Christianity Today’s recent “Pastors Special Issue” focused on trends predicted to impact churches and ministry in the United States in the next 10 years.
Here are 5 trends it highlighted —
- Our demographics are rapidly changing — adapt or die: By 2044, white people will be less than 50% of the population and Hispanic people will be 25%; more than 10,000 a day reach retirement age; and by 2035 there will be more people over 65 than under 18. Some churches are adapting very well—Assemblies of God have welcomed immigrants and young people and have grown over the past 25 years. That denomination plants a new church every 21 hours and 54% of its millions of adherents are under 35. Some churches are not adapting at all.
- Religious liberty arguments have just begun: With white evangelicals having enjoyed majority power and status for so long, and forecasting that to erode, and with changing demographics and increased pluralism, arguments over what constitutes religious liberty has likely just begun. Interestingly enough, CT reminds in its article that black churches faced discrimination — implicitly reminding that its pleas relative to civil liberties long and often went ignored — and notes that a black pastor advises that the black church can teach how to be faithful when liberties are lost. There is a lot to think about there.
- Polyamory is on the rise: More people are engaging in consensual, non-monogamous sexual relationships, sometimes long-term and committed. Some of these are essentially polygamous-type relationships, without formal marriage vows. This is different from an open relationship, in that it is closely limited by agreement to the known parties and involves a loving relationship between all, and different from “swinging,” in that it aims to be a loving and supporting relationship and not just about sex. It may or may not be sexual between all parties in the relationship. The Special Issue cites an estimate that as many as 5% of Americans are currently in a polyamorous relationship (seems too high to believe — perhaps the margin of error was high). It cites another survey in which about 24% of church-going people believe that consensual polyamorous relationships are morally permissible (now that statistic I believe, though I doubt many people would jump at the chance to discuss the topic during Sunday School!). The question for churches will be how do they respond to such relationships: are they welcoming and affirming or not?
- Restructuring, redistribution, and re-imagining of church will continue to accelerate: Churches are adapting to fit new commuting patters, new living patterns, the culture, the internet, young people’s lives, … — house churches, dinner church, mega-churches with multiple campuses, tele-churches, micro-congregations, missional community churches, activity/service church (worship plus work-outs, service, art, a variety), etc. Re-imagining what the expression of togetherness and church looks like has just started. Basically, structure the way it makes sense for your community. This will take overcoming fear.
- Less money for churches: Changing demographics, shifts in generational approaches to giving, growing burdens for the middle class, and other factors have caused giving to churches to decline and it is projected to continue to decline. Churches will have to figure out how to become better at fundraising or to make do with a whole lot less.
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Sources and Notes
Christianity Today, “Church Ministry: The Next 10 Years” (CT Pastors Special Issue Fall 2019)
Interesting article regarding missional community: https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2019/november-web-exclusives/church-model-post-christian-missional-communities.html
Updated: Added missional note 11/9.
Picture is from Geralt at Pixabay.com