GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Comparing onsite vs. online churches regarding giving, attendance, who prefers each and how the “great barrier to Church Growth” has disappeared.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11-1-21.

In the studies of how churches grow, we’ve always known that most (actually 68%, Kevin D. Dougherty, Baylor Univ., 2017) of chruch attendees will only drive 15 minutes or less to a church. I’ve called this the “great barrier to Church Growth” because it is a barrier churches have not been able to overcome … until now!

This is a chart from my seminar on “Growing the Post-pandemic Church” (contact me to schedule an onsite or online seminar).

Full notes are available here: https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2021/11/07/growing-the-post-pandemic-church-here-are-the-handouts-notes-from-my-recent-november-seminar-in-orlando-fl-for-the-hybrid-church-seminar/

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & My latest article published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine: Vision Statements & How to Adjust Them to Grow a Post-pandemic Church (plus pics of 2021 Missional Coaches Reunion in Orlando).


Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: To grow the post-pandemic church you must adjust your Vision Statement, especially if you have …

  • aging buildings,
  • plateaued/declining attendance,
  • overbuilt sanctuaries &
  • underfunded staffs. 

In my newly publishing article in Biblical Leadership Magazine, I explain the importance of post-pandemic adjustments to your Vision Statements in an article called: “Vision Statements: How they are underused, overemphasized and mostly ineffective.”

Check it out.  Then, check out pictures below from our 2021 Missional Coaches Reunion in Orlando as well as pictures from my seminars from the Midwest to the South.

And don’f forget –

  • If you or someone you know wants to join 44 other grads who have shadowed me in my consulting work,
  • Only 5 shadow me each year,
  • But Missional Coaches applications are now OPEN (scholarships to the first 3 who request this)>

MISSIONAL COACHES APPLICATION > https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2022MissionalCoaches

Bob
BOB WHITESEL, DMIN, PHD
COACH, CONSULTANT, SPEAKER & AWARD-WINNING WRITER/SCHOLAR

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & A chart showing what is happening every second on the Internet. #DataNeverSleeps2

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: If you ever wondered what the new communication tool is, then take a look at this chart depicting what happens every minute on the Internet. When I was growing up people used to use the phrase “… in a New York minute.” And they meant that this was not really a minute, but maybe only about 15 seconds because New Yorkers were known at that time for being impatient and quick to do, what they wanted to do.

But today an “Internet minute” reminds us that every minute people are communicating through dozens of different platforms or what we would call in communication theory: communication conduits.

Are you using these conduits to share the Good News?

Take a look at how much communication is going on in each and ask yourself, “Maybe we should be using some of these new conduits to share the Good News.

In an Internet Minute, Way Too Much is Happening All the Time

The numbers of internet searches, posts, messages, uploads, and dollars spent that take place every sixty seconds are utterly, ludicrously staggering.

By Eric Griffith, PC Magazine, 9/30/21.

…Here’s the full chart for 2021, including a look at the population of internet users in total, which is currently at 5.2 billion people.

For more, you can check out the last 8 yearsof Domo’s Data Never Sleeps charts

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & The meaning of life, death and the afterlife will increasingly be on people’s minds and must be addressed in church teachings. #eReformation. #GrowingThePostPandemicChurchBook

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from Growing the Post-Pandemic Church, 8/9/20.

Eschatology, the study of one’s final destiny, will be of increasing interest as the world grows smaller and waves of illnesses travel the globe at increasing speeds. 

The problem:

In recent years the church shifted away from eschatology, to topics of how to live a better life here and now. And while that may be important, it is eternal questions that will begin to dominate people’s interest as catastrophes circle the globe. 

The solution:  

Start preparing now: churches need to be prepared with orthodoxy and in clarity to address the issues of life, death and the afterlife.  

Remember …

Jesus told us, “Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner. And so, it is with you. When you see all these things, you know he is at the door. Don’t take this lightly” (Mark 13:28-29, MSG).

Christ knew today’s catastrophes would happen. He is not surprised (John 16:30, Rev. 2:23). So, as knowledge of a fig tree tells an orchardist about the coming season, so too must Christian leaders discern the season we are in. It is time for church leaders to carefully adapt electronic tools, the way it once did the printing press, to better communicate the Good News.

Click to learn about the “9 other marks of the eReformation” in Growing the Post-Pandemic Church.

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Churches Grapple With The Vaxxed And Unvaxxed Divide

by Blake Farmer, NPR, 5/16/21.

… Even as the most vulnerable have pretty well gotten their COVID-19 shots in Nashville, Temple Church still hasn’t returned to in-person worship services.

Many congregations in Nashville — especially those with predominantly Black members — have taken a more conservative approach to getting back together. And no government regulations are stopping them.

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Leath is the bishop overseeing African Methodist Episcopal churches in Tennessee and Kentucky. While many have held vaccination events for members, almost all worship — on the bishop’s recommendation — has remained virtual.

… So if A.M.E. congregations want to go back to in-person gatherings, he’s still requiring masks for everyone, no hugs or handshakes, and — critically — no maskless singing.

Relegating unvaccinated members in the balcony — or some other segregating policy — just doesn’t feel right to most church leaders. But some are willing to draw a distinction between the vaxxed and the unvaxxed.

… At Acklen Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville, preacher J.P. Conway greets members as they arrive with some instructions.

“If you’re vaccinated and you’d like to take your mask off when we sing, feel free,” he tells them, directing everyone to the church lawn. 

Conway says he never wanted anyone to feel too much pressure. But people started volunteering that they’d gotten the shot. So he began giving weekly updates in Sunday school on Zoom and then from the pulpit — like a church might do with the weekly offering.

“We were basically telling people what percentage of our church had been vaccinated every week,” he says. “So that was an indirect way of saying, ‘we think you should all do this.'”

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2021/05/16/996858744/houses-of-worship-grapple-with-the-vaxxed-and-unvaxxed-divide?

If you would like to discover best practices for Growing the Post-pandemic Church check out the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Growing-Post-pandemic-Church-Leadership-church-Guides/dp/

GIN CRAZE & The Reasons Behind John Wesley’s Teaching Against Hard Alcohol.

Writing for History Extra, Mark Forsyth, author of A Short History of Drunkenness, explores the history behind this alcoholic spirit.

…Alcoholic spirits were a pretty new commodity in 18th-century society, though they had actually been around for a long time. They started as a chemical curiosity in about the 10th century AD. They were being drunk by the very, very rich for pleasure by about 1500, as shown when James IV of Scotland bought several barrels of whisky. But even a hundred years later, in 1600, there was only one recorded bar in England that sold spirits to the curious (just outside London, towards Barking).

Then in about 1700, spirits hit. The reasons are complicated and involve taxation of grain and the relations with the Dutch, but the important thing is that gin suddenly became widely available to Londoners, which was a good thing for the gin-sellers as Londoners needed a drink. The turn of the 18th century was a great period of urbanisation, when the poor of England flocked to London in search of streets paved with gold and Bubbles from South Sea [the South Sea Bubble was a speculation boom in the early 1710s], only to find that the streets were paved with mud and there was no work to be had. London’s population was around 600,000. There were only two other towns in England with populations of 20,000. London was the first grand, anonymous city. There were none of the social constraints of a village where everybody knew everybody’s business. And there were none of the financial safeguards either, with a parish that would support its native poor, or the family and friends who might have looked after you at home. Instead, there was gin.

A craze among the poor

It’s very hard to say which was bigger – the craze for drinking gin that swept the lower classes, or the moral panic at the sight of so many gin drinkers that engulfed the ruling classes. Anonymous hordes of poor, often homeless people wandered the city drinking away their sorrows, and often their clothes, as they readily exchanged their garments for the spirit.

Before the industrial revolution and the rash of cotton mills that would fill the north of England a century later, cloth was very expensive. Beggars really did dress in rags, if at all, and the obvious thing to sell if you really needed money fast was, literally, the shirt on your back. The descriptions left to us by the ‘Gin Panickers’ would be funny – if they weren’t so tragic.

The arrival of gin

Before gin had come on the scene, Englishmen had drunk beer. English women had drunk it too – up to a point – but beer and the alehouses where it was served had always been seen as basically male domains. Gin, which was new and exotic and metropolitan, didn’t have any of these old associations. There were no rules around gin. There were no social norms about who could drink it, or when you could drink it, or how much of it you could drink. A lot of places served it in pints because, well… that’s what you drank. A country boy newly arrived in the city wasn’t going to drink a thimbleful of something.

This was, quite literally, put to the test in 1741, when a group of Londoners offered a farm labourer a shilling for each pint of gin he could sink. He managed three, and then dropped down dead. It’s amazing he got that far, as gin, in those days, was about twice as strong as it is now and contained some interesting flavourings. Some distillers used to add sulphuric acid, just to give it some bite.

And so the efforts to ban drinking among the lower classes began. And they didn’t work very well. When authorities decided to ban the sale of gin, there were fully fledged riots. The poor didn’t want their drug of choice taken away. They loved ‘Madam Geneva’, as they called the spirit.

The Puss-and-Mew machine

The contraption known as the ‘Puss-and-Mew machine’ was simple. The gin-seller found a window in alleyway that was nowhere near the building’s front door. The window was covered boarded over with a wooden cat. The gin-buyer would approach and say to the cat: “Puss, give me two pennyworth of gin,” and then place the coins in the cat’s mouth. These would slide inwards to the gin-seller who would pour the gin down a lead pipe that emerged under the cat’s paw. The crowds loved it and the inventor, Dudley Bradstreet, made three or four pounds a day, which was a lot of money. As nobody witnessed both sides of the transaction, no charges could be brought.

Read more at … https://www.historyextra.com/period/georgian/gin-craze-panic-18th-century-london-when-came-england-alcohol-drinking-history/

GATHERING & How dinner churches are surviving (and thriving) in post-pandemic church.

“How are dinner churches surviving the pandemic?” by Kendall Vanderslice, The Christian Century, 3/23/21.

…Modeled after the early church practice of sharing a meal together as Eucharist, dinner churches seek to address social isolation and loneliness through the very structure of their worship. Their practice also mirrors the agape meal or love feast tradition, a tradition adopted by John Wesley and memorialized in the UMC Book of Worship.

…In many denominations, the quick shift to online worship led to theological confusion and debate over if and how to celebrate the Eucharist. For dinner churches, which form their core identity around gathering for a communal meal, that question posed a particular sort of challenge. Their approach to it has varied, as has their approach to virtual worship generally.

… Over the course of the two-hour service, congregants participate in every aspect of the liturgy. They welcome visitors and catch up with old friends. They sing, eat, and discuss the scripture reading. They pray and share their joys and concerns. The church even sets aside time for mingling, encouraging congregants to utilize breakout rooms in shifting groups of two or three people to approximate the informal conversations that would happen at the start of an in-person gathering.

… Anna Woofenden, the Protestant chaplain at Amherst College and pastor of a campus dinner church, made the transition quickly as well. “We had spring break off, then we started right back up. We kept the same time, the same liturgy, we just met on Zoom.”

This consistency from week to week, and from pre-COVID worship to now, has proven invaluable for worshipers and pastors alike.

“Lots of students told us, ‘This is the one consistent thing in my life right now. It’s the one thing I can count on,’” says Woofenden. “In this time where everything feels different, everything feels uncertain, we all find great peace and comfort in the well-worn words and well-worn rhythms and being held by that liturgy.”

…As the coronavirus precautions stretch on, churches of all sizes and traditions find themselves increasingly hungry for more embodied forms of connection. The virtual agape meal or dinner church service provides that. Although it cannot fully address the human need for physical relationships, it serves as a helpful tool until the longing to worship together as a body can be filled. This tactile reminder of a future in which we will gather once again to break bread, shake hands, and embrace one another offers something to carry us through to that future, as the Eucharist carries us on toward the new creation.

“Even though we’re on Zoom, we can breathe together and feel the presence of God touching us and speaking to us as a community,” Scharen says. “That’s the work of the Holy Spirit blowing, even through this weird Zoom format that we have.”

Read more at … https://www.christiancentury.org/article/features/how-are-dinner-churches-surviving-pandemic?

GALATIANS & The rarely known Celtic background of its inhabitants is another example of Paul’s custom of reaching out to rebels and outcasts.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When we talk about the Galatians, we think of them as the inhabitants of just another city in the region. But they were a city of displaced rebels, who after attacking and failing to subdue the Greek city of Delphi, retreated to this part of Asia Minor and set up an enclave of barbaric Celtic culture. For Paul to include them in his churches and mentor them was an example of reaching out to the outcasts of the Roman Empire. Read this background for more insights.

Background of inhabitants, by BORJA PELEGERO, National Geographic, 4/10/21.

A century later, Celtic armies had another prize in their sight: In 279 B.C., after settling areas of the Balkans, Celtic forces attempted to capture the riches of the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. They were defeated by the Greeks, but some of the scattered army, along with other Balkan Celts, went on to found the area in central Turkey known by the Greeks as Galatia, derived from the Greek word for “Gaul.” Later, Galatia’s earliest Christians were the subject of a missive in around A.D. 50, a document that is now the ninth book of the New Testament: St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

Who were the Celts?

With settlements stretching from Ireland to Turkey, this Iron Age culture used their metalworking skills to build extensive trade networks with ancient Greece and Rome.

Read more at … https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history-and-civilisation/2021/04/who-were-the-celts

GENERATIONS & These are the commonly accepted designations for different age groups.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/4/21.

During today’s Easter gathering with my children and grandchildren, the question came up about generational designations. In case similar questions have or will arise in your family gatherings here are the designations as used by researchers and media outlets.

There are varying ways to designate generational cultures. The most widely accepted labels have been put forth by Philip Bump in his article “Here is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts.”[1] Synthesizing work conducted by the US Census Bureau, the Harvard Center and Strauss and Howe, Bump suggests these designations:

  • Greatest Generation, born before 1945
  • Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964
  • Generation X, born 1965-1984
  • (overlapping: Generation Y, born 1975-2004)
  • Millennials, born 1982-2004
  • TBD, 2003-today[2]

Philip Bump, The Atlantic, titled “Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts” (3/25/14)

Excerpted from my Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. Read more here … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/change-harnessing-the-differences-between-generations-their-approaches-to-change/

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & the majority (of churchgoers) think that at least some virus-related modifications are in order (58%).

By Pew Research, 3/23/21.

… While the share of religious attenders who think their congregations should be closed altogether has declined since last summer (from 28% to 15%), the majority think that at least some virus-related modifications are in order (58%). One-quarter of U.S. religious attenders are in favor of fully opening up their congregations without any restrictions.

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2021/03/22/life-in-u-s-religious-congregations-slowly-edges-back-toward-normal/?

GEOGRAPHIC vs. DEMOGRAPHIC CHURCHES – Which one are you? Before you can grow, you need to know. This questionnaire will help you decide. #CureForTheCommonChurch #WayneSchmidt #KentwoodCommunityChurch

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2012, excerpted from Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Wesleyan Publishing House).

The cure for the ingrown church is to keep a church focused both inward and outward.  In fact, history indicates that churches that stay connected to outsiders often do a better job at inward ministry too.  For example, an Anglican pastor named John Wesley was so ashamed and alarmed at the depravity of the people outside of his church, that he took his sermons outside the church walls and began ministries to better serve their spiritual and physical needs.[i]  Balancing this emphasis upon people inside and outside the church required a rigorous structure his critics mockingly called: “Wesley’s Methods.”  Soon his followers were know as “Methodists,” a term which endures to today and should remind us that we need a clear method if we are going to avoid focusing only on people inside the church. After 20+ years of consulting, I believe this method here lies in three organic remedies.  These cures, if taken together, can foster a healthy balance between inward and outward focus.

RX 1 FOR THE COMMON CHURCH = GROW O.U.T.  

In this cure, as well as in all of the cures in this book, the remedies spell out the name of the cure.

CURxE O:  Observe whom you are equipped to reach

CURxE U:  Understand the needs of those you are equipped to reach.

CURxE T:  Tackle needs by refocusing, creating or ending ministry programs.

CURxE  O = OBSERVE WHOM YOU ARE CALLED TO REACH

TWO COMMON OPTIONS

The main reason most churches become common is because they forget (and sometimes just don’t know) to whom God has equipped them to reach out and minister.[ii]  They know they aren’t supposed to be ingrown, but exactly who should they be growing out to serve?  Usually, there are two options that can be discovered by asking two questions:

  1. Has God equipped your church to minister to people in a geographic community?  
    1. If you answered yes, you might be a “Geographic  Church.” 
    1. Geo- means “of an area.”   This is a church whose ministry has been directed toward people in a geographic area (often those who live nearby).
    1. These churches meet the needs of people in one or more geographic communities.
    1. Examples:  a neighborhood church, a village church, a rural church, a church in a housing development, a downtown church, etc. (For more examples see Figure 2.1.)
  2. Has God equipped your church to minister to people like us?  
    1. If you answered yes, you might be a “Demographic Church.” 
    1. Demo- means “of a people.”  This is a church whose ministry has been directed toward a people group (e.g. those who share common characteristics).
    1. These churches meet the needs of one or more sections of the population that share common characteristics, such as age, ethnicity, socio-economics, common interests, etc.[iii]
    1. Examples: generational churches, ethnic churches, aging traditional churches, blue-collar churches, middle-class churches, Café Churches, college churches, etc. (For more examples see Figure 2.2.)

Your road to uncommon church life begins with understanding if you are a church equipped to meet the needs of a specific “geographic” area, or if you are equipped to minister to one or more “demographic” sections of the population.  Both geographic churches and demographic churches are legitimate and both are needed.  And, the process begins by observing your surroundings, your history and how God has moved in your church’s history.[iv]

Are You a Geographic Church?

Some churches are primarily equipped by God to reach a geographic area such as a neighborhood, a borough, a small town, a rural area, a township, a neighborhood, a school district, a suburb, an urban district, etc.  Geographic churches often have a long history of ministering in a specific area.  And, if the culture of the geographic area changes, because the geographic church is called to that locale, the geographic church will stay put but change with that culture.  

This is not always easy, nor quick.  In Appendix 2.A you can find the story of Kentwood Community Church, a Michigan congregation that has successfully changed ethnicity and grown while remaining in the same (changing) geographic area.

Today many churches are forced by their location and/or history to be geographic churches.  Figure 2.1 lists some more common examples of “Geographic Churches:”

Figure 2.1 Examples of Geographical Churches

 Churches constrained[v]by distanceChurches located in small towns and/or rural districts with very little outside traffic may have no other option than to become geographic churches meeting the needs of those people living nearby.Churches that are elsewhere off the beaten path.
 Churches constrained by natural featuresChurches located in wilderness areas, valleys, etc. with very little outside traffic. Churches located in back road areas.Churches located on river deltas, islands or peninsulas.
 Churches constrained by traffic patternsSuburban churches may be geographic churches if they are in an area of a suburb not traveled by many people from outside of the area. Suburban churches can be geographic churches if their buildings are hidden in a housing development or subdivision.
 Churches constrained by owned assetsChurches that own their own facilities (and market or geographic conditions make selling and moving impractical)Churches that own significant or valuable acreage (and market or geographic conditions make selling  and moving impractical)
 Churches constrained by imageChurches that are located in a neighborhood with its own identity (e.g. blue-collar, artist, urban, young professional, college student, etc.)A old, established downtown church that cannot move to the suburbs because there are other denominational churches already there.A church residing in one of the inner city’s labyrinth of neighborhoods, may be limited by that neighborhood’s identity.

Special Attributes of Geographic Churches

Geographic churches will stay put and change as the cultures around it change.  If the cultural makeup of a community changes, a geographic church will change to reflect those changes.  Rather than moving out of an area if the culture changes (like a demographic church might do), the geographic church is a chameleon, staying put and changing its appearances to reflect its changing environment.

Geographic churches can reach out to several cultures at the same time.  A geographic church in an urban area might be comprised of a Mexican congregation, an Asian congregation and a young professionals congregation.  

Geographic churches may be the majority of churches today.  From Figure 2.1 we can see that most churches today may be geographically limited, and thus are best able to reach out to their geographic communities.  But now let’s look at another increasingly popular option, Demographic Churches. 

Are you a Demographic Church? [vi]

Today people can drive a great distance to attend a church they like.  As a result more and more churches are drawing people from several sections of the population rather than just ministering to those in the geographic area nearby.  

Demographic groups are sections of the population that talk alike, behave alike and in which members can tell who is in their group and who is not.[vii]  Thus, though the names and designations are always evolving, Figure 2.2highlights some examples of Demographic Churches.

Figure 2.2  Examples of Demographic Churches[viii]

Generational churches[ix]Senior adult (b. 1945 & before) churches[x] also called Silent Generation or Builder Generation churches[xi]Boomer (b. 1946-1964) churchesGeneration X (b. 1965-1983) churchesGeneration Y (b. 1984-2002)  churches, etc.
Socio-economic churches,[xii]Churches in working class neighborhoods, etcUrban churches among the working poorMiddle-class suburban churches
Ethnic Churches[xiii]Latin American churchesHispanic American churchesAfrican American churchesAsian American churchesNative American churchesCaucasian churches,[xiv] etc.
Affinity churches(focused around a common interest)Cowboy ChurchesNASCAR churchesMotorcycle churchesEmerging-Postmodern ChurchesCafé ChurchesArt Churches, College Churches, etc.[xv]

            Special Attributes of Demographic Churches

Demographic churches (like geographic churches) can reach out to several cultures at the same time.  A demographic church could be comprised of a Latino/Latina congregation, an Asian congregation, an aging retiree congregation and an Emerging-Postmodern congregation.   

Demogrpahic churches will change locations, following a people group as they leave to live in new locales.  If the demographic group they are reaching moves out of the area, a demographic church moves along with the culture.  For example, a Boomer church may move from an urban area to the suburbs as its congregants move to those suburbs.  And, an Asian church I know moved to a nearby town when most of its Asian members moved to that town.  

Can Churches be Geographic and Demographic?  Yes!

Many churches are reaching nearby geographic areas, as well as several far-flung demographics.  In fact, this may be one of the healthiest ways for a church to grow, because the church maintains a strong local ministry while reaching out to more and more far flung people groups.  Such congregations create a wonderful region-wide ministry coupled with a strong local foundation.  

St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield England is a good example of a demographic church that has a robust ministry to its local geographic area too. England’s largest Anglican Church (where most churchgoers are under the age of 35) calls itself “a church of churches” with worship services at different locations around town for varying people groups (e.g. a young professionals church, a student church, a church for internationals, and different churches in different neighborhoods).  It also has a robust local ministry in the geographic area of its first church, called the “Mother Church.”  This Mother Church was the original Anglican congregation that gave rise to “a church of (six) churches” around town.[xvi]

Still, for many small churches being both a geographic church and a demographic church may not be an option.   Because the average church in North America is only 75 attendees,[xvii] most of these churches do not have the numbers to be both a geographic and a demographic church.  Thus, the common church in North America must first determine if it is called to stay put and reach out to its geographic area or if it is go move, following a people group it has been reaching.  Figure 2.3 will be the key to determining this.

Which Church Are You?

Use Figure 2.3 to begin to investigate what type of church God may have equipped you to be.  Neither the geographic approach or the demographic approach is better than the other.  They are simply two basic ways that God equips his church to reach out.  And, each approach has pros and cons (see Figure 2.4).

The starting place is to look at your history, your situation and under what circumstances God moves in your midst.  To begin this process, check the boxes in the columns of Figure 2.3 that most represent your church and its vision.

Figure 2.3  Are you a Geographic or a Cultural Church?

 You might be a Geographic Church if ..You might be aDemographic Church[xviii] if …
  Focus You have a burden to reach a geographicarea for Christ. Needs in a geographic area (e.g. a neighborhood, etc.) dictate your ministry. You have a burden to reach one or more people groups for Christ. The needs of certain people groups (which may be spread across a region) dictate your ministry.
  Pastor Your pastor feels called to your geographic community. Your pastor has stayed (or is planning to stay) for a long time in the church’s geographical area. Your pastor feels called to a certain people (ethnic, generational, etc., see Figure 2.2). Your pastor is open to moving out of the area if most of the church’s attendees live or are moving out of the area.
  Staff Most of the church staff live in the church’s geographical area. Most of the staff have long histories in the church’s geographical area. Most of the church staff does not live in the church’s geographical area. Most of the church staff does not have a long history in the church’s geographical area.
  Facilities Your church owns permanent facilities in the area In the past five years you have built new facilities in the area. In the past five years you have renovated or updated facilities. You change facilities as need arises, leasing or renting church facilities rather than owning them. You have multiple auditoriums or venues to accommodate different worship styles.
  Limiting factors Your location is hemmed in by geographic features that sometimes thwart visitors from finding you, such as:A valley, hill or riverA small town surrounded by farmlandA neighborhood with its own identity. Your churchgoers are aging. Your churchgoers are moving away from the area, to an area where there are churches similar to yours which they may attend.
  Character-istics Your church is in a small town. Your church is in a neighborhood that has a specific identity. You church is in an urban area of a city. Your church is in a middle-class suburban church. Your church is a church with attendees primarily under the age of 35. Your church is known for blending several people groups together.[xix]
    Names Your church name reflects the geographic area you are called to reach, such as:Smithville ChurchPine Lake ChurchFirst (i.e. downtown) Church Harris Avenue Church, etc. Your church name has not been changed in a long time.  Your church name reflects the language of a people group, such as:Overcomers’ ChurchFamily Worship CenterCommunity Church[xx]A Greek or Latin name (e.g. The Crux- Latin for cross; or Missio Dei). Your church name has been changed in the last decade. 
 Growth Your church experienced a period of growth between 1950 and 1970. Your church experienced a period of growth since 1970.
 Results:  (total checked in this column) (total checked in this column)
(If you have equal checks in both columns you may be geographic and demographic church)[xxi]

When you tally up the columns in Figure 2.3, you will begin to see a congregational trajectory.  But remember, there are strengths and weaknesses to each approach.  Write in the box in Figure 2.4 which culture or geographic area you are called to reach:

Figure 2.4  Who’s needs are you called to meet?  (Circle one)

                                                                                                  Who’s needs are you called to meet?
 A geographic area Demographic groups
(describe it here)     (describe it/them here) 
                                                                                                  Remember these pros and cons:
Pros of geographic church:Builds a strong connection with an area.Can more readily bring about racial and cultural reconciliation within a changing area.[xxii]Does not need to move facilities as often.Can invest in local facilities enjoying ownership privileges. Cons of geographic church:Encounters change more often because geographic areas regularly experience cultural transitions.Staff and leaders usually do not stay for a long time, rather transitioning in an out as the culture changes.Pros of cultural church:Builds a strong communication connection with sections of the population that share common characteristics.Provides relevant ministry.Can move with a people group, leasing or renting facilities in lieu of purchasing or building them.Encounters change less often.Staff can remain a long time. Cons of cultural church:Can become culturally prejudiced.Can become separatist (i.e. siloed) unless it grows into a church where different people groups partner in the same church.[xxiii]    

Figure 2.4 should give you a general indication of the direction of your church’s recent ministry.[xxiv] Before you move ahead to the next remedy, it is important to reflect back upon what kind of church God has equipped you to be.


[i] Wesley urged discipleship via small groups which he called “class meetings” to help non-churchgoers grasp the basics of Christianity.  These “class meetings” were a type of discipleship group, which we shall discuss in greater detail in the next chapter.

[ii] A depiction of God equipping a church to best reach a specific geographic area or demographic is an unpleasant image for those who wish all churches to be all things to all people.  But, even in New Testament times we see congregations emerging with specific calls, such as Antioch’s emphasis upon missionary training, Corinth’s impact upon the Roman intelligentsia, and Jerusalem’s influence upon the structures and doctrine of the fledgling church.  While churches should not limit themselves as to what God can do, it is helpful for churches (just like people, c.f. Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4) to ascertain how God has gifted them and to whom they may best be able to minister.

[iii] “demographic,” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011).

[iv] This is not to say that all churches are called to a geographic area or to a demographic.  Some churches are mixtures. Yet, observing how God has equipped and empowered your church is the first step toward ascertaining whose needs you are called to meet.

[v] When using the term constrained I am not saying that God cannot call and equip a church to overcome a restricted geographic area and reach an entire region. There are many examples of such congregations (see Bob Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church: Learning From 12 Emerging Congregations, [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008].)  However in my consulting practice I have observed that God often calls churches to a geographic locale and does so in part by geographically delimiting their sphere of impact.  Because many churches are not aware of a call to a locale, they often stumble ahead trying to minister to a demographic that has left the area, and subsequently refuse to adapt and minister to the changing demographic in their neighborhood.

[vi] See Appendix 2.B for an explanation of John Perkins’ “3 Rs.” These three lessons from this pioneer in civil rights and Christian community development can ensure that cultural churches do not become mono- demographic enclaves.  It is the conclusion of my case study research and this book that a healthy church is not a mono- demographic church but a congregation partnering across cultural boundaries to produce a reconciliation between cultures that modern society so desperately needs.

[vii] The phrase “talk alike, behave alike and can tell who is in their group and who is not,” is expanded by Paul Hiebert in more detail as a matrix of behaviors, ideas and products (Cultural Anthropology [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1976). P. 25. 

[viii] These demographic examples are not meant to be exhaustive nor definitive, because demographic designations are still evolving (for more on this see Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church [Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing Company, 2007], pp. 50-62).

[ix] For characteristics of generational churches see lists and charts in Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing Company, 2007), pp. 52-65.

[x] Today, probably the most widespread church demographic are those who prefer “traditional worship” (and all of its various permutations), Hispanic Churches (and all of their wonderfully diverse Hispanic cultures), African American Churches (with their many vibrant variations) and youthful churches (orientated toward attendees under 35 years of age).

[xi] This generation has been labeled the “silent generation” to emphasize their stoic nature in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe in their seminal book Generations: The History of American’s Future, 1954-2069 (New York: Quill, 1992).  Tom Brokaw popularized them as the “Greatest Generation” in his book, The Greatest Generation (New York: Random House, 2004).  They have also been called the “Builder Generation” for their propensity to honor God with their handicraft as exemplified in their church buildings (Gary McIntosh, One Church, Four Generations: Understanding and Reaching All Ages in Your Church [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2002] and Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000).

[xii] For more on socio-economic levels see David Jaffee, Levels of Socio-economic Development Theory (New York: Praeger 1998), and Organization Theory (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001).

[xiii] Defining ethnicity can be challenging, with terminology and designations constantly evolving.  I have employed here (only as an example) ethnic designations used by the US Census Bureau. 

[xiv] Historically, many of the churches in America began as churches reaching out to specific demographics.  For example Norwegian Lutheran Churches were started in the small towns of Wisconsin and Minnesota to offer culturally relevant worship for non-churchgoing immigrants in their native language and music.  But these immigrant churches also displayed many of the characteristics of geographic area churches because in those days most demographic groups were located in specific geographic communities.  This fact is sometimes hard for congregants with long histories in a church to understand, for they may want to retain their cultural and geographic focus long after their culture has moved to another part of town.

[xv] For examples of affinity churches see Bob Whitesel, Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church [Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing Company, 2007], pp. 56-58 and Bob Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 1 Emerging Congregations (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006).

[xvi] See my case-study of “St. Thomas’ Church Sheffield, England” in the following three sources: Inside the Organic Church: Learning From 12 Emerging Congregations (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006), pp. 1-12; “A Process Model for Church Change as Reflected in St. Thomas’ Anglican Church, Sheffield England,” The Great Commission Research Journal (La Mirada, CA: Biola University, Winter 2010). pp.  265-280 and “The Perfect Cluster: For Young Adults, St. Tom’s Sheffield Creates Extended Families, and Everyone Knows Where They Fit” Outreach Magazine (Vista, CA: May/June 2005).  See also http://www.stthomascrookes.org

[xvii] Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, The American  Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008 (Hartford, CT: Program on Public Values, 2009) and Duke University, National Congregations Study, http://www.soc.duke.edu/natcong/index.html

[xviii] It is important to note that “demographic churches” can be comprised of more than one demographic.  For instance, a demographic church can have a Boomer subcongregation, a Generation-X subcongregation, a Hispanic subcongregation and an Asian subcongregation.  Called subcongregations because they are sub-sections of the church, their cultural heritage is honored by allowing their worship/teaching/etc. to be culturally distinct, while at the same time working together to manage one organization. Thus, worship/teaching/etc. can be culturally distinct in the sub-congregational model, but the responsibility for management and assets is shared. Thus, unity is created in leading a church, not in worship at that church (for worship by the definition of the very term means encounter with God see Bob Whitesel, ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church [(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011], pp. 130-131.)  Thus worship’s focus is God, not the creation of unity.  There are plenty of opportunities in the sub-congregational model for unity to be created in management and ministry cooperation.  One young emerging leader put it this way, “you can’t create unity in a worship service, the chairs are facing the wrong way.”  He made a good point.

[xix] See footnote 17 for an explanation of two types of multi-ethnic churches.

[xx] Even though the term “Community Church” would seem to designate a geographic church, the author has found that when the appellation “community” is added to a church name it usually designates a Boomer church (i.e. a demographic church) rather than a geographical-orientated congregation.  For example, one of my client congregations named “Community Church of the Nazarene” (comprised primarily of Boomers) broke away from Taylor Avenue Church of the Nazarene (at the time comprised mostly of the Builder Generation).  Despite the inclusive name, Community Church of the Nazarene became a church that primarily attracted Boomers from across the region, while Taylor Avenue Church of the Nazarene continued to primarily attract the Builder Generation from the neighborhood in which it was located.  Happily, both the neighborhood and church are today growing into a vibrant Hispanic community.

[xxi] There actually may be two prevalent types of multi-ethnic churches. 

  1. Multi-ethnic subcongregational churches.  These churches are comprised of a partnership of sub-congregations that are all part of one legal non-profit organization.  This would be analogous to a local church that was comprised of Asian, Hispanic, African American and Anglo congregations with different staffs and different worship encounters that are equal partners in the same nonprofit organization. Their various worship encounters resembles a multi-site or multi-venue church and their evangelistic prowess is a result of their ability to connect multiple demographic concurrently (for more examples see Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church [Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing Company, 2007], pp. 68-70).  While it has been my observation that evangelistic proficiency is increased in “multi-ethnic sub-congregational churches,” unless there are at least quarterly “unity events” a silo effect (see footnote 19) can occur.  However, this model’s evangelistic proficiency probably trumps the following model’s multi-ethnic harmony.
  2. Multi-ethnic homogenous churches.  There are many multi-ethnic churches which are in essence one worshipping congregation attended by multiple cultures.  It can be argued that these latter congregations are really not multicultural churches, as much as they are a homogenous congregation made up of people from different cultures who like a blended demographic format (see Tetsunao Yamamori “How to Reach a New Culture in Your Community” op. cit.).  While some of my friends would disagree with this conclusion (see Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li, Ethnic Blends: Mixing Diversity into Your Local Church [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010]) it is important to note that churches where multiple cultures rub shoulders and learn to get along are needed today, and both Yamamori’s and DeYmaz’s models are relevant.  

[xxii] See the example of Kentwood Community Church in the Kentwood Community of Grand Rapids, Mich. http://www.kentwoodcommunitychurch.com

[xxiii] The “silo effect” has been described by Patrick Lencioni as “the barriers that exist between departments within an organization, causing people who are supposed to be on the same team to work against one another.”  Silos emerge in the demographic church when a church evolves in demographicly-centric silos with little contact or unity experiences for other subcongregations. For more on the silo effect and how to overcome it, see Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors (Hoboken, NY: Jossey-Bass, 2006), p. 175

[xxiv] Remember, simply because you are called to a culture, does not mean you should ignore other cultures or neighborhoods. But, this focus will determine who you will canvas to ascertain their needs in Cure U: Understand the Needs of Those You Are Called to Reach.

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Some churches experiment with Communion options

by David Paulson, 12/18/20.

…On Sunday evenings during Advent, the Rev. Ian Burch, St. Mark’s rector, consecrates take-home Communion kits during a brief service of Holy Eucharist, celebrated with just a few church volunteers. Then from 4 to 7 p.m., he greets parishioners at the front door and directs them to a path threading around the nave past prayer stations and devotional artworks. Before leaving the church, they stop at the right of the altar where a table is set up to hold the kits.

…Some congregations, after choosing to forego Communion for most of the pandemic due to the public health risks, have begun experimenting with a return to the practice.

… The Rev. David Cox, rector of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Mission, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb, felt parishioners’ longing for Communion after worshipping only online for months this year

…In Kansas, Cox is preparing St. Michael and All Angels for a unique Christmas Eve offering. Parishioners will be invited to park outside the church and tune their radios to the service of Holy Eucharist, which will be broadcast on a personalized frequency using an FM radio transmitter that the church purchased for little more than $100.

After consecrating the Communion bread, Cox will bring it outside and distribute it to worshippers in the parking lot. It may not be ideal, Cox said, but it is as close as his parishioners will get to experiencing a traditional Christmas Eve Eucharist this year.

Read more at … https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2020/12/17/after-pandemic-forced-eucharistic-fasts-some-churches-experiment-with-communion-options/

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Some churches experiment with Communion options

by David Paulson, 12/18/20.

…On Sunday evenings during Advent, the Rev. Ian Burch, St. Mark’s rector, consecrates take-home Communion kits during a brief service of Holy Eucharist, celebrated with just a few church volunteers. Then from 4 to 7 p.m., he greets parishioners at the front door and directs them to a path threading around the nave past prayer stations and devotional artworks. Before leaving the church, they stop at the right of the altar where a table is set up to hold the kits.

…Some congregations, after choosing to forego Communion for most of the pandemic due to the public health risks, have begun experimenting with a return to the practice.

… The Rev. David Cox, rector of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Mission, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb, felt parishioners’ longing for Communion after worshipping only online for months this year

…In Kansas, Cox is preparing St. Michael and All Angels for a unique Christmas Eve offering. Parishioners will be invited to park outside the church and tune their radios to the service of Holy Eucharist, which will be broadcast on a personalized frequency using an FM radio transmitter that the church purchased for little more than $100.

After consecrating the Communion bread, Cox will bring it outside and distribute it to worshippers in the parking lot. It may not be ideal, Cox said, but it is as close as his parishioners will get to experiencing a traditional Christmas Eve Eucharist this year.

Read more at … https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2020/12/17/after-pandemic-forced-eucharistic-fasts-some-churches-experiment-with-communion-options/

GIVING & Pandemic making people more generous.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: having worked behind the scenes with church leaders for over 30 years, I have a hunch that some churches’ desire to stay open or to reopen too early is based upon a loss of giving because of the lack of face-to-face (or face-to-plate) services.

However secular organizations that track charitable giving have found that people are increasing their charitable giving in response to the pandemic. Read this well researched article below.

Is the pandemic making people more generous — or more selfish?

The data on how people are giving in 2020 may surprise you. By Sigal Samuel, Vox, 12/4/20.

While you’d expect high-net-worth donors to give more during a crisis, you wouldn’t necessarily expect similar behavior from average people hurting from an economic downturn. Yet 56 percent of US households gave to charity or volunteered in response to the pandemic, and the first half of 2020 saw a 12.6 percent increase in the number of new donors to charity compared to one year ago. 

The causes that are faring especially well are the ones with an obvious connection to the pandemic, like hunger relief and health care. According to a Harris Poll survey conducted for Fast Company, “hunger relief has seen the most charitable giving — 34 percent, among those who have given to charity during the pandemic — followed by religious organizations (31 percent) and health and medical organizations (29 percent).”

Read more at … https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/21754625/covid-19-pandemic-generosity-charity-cash-transfers

GIVING & In a K-Shaped Recovery, Nonprofits Should Lean on Major Donors. #HarvardBusinessReview

… When nonprofits are under-resourced, their natural response is to turn to their donors. But is it realistic to expect a healthy stream of charitable contributions in the midst of the worst economic situation since the Great Depression?

Absolutely — if you approach the right people. Because even as unemployment soars, as tens of thousands of businesses close, and as default and eviction rates rise, a small but significant portion of the population is doing just fine, thank you.

Welcome to “the K-Shaped recovery,” in which the experience of the fortunate few is vastly different from the reality faced by the miserable many. Most of us are doing badly —some, desperately so — but others are doing well.

… People naturally project their personal financial worries onto others and assume that everyone around them is feeling the same degree of pain. But if you’re a nonprofit leader marinating in financial anxiety, I can assure you that many of your supporters are not feeling any financial pinch at all. In fact, those wealthy few may even be a bit more comfortable than usual, because their travel and entertainment plans have been curtailed by the pandemic.

This bifurcated economic recovery will undoubtedly amplify the trend of the last 40 years, where more and more charitable giving is coming from fewer and fewer donors. “Gilded Giving 2020,” a report from the Institute for Policy Studies, details this trend. The percentage of American households donating to charity dropped from 67% in 2002 to 53% in 2016, a decline that the report’s authors, Chuck Collins and Helen Flannery, blame largely on the increased economic precarity of the middle class. The report also notes that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which effectively removed the charitable-deduction incentives for tens of millions of taxpayers by doubling the standard deduction, served to dampen charitable giving further among middle- and upper-middle-class families. It does not take much imagination to presume that this troubling trend will accelerate in the era of Covid-19. Many Americans got out of the habit of giving to charity in the Great Recession. Many more will join them in 2020 and beyond.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2020/09/in-a-k-shaped-recovery-nonprofits-should-lean-on-major-donors?

GENERATIONS & When do retired people outnumber those of child-bearing age in a faith tradition? For mainline Protestants it was 20 years ago. For evangelicals, Catholics, and black Protestants it is happening NOW.“

Research by @RyanBurge, “When do retired people outnumber those of child-bearing age in a faith tradition? For mainline Protestants it was 20 years ago. For evangelicals, Catholics, and black Protestants the shift is happening right now.“

The new normal. What’s your plan? #BestPractices are in “Growing the Post-pandemic Church” in paperback & Kindle on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Bob-Whitesel/

“A must read! I recommend this book to anyone involved in church growth and development. Great tools for today’s church. A must read!” – Amazon customer

Kindle

Growing the Post-pandemic Church: A Leadership.church Guide, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F5L7S1T/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_DSDlFbA5FTSM5

Paperback

Growing the Post-pandemic Church: A Leadership.church Guide

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Make online communication more personal w/ your leaders. Discover how the Apostle Paul excelled in remote leadership. #BiblicalExamples from “Growing the Post-pandemic Church” in paperback & Kindle on Amazon, my #14thBook. #Post-PandemicChurchBook

FREE REVIEW COPY (unlocked)

Send me an email at bob@churchhealth.expert. Say something like, “Bob I’d like a free copy I can share. And, I’ll review it on Amazon.”

Pastors are struggling regarding what to do to grow during and after this pandemic. In my PhD work I researched how churches grow after change.

Here are the best practices.

Help me share these insights and get a free copy.

Here are the links where you can post your review on Amazon:

Kindle

Growing the Post-pandemic Church: A Leadership.church Guide, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F5L7S1T/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_DSDlFbA5FTSM5

Paperback

Growing the Post-pandemic Church: A Leadership.church Guide

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B08FK8VMWS/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr=