Overall conversion growth in local churches will improve. This indicator is mostly positive. We define conversion growth as the average worship attendance of the church divided by the number of people who became followers of Christ and active in the church in one year. For example, if a church has 20 conversions and an average worship attendance of 200, its conversion rate is 10:1 (200 divided by 10). Lower is better with conversion rates. We say “mostly positive” for this trend, because some of the improvement in the conversion rate is due to lower worship attendance.
While escaping 2020 has been a stated goal for many people, there will still be challenges in front of us as we move into 2021. Churches will be among the organizations to confront clear and present challenges.
Of course, the topic of COVID is unavoidable as congregations move forward to a new year. The devastation the pandemic has wreaked among people and organizations has also been acutely felt by churches and their leaders.
While predicting future trends is never a precise effort, we do see enough data points to suggest these twelve trends are potentially powerful movements that will affect congregations, some for better and some for worse. They are not listed in any particular order.
- Massive growth of co-vocational ministry. It will be increasingly common for churches to have fewer full-time staff. Some will hold other jobs because churches cannot afford full-time pay and benefits. Some of the staff will choose to be co-vocational so they can have a marketplace ministry. Both of these factors will result in a massive number of staff moving from full-time to co-vocational.
- Baby boomers will be greater in number than children in the majority of churches. This demographic shift has three causes. First, the birthrate is declining. Second, the boomer generation is large in number, second only to millennials. Third, increasing longevity means boomers will be around for a while. If a church is not considering what senior adult involvement looks like, it’s already behind the curve
- The micro-church movement begins in about 5,000 North American churches. A new manifestation of the multi-site movement will be multi-site campuses with 50 or fewer congregants. The early adopter churches, estimated to be around 5,000, will define this movement and become the models for future micro-churches.
- Digital church strategies will complement in-person strategies. We’ve seen some leaders advocate a “digital first” strategy while some insist on an “in-person first” approach. As we have followed thousands of churches, we are seeing more strategies where neither approach is a priority over the other. Church leaders are moving toward blending these two important areas in a complementary fashion. We will be looking at this reality in future articles.