Dave Travis, Managing Director of Leadership Network, is a sought after commentator on the issues facing American churches. Based on recent research and his own observations, Travis—a Your Church contributing editor—shares his insights on the state of the church in America as seen through the "keyhole" of large churches (original article here).
Things That Are Changing
Multi-site changes everything. An estimated 2,000 churches in America now use the multi-site model.
Social media. Senior pastors under 40 who are leading large churches all use social media. "Fifteen years ago, pastors were wondering how they could be less accessible," Travis says. "Today, younger pastors want more access."
Internet campuses. It's becoming cheaper and more accessible for all churches to incorporate internet campuses. "For some this will be a fad but for others this is going to be a big part of their reaching strategy going forward," Travis adds.
Online giving. "It's here, and it's growing," he says. "Younger leaders recognize that no one carries cash or checkbooks anymore."
Declining mobility rate. The pace of Americans who relocate at least 10 miles from their current home is slowing. A Nielsen study on declining mobility says the percent of the U.S. population that moves is at an all-time low.
Things That Aren't Changing (But Some Think They Are)
Megachurch decline. Some megachurches (churches with more than 2,000 in attendance per weekend) are declining in attendance, but based on the research for the bookBeyond Megachurch Myths, the number of megachurches per million of population continues to rise.
Wave of organic/house expansion. "My sense is that there has been a slight increase in the number of house churches that have formed as a percentage of population, but not a dramatic increase," Travis says.
Things That Will Change—Eventually
Women as teaching pastors. "Currently, eight percent of churches have women teachers," Travis says. "Multiple teachers bring a wider view, and women bring different emotional word pictures that draw on different parts of the brain for listeners."
Foreign invasion. More missionaries are coming to the U.S. from developing countries to plant churches here under the wider mandate of the Great Commission.
The funeral business. There are more cremations, more requests for funerals as community experiences (rather than pastor-led ones), and growing demand for evening services. All of these shifts present changes for churches, including the demands and expectations placed on church staffs and facilities, Travis says.
Things That Should Change
Green churches. "Being a green church adds credibility in the community," Travis says. "I would have thought more churches would have embraced this opportunity by now."
Ministries to people 55 and older. "With the huge baby boomer population in this demographic, I'm surprised we're not seeing growth for this sector," Travis says.
Remote church offices. "This could help churches gain much-needed ministry space instead of having to build or relocate," he says.