January 1st, 2015

The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 And What To Do About It

Church trends 2015 by Will Mancini

I like reading about trends and I like thinking about the long lists of church trends. Two of my most widely read posts on church trends include:

This year I want to do something different by focusing on one important church trend. By calling it the most important trend, I want to state up front that I am not building my case with stats. What I do have is 14 years of weekly meetings with church leaders across the country talking about what’s happening in the church.

Specifically, in the last two years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. Its presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations.


Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015

What does this mean? Simply that people who once attended four times a month may only attend three times a month. Members who once attended twice a month will only come once a month.

Now I could build a case with stats, but you are probably a little curious. Let me say a few things and then move on.

There are some stats that validate the slow continual decline of church attendance. However, this doesn’t get at what I am seeing, mainly because it’s diluted by a mass of non-evangelical data and halo-effect responses (people answering more positively than reality would suggest).

In addition, Auxano has produced hundreds of primary research congregational surveys that do reference worship frequency data decline that would support my observation. However, I have not aggregated the data yet. If you want more info on this, you can read my post on the 20 Most Important Measurables of a church.

Finally, in 2013, Thom Rainer stated that decreasing frequency of church attendance is the number one reason for church decline.

The bottom line is that the data doesn’t reveal the significance of the increasing reality among the COMMITTED members of evangelical churches and the massive opportunity this presents for us as leaders.


There are several reasons why people attend church less frequently. The first and most obvious place, (and the only place Thom Rainer goes) is waning commitment. People attend less when spiritual priorities are less important. Let’s consider some reasons:

  • Increasing involvement with kid’s activities including more “multiple activity” commitments (sports, music, etc.) for longer durations with greater competitiveness. The growth of club sports and the intensity of competition creates a market for kids to get started earlier and be involved longer. This is literally eating our families alive when it comes to time.
  • Greater mobility in general and the rise of virtual work places. 25% of white collar Americans travel as a part of making a living. People with discretionary time are more likely to be traveling. People are working virtually and changing their habits and expectations about living on-the-go or in remote places.
  • Access to church online. Now it’s easier to stay connected to the church if you must travel or if you’re just having problems at home getting ready for church in the morning. Within two minutes, I can be streaming one of many great worship services from across the country with my entire family, from my laptop to my widescreen via Apple TV.


Again, the knee-jerk response is to lament the decreasing commitment. Remember, people are always committed to some thing. How do we help people become all God wants them to be given these cultural limitations? Or dare I say cultural opportunities.

#1 – Add value not venues 

Rather than just creating more things for people to do “at church” how can you add more value to people through fewer ministry venues? For example, rather than starting a class on prayer, how can you create more value for people’s prayer lives 24/7? Perhaps you could adapt the material for the class and provide it in existing small groups. Or, maybe you could provide that content online rather than requiring someone to drive to church?

#2 – Think training over teaching

If you attend an effective online worship service, it is actually more intimate than an average mega-church worship experience. Chat rooms, follow-up, and engagement take place with great ease. My point is that intimate community doesn’t take place in many worship environments.

Think about it: The more that worship at your church is about teaching and inspiration only, the more people will be able to substitute your church offering with digital ones. The best way to address this is to think like a trainer not a teacher. Teaching is now ubiquitous and free. Training is not. What does that look like? Instead of just preaching on prayer, give them actual tools and ways to practice. Give them back door links on your website with additional training. Hand them a book, show them how to make a prayer journal, or create a daily devotional to follow on Twitter or Facebook.

#3 Design for ministry ends not means

Most churches are already over-programmed and under-discipled. Perhaps this “negative” trend is a positive way to awake from the myth that more activity at church means greater spiritual vitality. It does not. Use the challenge to rediscover the difference between ministry ends and ministry means. Start by articulating the kind of disciple that your church is trying to produce. The win was never to get people to come to church a lot in the first place, but to follow Jesus better. You don’t need a ton of church activities to be a follower of Jesus. Think about it: Is Jesus going to give you a scorecard in heaven asking you how many times people came to your worship services, Bible studies and service projects? Or, is He going to consider what kind of thinking, being, and doing those times produced in the lives of our people?

If typical church attendance isn’t the ultimate goal to begin with, how can this trend become an opportunity?


>> Read more from Will.

11 Comments on to “The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 And What To Do About It”

  • Josh says:

    Some interesting thoughts, I do note however in this discussion the entire lack of consideration that part of this is the sin of individualism. Convenience now trumpts convictions about the importance of community.

  • Joel says:

    Good article, I am wondering where this leaves the small group ministry with a busy society we have been trying with some success over the last few years mostly older people or people with no kids attend.

    Also really like the idea of training over teaching that confirmed what was on my heart about a month ago.

  • Ed says:

    I have been a pastor for 30 years now and the issue of church is that it is no longer THE priority. When people wake up Sunday morning they are bombarded with options unlike yesteryear and church is just ONE of those options that they look at on an equal plane. Thanks for this insightful article. I think there needs to be teaching and encouraging to come together corporately in community and to do these things to make worship more accessible on an individual basis. We need both

  • Alan Scarborough says:

    Today’s church does not reaching out to members who have fallen away from going to church. One phone call or visit could have made me rethink not being there, if not missed, some will not feel like they were ever needed to begin with.
    In addition, ask any of your restaurant wait staff will tell you the church crowd are the rudest less tipping most picky people they’ve ever served. I am not one of those people in any manner or form. And got treated the same way among church folks as well. No pleasure or blessings in that. Just a couple reasons I didn’t feel like I fit in.

  • Kelly Perry says:

    Speaking from the other perspective churches have become less a community brought together to worship and more a gathering of like minded individuals with self serving goals. My family takes time each day to meet and discuss God and his teachings, we worship at home. We have yet to find a church that does not meet as a means of socializing, collecting money, propagating a mission based in desire to abolish a certain group or organization, or using doctrine to defend misuse of Jesus’s teachings so that they can feel better about themselves. Churches are no longer about service to others and community it but about service to those who think and feel the same way about a given topic. Too much focus is on doctrine, how much education the preacher has, and when to schedule the next fellowship. Quoting the Bible doesn’t work when you don’t live by its message. Paul was not educated nor did he accept payment for preaching and he often gave what gifts he was offered to the less fortunate. Jesus didn’t cast away the whore or tax collector and cited the old teaching but ushered them in and loved them, made them a part of his family. The decline in church attendance is a direct result of its members. Say what you will about we are all sinners but I’ve always operated by the philosophy that one’s actions speak louder than words. If you want the masses to come to Jesus, act like he and his disciples. Did the disciples make mistakes? Sure, but they eventually remembered Jesus saying, “it’s okay, get up and try again but, this time try not to make the same mistake.” Inevitably, they would but never once did Jesus say, “that’s it, you’ve had enough chances. Now do it right or you’re no longer my follower. And BTW you have to go to a building to worship, read the Bible everyday @ 6am, and attend every mission or fellowship or you’ll be out then too.” If you were a non-believer and this is the picture of church and God you saw would you stick around? If you’re a belive and you really want to do God’s work would you go to a harsh like I’ve described? Get back the the service of others without condemnation and attack but with love and kindness and you’ll see your congregation come back. I’m not saying ignore sin just approach it like Jesus taught us.

  • Todd says:

    Hi Will, saw your blog article from a facebook link. One reason that you didn’t mention is the degrading lack of effective, doctrinally sound, biblically accurate expounding on the word of God. Committed Christians are tired of fake and weak Sunday mornings. We hear sermon after sermon to tickle our ears. This trend is rampant in American churches.

  • Lisa Rippy says:

    Will – this was a huge “head-noddin’-in-agreement” moment for me to read what you said here:

    “Think about it: The more that worship at your church is about teaching and inspiration only, the more people will be able to substitute your church offering with digital ones. The best way to address this is to think like a trainer not a teacher. Teaching is now ubiquitous and free. Training is not. What does that look like? Instead of just preaching on prayer, GIVE THEM ACTUAL TOOLS AND WAYS TO PRACTICE. GIVE THEM BACK DOOR LINKS on your WEBSITE with ADDITIONAL TRAINING. Hand them a book, show them how to make a prayer journal or create a daily devotional to follow on twitter or Facebook.”

    I strongly believe that when any church or ministry is about Kingdom business, it will involve pushing back those servant-sleeves in “showing how” & “equipping” by providing tools, resources, tutorials, etc. THANK YOU!

  • Jim Griffith says:

    Another major reason is due to the fact that the “Boomer” generation is retiring, thus eliminating a traditional work week schedule. As many are now saying, “There is no ‘weekend’ in retirement.” This eliminates Sunday as something that differs from the other six days. Boomers, unlike their parents, are much more mobile and spend greater lengths of time away from their own community; e.g., visiting friends, grandkids, etc. They in fact, may be attending several different churches a year; just not their own faith community.

  • Mira says:

    One reason that people will attend less is little known, If a person receives Home Health Care, one of the qualifications is that the person not leave the house more than four times a month excluding doctor visits.
    That includes shopping trips, social visits and church or any other reason a person might leave the house .

  • Christopher D. Munson says:

    I notice the directing the finger at people of God rather than the (church). The trend talked about has a lot to do with the church. I see a huge trend and many who are not attending and are starting groups in there homes etc. because they are tired of church politics contrary to God’s word. Most of these politics based on the servitude to mammon. Many are tired of seeing false doctrine and if you question this false doctrine the churches simply remove you through there back door politics without consideration to the Word of God. I believe this article leaves out the God factor in that God is waking his people opening there eyes and God is pulling his chosen and that is not being seen by the church organizations because they have lost sight of Gods Word through doctrine and theology of man rooted in by the enemy himself . Things like the watered down NIV being spewed from the pulpit as the word of god. A book that alters Gods word to the point of deducing God him self as a sinner. People are simply waking up as (the church) continues to go blind and deaf. Don’t forget what or who the real church is and that is ( WE GODS CHILDREN ARE THE CHURCH)

  • Benjamin says:

    Great article! A few years ago people´s schedule was not as tight as it is now, and they were not so many choices to receive “spiritual education”. Even events like sports, and other activities for kids and families revolved around church life, now they are independent. Once, things like sports were seen as mere entertainment, but now there is a “spirituality” behind them and they share the same time slot as Church life (perhaps the only free time a modern family has).
    So the key point as its been said is to focus tremendously on adding value to what is being given at Church instead of just expecting people to show and blaming them as shallow if they don´t, and also leading them towards the Lord instead of to Church by giving them tools to grow. That is what Peter saw in Jesus when he said: “To whom shall we go?”
    What´s happening in our culture is a great thing to shake up the Church and make us focus on what really matters: Leading people to Christ.

Leave a Comment