful if we all stopped and listened carefully to the Dones. If we do they will help us understand some important things about church life and more particularly what we are doing wrong at least as they see it.
- Ministry in a contested cultural context. Most pastors and Christian leaders believe discipling around social and morality issues is a critical part of their pastoral responsibility-but pastors feel a level of both pressure and reluctance concerning how they approach these topics........certainly from the pulpit. Having said that I have a hunch that church members are going to ask of their pastors to state clearly what they believe on marriage, homosexuality, gender, marijuana, euthanasia and on and on. I perceive that Christians want to hear from their pastors not just from some scholar or apologist from a faraway place.
- There are others. The ageing of most congregations, women sole or senior pastors, the learning revolution, the rise of the neighbourhood church, infrequent in person attendance, increase online (virtual) attendance, children's and youth ministries. But these are for another day.
As always there is plenty to think about as we navigate pastoral ministry this year and into the future. Next week I want to share my 'Five Hopes For 2019'.
1 No denominational affiliation. It is interesting to note that the 3 largest churches in NZ (more than 5000 in weekly attendance) are independent and charismatic if not Pentecostal. Further they have a very high percentage of U40 year olds in attendance unlike most other churches in NZ.
Hey Pastor, would you like to see more teens and young adults passionate about Christian faith? Check out the visit to NZ of Crystal Kirgiss in May here.
Alan Vink is currently the Executive Director for LeadershipWorx. Prior to this role he has been the Executive Director of Willow Creek Association NZ (WillowNZ), a Baptist pastor (23 years), Bible College teacher, and church consultant.