January 1, 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.

WHAT IS THE ONE TREND?

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.

WHAT IS CAUSING THIS TREND?

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.

 WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT THIS TREND?

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.

December 28, 2014

12 Church Logos that Tell a Story (and Why Yours Should Too)

12 Church Logos that Tell a Story by Will Mancini

Auxano just released another TeamUP download that focuses on one of our six services: communication. As a “vision shop,” we believe that all vision should be communicated visually. This gorgeous, free PDF will share a little bit more about our philosophy of communication and how your design can elevate and demonstrate the unique work of God in your church. Christmas is a great time to remember that Jesus is the logos of God; that is, the word, the expression, the representation of Him. In the beginning was the logos and the logos was with God and the logos was God (John 1:1).

Here is a glimpses of the logos we will explore inside.

Auxano 12 Church Logos

Also included is a guide (we do this with all TeamUP downloads) that you can walk through with your church team. Be sure to forward this to your team for first of the year planning. Wouldn’t you like to take your communication to a whole new level in 2015?

Church logos teamUp

Download our newest free resource: TeamUP – 12 Church Logos That Tell a Story

December 26, 2014

6 Reasons Why Most Church Strategic Planning Is a Waste of Time

Church Strategic Planning

Most church strategic planning is a waste of time no matter what you call it or why the church started the planning to begin with. Have you ever personally experienced a time-waster planning retreat?

The planning may be called lots of things like:

  • long range planning
  • vision planning
  • visioning weekend
  • goal-setting
  • strategic operations

In addition to the variety of names, the planning may be spawned for numerous reasons like facility planning, attendance decline, website design, or capital campaign initiatives to name a few. But whatever you call it and and whatever got the process started, Many pastors confess that the outcome of strategic planning  is left wanting. The usefulness of the deliverable itself—the plan, the report, the vision—is so limited, it will soon be stored in a church closet otherwise known as the strategic planning notebook graveyard.

Sound like a doomsday message? I hope not! Because a well designed vision process is one of the most exciting things to lead and experience. It’s why Auxano has eight full-time consultants (we call ourselves navigators) with dozens of Church Unique Certified and Network Navigators who practice our Vision Framing Process part-time. Literally hundreds of churches go through the process every year with amazing success!

So what are the reasons why most church strategic planning is a waste of time? 

Reason #1: Most planning deliverables have too much information.

Two weeks ago, I looked at a current strategic planning document for a church. In addition to a statement of mission and values, the plan contained 5 overarching objectives and 22 goals. It’s not unusual to see this much information. The problem with “too much: is that the only person who benefits is the executive pastor type or board member with a high need for control. It helps them feel good to have all of the objectives and goals listed in one place. The real problem is that no one else in the organization cares that much about the goals.

Does that sound harsh? It shouldn’t. It’s not a negative commentary on the people and their motives, its a negative commentary on the model of planning. In a nutshell, a plan with too much information misses the human element. It doesn’t connect on an emotional level and doesn’t help the average person, really know what to do.

How much information should your plan have? At the summary level it should have five things: mission, values, strategy, measures and “vision proper.” Vision proper means that everyone knows the one, most important goal at any time. For certain people in the organization, there are tools for more complexity, but not much more.

Reason #2: Most mission and values statements are too generic.

We have been so saturated with generic in church leadership we don’t even realize what it is any more. Here is the key principle to understand: Mission and values should be broad but not generic. They are broad because many types of activities are required to accomplish the mission and many different kinds of tasks can flow out of a deeply held value. Therefore your mission and values should be broad yet specific, rather than broad and generic. Consider these definitions to help you think about this idea:

Broad: to a great extent, ample, vast, extensive, large

Generic: applicable to all members of a group; a name not protected by trademark.

Specific: precise or particular; peculiar to somebody or something.

Applying these definitions we would say that your church’s mission should be extensive and vast, but peculiar to your church. 

 

Perhaps the best way to describe idea of broad yet specific is to think of oceans. There are five oceans in the world, Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Southern. These are broad bodies of water with complex ecosystems and each is a world of its own. But they are also specific and unique. To make the bridge to church, the better analogy might be a lake. There are over 112 millions lakes in the world larger than half an acre. Each one is peculiar, despite the fact that to a frog, each of the lakes provides for a “broad” environment.

A broad and generic mission is: love God, love people and serve our community. A broad and specific mission is: inviting people into the unexpected joy of desperate dependence on Jesus. To get to broad and specific read this post on why churches operate at less than 50% effectiveness. It will help you get past generic.

The last four reasons are below and will be unpacked in follow-up posts:

Reason #3: Most strategic plans don’t clarify how the mission is accomplished.

Reason #4: Most strategic plans for churches don’t clarify  when the mission is accomplished. 

Reason #5: Most planning processes involve too many people.

Reason #6: Most planning processes neglect training on vision competencies.  

So how many strategic planning experiences have you had that you considered a waste of time? I would love to hear the total!!!

December 15, 2014

Take the Nice IS Naughty Quiz for Pastors this Christmas

naughty or nice pastors - will mancini

You’ve heard of the naughty or nice quiz before. We put people on one side of the behavior equation this time of the year. And if that doesn’t cross your mind, then someone at North Pole Central is finalizing the tally before Santa’s globe-trotting, Christmas Eve sleigh ride.

This year, however,  I want to put these terms on the same side of the equation. I think pastors need to consider “niceness” from an entirely different point of view.

That’s right, I have a growing fear that we, as ministry leaders,  too often do the wrong thing in the name of “nice.” So allow me to suggest that there are times when nice IS naughty. What if being nice is not always a ministry hallmark? Is it possible that being nice can be stumbling block that excuses poor leadership habits and personal flaws?

Before we get to the quiz, let’s consider Jesus as our leadership model. The more I read the gospel’s the more I see the love of Jesus working hand-in-hand with a certain intensity and not a certain “niceness.” As we go through the quiz, I’ll make some references to Jesus.

 

THE QUIZ

 

Question #1:  I can give time to people in way that causes me to neglect the primary people that God is calling me to serve. (Y/N)

Jesus walked away from people all of the time. Giving time to the wrong people is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #2: I allow my enjoyment of approval to lead me to flatter others. (Y/N)

Jesus didn’t puff people up. Giving false edification to make people—and you— feel better, is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #3: I have created a new ministry, disregarding the vision of the church, because of an influential church leader. (Y/N)

Jesus passed on most ministry “opportunities.” Starting new programs to please others is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #4: I am tempted to NOT make timely decisions because some people won’t like the decision. (Y/N)

Jesus didn’t delay. Waiting another day to live in false peace another day is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #5: I can keep someone on the team despite a mediocre ministry performance. (Y/N)

Jesus chose people carefully and let people walk away. Avoiding a tough call is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #6: I overcommit myself because I can’t say “no.” (Y/N)

Jesus gave himself but didn’t overcommit himself. Taking yourself too seriously and never saying “no” is a naughty kind of nice.

Question #7: I have never exhibited righteous anger out of a preference for “harmony.” (Y/N)

Jesus turned over tables. Never displaying anger at the things that anger God is naughty kind of nice.

Question #8: I have refused to face some facts head on, because of the difficulty of the truth behind it. (Y/N)

Jesus faced the truth, head on. Living in temporary harmony with intentional ignorance is a naughty kind of nice.

Questions #9: I have never rebuked or corrected someone on my team. (Y/N)

Jesus rebuked his team regularly. Unwillingness to correct or confront is not a sign of love and is a naughty kind of nice.

 

THE CONFESSION

 

The origination of this quiz comes from my personal experience as a leader. I have to confess that in 2014, I must answer yes to 7 of these 9 questions. Somehow, by God’s grace, I don’t think I will get coal in my stocking this Christmas.

A Prayer to Stop Being Nice

Lord, I want to live full of love with the same intensity you exhibited. I know there are times, where I fail to love in the name of being “nice.” Father, help me to know my identity in Christ. Lord Jesus, help me to lead others the same way you did. Precious Spirit, guide my thoughts and reveal my sin when I seek false harmony or long for the approval of men. Shape me and make me a leader who will serve you well. Amen.

December 13, 2014

Last Day Founding Subscriber Offer to My Blog Readers for SUMS Book Summary Tool

SUMS Book Summaries by Will Mancini

A few weeks ago, I shared that you would have the first opportunity to become a founding subscriber to SUMS reMix. This book summary tool is the most innovative content resource I know of in the church space.

Many of you have already received an e-mail reminding you of the benefits for founding subscribers and the instructions to sign-up. But I wanted to remind you with another post if you haven’t acted yet.

In a nutshell you will receive:

  • 50% off regular subscription price, lock-in for life
  • 3 additional Christmas gift subscriptions, totally free (give you boss or buddies in ministry the gift of insight for one year)
  • The complete library of two years of SUMS in one PDF (52 books)
  • Exclusive future offers and free content

Remember the SUMS reMix will come every other week to your inbox:

  • Designed around a practical challenge all church leaders face
  • Providing 3 solutions to that challenge from 3 books
  • Giving you immediate action steps for you and your staff
  • Resulting in more insight, progress and credibility in your ministry leadership

Imagine reading and acting on 78 books in one year, without having to read each book from cover to cover. Each book is handpicked, some ministry books and some business books, just for ministry leaders. Of course you can just click and purchase the books you want to go deeper with.

The 50% price is only $24.00 per year, or $2.00 per month.

You have today only before this offer extends to our entire SUMS subscriber list. Founding Subscribers are limited to the first 1,000 who sign up.

To get your discount use the code: founder2014

Become a Founding Subscriber Now!