POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & An overview of Rainer & Whitesel’s advice on growing the post-pandemic church.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. In this article, a colleague described how much Thom and I agree on the future of the church. And though I purposely don’t read Rainer’s (or other Christian leaders’) writings on a topic when writing my own analysis, I am always happy to see so much agreement. I admire Thom’s intellect and influence. We go way back, to when I was the president of the Great Commission Research Network and Thom received the McGavran Award from that association at its annual conference held that year at Indiana Wesleyan University. When someone you admire so much agrees with you, you feel blessed and bolstered.

Leadership Thought: What the Post-Pandemic Church May Look Like

Dear Friends,

The church has changed more in the last year than at any time in the past 100 years, and it will continue to change according to those who study church trends. The Covid 19 pandemic has radically transformed the way we do church, and some of the change that has been wrought within the church may be more than just  temporary  interruptions; they may become permanent in naturel. In reading and listening to those who make a study of the church, there are a some changes that many of them agree on, and this morning I would like to share some of them.

Church change will happen faster than ever before. Our world is in a time of rapid change, and because of this  people are more open to change than ever before. If the church has been considering making major changes in its ministry, including staffing or  facilities, now is the time to do it as there will be less resistance to change than ever before.
“The core of the church will grow stronger and the fringe of the church will become looser,” was a statement I heard expressed on a recent pod cast. In plain terms, there will be a winnowing of the church. Some who have been attendees will not be coming back. It has been suggested that one third of the church will return, one third is still evaluating their return and one third may never return.

The church will simplify. There will be a concentration on doing a few things well rather than offering a lot of varied programs and services.
There will be a greater focus on training the laity to do ministry and the result will be more trained laymen  filling key leadership roles in the church. This certainly is a good thing for it is in keeping with the equipping mandate given the church in Eph. 4:11-12.

There will be an increase in bi vocational pastors who will split their time between secular work and church responsibilities.There will be a major shift in staff alignments as some  pastors will be leaving the ministry as a result of what has been called “decision and opinion fatigue.” This is a stretching time for pastors and with many of them being taken out of their comfort zones,  some may choose to explore other vocations.

There will be less of an emphasis on academic degrees and more emphasis placed on online certification. This has already been happening and seminaries are presently being forced to change their traditional ways of doing education. Those looking for pastors will be more interested in past certification and personal experience than in a seminary degree.

Younger pastors will be leading churches, simply because many of them will have the technical experience to function more comfortably in our fast-changing digital  world.There will be a greater emphasis  on the development of small groups within the church which will meet for study, training and mutual support  and which will often align themselves around a particular mission or para church ministry.

There will be a more churches closing or being adopted by larger and healthier churches. The concept of “fostering churches” will become a reality, and stronger churches will support smaller churches by training and equipping its leaders.There will be fewer senior or lead pastors heading up churches as many of them will choose to lead smaller or “micro churches” of 30-40 people. The church “will grow horizontally” as different small groups or micro churches are formed, and it will “shrink vertically” as larger churches see  diminishing number of attenders. 
Denominations will continue to decline,  something that has been happening for many years, but with the pandemic, the decline will be accentuated.

Big attractional church events and major productions will diminish in significance unless churches are able to plan them to maximize opportunities for relationship building, something that today’s younger attenders are seeking. 

The church will find new ways to educate, train and nurture those families who choose to  insulate themselves from normal church activities by doing “church at home.”

There will be an emphasis on training church members to do ministry  in their respective neighborhoods. Small groups may coalesce around ministries specific  to their neighborhoods. For more information see The Art of Neighboring-Building Relationships by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.

Some larger churches with significant size facilities may be forced to rent out parts of their building to both church and or non-church  programs. Some churches will experience shrinking income with diminishing memberships, as government stimulus support is eliminated.
The church will discover new and innovative ways to reach out and better serve their communities. 

All of the above are not givens and the post pandemic church may turn out to be a lot more similar to the church as we know than some of the changes church experts are portending. Only God know what the church will look like, but one thing we know is that it is Christ who has built the church foundation and His promise is that “the gates of hell shall never prevail against .Whatever form or shape the church takes, it’s  goal will always remain the same as the goal of its Master-“to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded,…..’remembering,” I am with you always to the end of the world.”

For more information on the thoughts above you might with to check out Thom Ranier’s The Post Quarantine Church or Growing the Post-Pandemic Church by Bob Whitesel.

Yours in faith and friendship, Tom 

SIMPLE CHURCH & An introduction to the Rainer/Geiger Approach to Missional Church Structure.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel.  Some confuse “simple church” with organic forms of church that I and others call, “the organic church.” For examples and case-studies that emerge from “Inside the Organic Church” see my book by the same title.  However, the “simple church missional structure” is a discipleship driven organizational approach created by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger and explained in their book by the same name.  Here is a helpful book review and introduction.

Book Review: Simple Church, by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger

by Graham Shearer, 9Marks Journal, 3/3/10.

… WHAT’S A SIMPLE CHURCH?

What is a simple church? Here is Rainer and Geiger’s definition:

A simple church is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. The leadership and the church are clear about the process (clarity) and are committed to executing it. The process flows logically (movement) and is implemented in each area of the church (alignment). The church abandons everything that is not in the process (focus). (pp. 67-68)

Rainer and Geiger explain that churches that are full of different programs and activities are not often growing churches, even if the individual programs are successful. This is because they don’t have a clearly defined process for discipling people. They don’t move people from one stage of spiritual growth to another, and their programs suffer from mediocrity because their energies are dissipated across so many programs.

Often these churches suffer because their staff, while good at running their particular program, doesn’t share the same ministry philosophy. This causes disunity and unnecessary replication in the church calendar as things like evangelism training are repeated by different programs in different ways.

Simple churches, meanwhile, have a clear process with a clear aim. The church and the leadership unite around one process and one aim as each member moves from one program to another, requiring a bigger commitment to discipleship at each stage. They remove the clutter of programs that don’t fit into the church’s strategy, even ones that may benefit the people involved…

CLARITY, MOVEMENT, ALIGNMENT, FOCUS

The bulk of the book is an explanation of what a simple church is, under the four headings clarity, movement, alignment, and focus. The book hammers home those four points, and, for me at least, it did it so effectively that I didn’t need to look at the book to type that list.

Clarity involves having a clear statement of how discipleship should work in the church. Examples given include “Loving God, Loving Others and Serving the World” or “Connecting, Growing, Serving.” The key is not the content of the statement; it’s the fact that the statement should be clear. This process should be able to be visualized and explained clearly to the whole church, who should commit to the process.

Movement means that the programs should be designed for each stage in the process and people should be able to move clearly from one program to another. For instance, the church whose statement was “Loving God, Loving Others and Serving the World” had weekend worship services for helping people love God, small groups for enabling people to love others, and ministry teams for serving others. And each stage challenges people to move to the next stage.

Alignment means placing all the church’s resources behind the process. This includes hiring staff who are behind the process and making sure that any new ministries fit into it.

And focus means eliminating programs that don’t fit into the process and limiting additional programs. Again, the ability to explain the process easily is emphasized.

GOOD POINTS

Simple Church makes a number of good points. Surely a clear and uniform process for discipleship is more likely to succeed than crowded and conflicting programs with no clear vision or strategy. Rainer and Geiger are exactly right to say that churches shouldn’t just fill their calendars with programs that may or may not help the congregation grow spiritually. “Programs were made for man, not man made for programs,” they say. “If the goal is to keep certain things going, the church is in trouble. The end result must always be about people. Programs should only be tools” (p. 43).

Beyond this, the authors make a number of helpful comments about ministry, the need to move a church towards simplicity sensitively, the need to be ruthless about killing unnecessary programs, and more. I especially liked the commendation of new members interviews. The authors comment,

It seems that the commitment to buy contact lenses is greater than the commitment to join many churches. Most churches only require new members to fill out a card or a triplicate form. It happens so fast. Expectations are minimal. Signing up for a department store credit care takes more time. Simple churches, however, tend to require new members classes . . . great dialogue occurs, and people walk away with a deeper connection to your church. (158-59)

It’s good to hear some kind of membership advocated, even if it is on pragmatic grounds.

Read more at … https://www.9marks.org/review/simple-church/

ATTENDANCE & Understanding the Concept of Attendance Frequency as Explained by #ThomRainer

by Thom Rainer, “One Key Reason Many Churches Are Fighting Attendance Declines,” 12/13/19.

We hear more and more about attendance frequency becoming a pain point for many churches. After over a decade of having this conversation, Thom and Sam discuss the one key reason many churches are still fighting attendance declines.

Highlights:

    • Revisiting the Concept of Attendance Frequency
    • The Priority/Expectations Factor
    • The Weekend Worker Demographic
    • The Focus on Us Instead of Them
    • Groups, groups, groups

Other highlights:

    • For the church to exist it must gather.
    • One of three people in the U.S. workforce is unable to attend a Sunday morning service due to a work conflict.
    • The gig and entrepreneurial economy are having an impact on church attendance.
    • Personal preferences always kill priorities.
    • Group involvement can have a huge impact on church frequency.

Listen to the podcast here: https://thomrainer.com/2019/12/one-key-reason-many-churches-are-fighting-attendance-declines-update/

TRENDS & 73% of American churches are declining & we are seeing a marked decline in fast-growing churches (from 12% to 3%) and a marked increase in churches declining toward death (10% to 19%). #LifeWay

by Thom Rainer, LifeWay, 6/3/19.

Based upon an aggregate of several research projects, I made some notes of growth and decline rates of churches and summarized my estimates into five categories by worship attendance changes over the previous five-year period. I compiled the following numbers ten years ago:

Growth and Decline Categories of North American Congregations 2009

  • Fast-growing (growing greater than 5% annually): 12%
  • Growing (growing nominally to 5% annually): 23%
  • Steadily declining (declining 0% to 3% annually): 34%
  • Rapidly declining (declining 2% to 5% annually): 21%
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually): 10%

This past week I conducted the same exercise based on some of my updated research and the research of others and estimated the following:

Growth and Decline Categories of North American Congregations 2019

  • Fast-growing (growing greater than 5% annually): 3%
  • Growing (growing nominally to 5% annually): 24%
  • Steadily declining (declining 0% to 3% annually): 32%
  • Rapidly declining (declining 2% to 5% annually): 22%
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually): 19%

My numbers admittedly are estimates, but they do have some quantitative basis, such as denominational statistics, research by LifeWay Research, and the data available in the increasing number of consultation and coaching requests we receive.

Obviously, the staggering reality of these numbers is the pronounced change in the two extreme categories. We are seeing a marked decline in fast-growing churches and a marked increase in churches declining toward death.

Read more at … https://thomrainer.com/2019/06/the-faster-pace-of-decline-toward-death-of-many-congregations/

CONSULTING & Thom Rainer on 8 Reasons Why “Revitalizing Pastors Need Coaching”

by Thom Rainer, ThomRainer.com, 3/14/19.

Having someone walking along with you in ministry is important. Today we discuss how a coach can specifically help you as you look to lead a revitalization.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Outside perspective helps you see your ministry impact from a different vantage point.
  • It’s important for you to have someone in your life who has been through more than you to help you process decisions.
  • If you’re coaching someone in ministry, your number one job is to encourage them.
  • Too many pastors are starving for encouragement.

The eight reasons we cover are:

  1. For an outsider perspective
  2. For wisdom and counsel
  3. For encouragement
  4. For venting
  5. For resources
  6. For a break and breather
  7. For the family
  8. For dealing with the complexity of culture

Listen to the podcast here … https://thomrainer.com/2019/03/why-revitalizing-pastors-need-coaching-revitalize-replant-084/

ONLINE CHURCH & 9 takeaways from recent research

by Thom Rainer, ThomRainer.com, 3/11/19.

Research is from Vanderbloemen, Pushpay, and Jay Kranda. All of the 176 churches participating in the study have an online church, so we are hearing from those who are presently very active in this ministry

Some of the key findings of this study? Here are nine insights:

  1. The plurality of churches have a volunteer lead the online ministry. This ministry is led by a volunteer in about four of ten churches. Another 35 percent give the leadership to a full-time staff person who has other responsibilities.
  2. The dominant broadcast method is live streaming. Among these churches, nine of ten congregations broadcast through live streaming. But over half also have the full service on demand.
  3. The opportunity to reach local community members is significant.Over four of ten of those attending online are people within a reasonable driving distance of the church. Most of the churches view the online community as a first step to move them toward the in-person gathering.
  4. Most of these churches do count online attendance. Of the churches surveyed, 72 percent report online attendance, but keep it separate from in-person attendance. Fewer than 10 percent include online attendance as part of the overall total weekly attendance.
  5. There is little consistency on how churches count online attendance.The most frequent response, but only by 26 percent of the churches, is “concurrent streamers at a given time.”
  6. There is anecdotal evidence that indicates the online church is actually a growth source for the in-person church. Some of the church leaders see the online church as part of a process that may progress from social media to online church to community groups to in-person worship services.
  7. Over half of the churches are considering using the online church to launch future churches and sites.Already, 17 percent of the churches are embracing this strategy. In total, over 60 percent are considering this strategy, or they are already doing it.
  8. More older churches are using an online church strategy than younger churches. For example, churches over 50 years old accounted for nearly 30 percent of the total, while churches under five years old accounted for less than 15 percent of the total.
  9. Five ministries are offered online by a majority of the churches. They are: prayer (81%); giving opportunities (72%); pastoral care (58%); serving opportunities (54%); and online groups (52%).

I am thankful to Vanderbloemen, Pushpay, and Jay Kranda for providing this information. You can get the full study here.

Read more here … https://thomrainer.com/2019/03/new-research-and-insights-on-the-online-church/

MULTIPLICATION & The 5 Levels of Churches Explained & the Percentage of Churches in Each Level. #NewResearch #Exponential

by Thom Rainer, LifeWay, 3/6/19.

In addition to the categorization of churches as

  • declining/subtracting (Level 1),
  • plateauing (Level 2), and
  • growing/adding (Level 3),
  • the study looked at two other supplemental categories.
    • A Level 4 (reproducing) church places a high value and priority on starting new churches.
    • A level 5 (multiplying) church takes church planting to multiple generations of congregations.

    … Here are some of the fascinating findings:

    1. 70% of churches are
    2. subtracting/declining or plateauing. Only 30% are adding/growing based on Exponential’s categorization of churches which is defined above. This data is largely consistent with other research we have done. The period covered is three years.
    3. There are relatively few reproducing churches. The research categorized only 7% of the churches as reproducing (Level 4). The numbers of churches considered multiplying (Level 5: multiple generations of church plants) was 0% in the sample, indicating a negligible number in the total U. S. church population.
    4. The majority of Protestant churches had less than 10 people commit to Jesus Christ as Savior in the past 12 months. That’s fewer than one person per month. That’s not good. That’s not good at all.
    5. Smaller churches are at severe risk.Among those churches with an average worship attendance under 50, only 20% are growing. That is the lowest of any of the categories of churches and is an indicator that these churches are at the greatest risk of dying.
    6. Larger churches have a much lower risk of dying. Among the churches with an average worship attendance of 250 and more, 42% are growing. That is, by far, the largest number of growing churches in any category.

    Read more at… https://thomrainer.com/2019/03/major-new-research-on-declining-plateaued-and-growing-churches-from-exponential-and-lifeway-research/

    CHRISTMAS EVE & Non-Christians are more likely to come to worship services on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year, including Easter. What churches are doing.

    by Thom Rainer, Facts and Trends, 12/6/18.

    …Non-Christians are more likely to come to worship services on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year, including Easter. Church leaders get it. They are putting more prayer, preparation, and strategic thinking into the services.

    There are three popular times for the service. Whether a church has one or multiple Christmas Eve services, three times are more popular than others: later afternoon (typically for families with young children and for older adults); early evening (the more traditional time); and late evening (for empty nesters and families with teenage or grown children).

    The services are traditional. They include traditional hymns and carols. They may include some time for the lighting of the final advent candle.

    The services are brief. The typical length is 30 to 45 minutes.

    The pastor’s message is brief. The typical length is 10 to 15 minutes.

    Most churches include candlelight services. They are now expected by Christians and non-Christians alike.

    Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/06/9-trends-in-christmas-eve-church-services/

    TRANSFER GROWTH & In the past, churches could grow by drawing nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case.” #ThomRainer

    by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 6/14/18.

    … (Rainer:) “ministry is harder now than it used to be.” In the past, he said, churches could grow by drawing in nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case,” he said.

    Many churches rightly jettisoned a programmatic approach to evangelism, but they failed to replace it with anything else, Rainer asserted. “Instead of reaching out,” he said, “they became inward-focused.”

    Yet Rainer was optimistic about the future as he spoke at the breakfast with Jonathan Howe, director of strategic initiatives at LifeWay and co-host of the “Rainer on Leadership” podcast.

    Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

    …Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

    Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/06/13/thom-rainer-points-way-forward-despite-denominational-challenges/

    CHURCH HEALTH & 7 Church Illnesses as seen by #ThomRainer

    by Thom Rainer, 3/21/18

    1. Attitudinal Angst
    2. Slippage Syndrome
    3. Detail Distraction
    4. Institutional Idolatry
    5. Activity Acclimation
    6. Purposeless Prayer
    7. Detrimental Defensiveness

    Read more at … https://thomrainer.com/2018/03/seven-potentially-deadly-church-sicknesses-2/

    DECLINE & Is there a church death spiral? #ThomRainer

    by Thom Rainer, LifeWay Research, 7/3/17.

    A Review of the Research

    You can peruse the details of our research at my previous blog post. Simply stated, we conducted a random sample of churches with data in 2013 and 2016. The margin of error of the research is +/- 3.1 percent. It’s an accurate study – very accurate.

    In the previous post, I shared that 65 percent of churches are declining or plateaued. For most of us, that number was better than the conventional “wisdom” we have heard. In that sense it was good news.

    And Now the Bad News, At Least Some of It

    Over 61 percent of churches average fewer than 100 in worship attendance. Yes, we are a nation of small churches. I love it. I love small churches.

    But if your church has fewer than 100 in worship, it is likely to be a declining church. In fact two out of three of these small churches are declining.

    Even more, there is a direct correlation with the rate of decline in a church and the size of the church. Simply stated, the smaller the church, the greater the rate of decline in attendance. Perhaps these three statements will clarify my point:

    • A declining church with an attendance of 200 or more declines at a rate of 4 percent each year.
    • A declining church with an attendance of less than 100 declines at a rate of 7.6 percent per year.
    • A declining church with an attendance of less than 50 declines at a rate of 8.7 percent a year.

    It’s a death spiral. Declining smaller churches decline much more rapidly than larger churches. Once the declining church goes below 100 in attendance, its days are likely numbered.

    Here is the sad summary statement of this portion of the research: Once a church declines below 100 in worship attendance, it is likely to die within just a few years. The life expectancy for many of these churches is ten years or less.

    Gloomy But Not Hopeless…

    Read more at … http://thomrainer.com/2017/07/church-death-spiral/

    GIVING & 7 Traits of Churches with Increasing Giving #LifeWay #ThomRainer

    by Thom Rainer, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 5/5/16.

    1. Increased emphasis on belonging to a group. Members in a group, such as a small group or Sunday school class, give as much as six times more than those attending worship services alone.

    2. Multiple giving venues. Per-member giving increases as churches offer more giving venues (e.g., offertory giving in the worship services; online giving; mailed offering envelopes to all members and givers; automatic deductions from members’ bank accounts; giving kiosks).

    3. Meaningful and motivating goals. Church members give more if they see the church has a goal that will make a meaningful difference.

    “Increasing total gifts by 10 percent” is not a meaningful goal. “Giving 10 percent more to advance the gospel in the 37201 zip code” is more meaningful.

    4. Explaining biblical giving in the new members’ class. New member classes should be an entry point for both information on and expectations of biblical church membership.

    Biblical giving should be a clear and unapologetic expectation of church membership.

    5. Willingness of leadership to talk about money. While it is possible to communicate financial stewardship in an overbearing manner, it is inexcusable for leaders to be silent about financial stewardship by Christians.

    6. Meaningful financial reporting. Many churches provide financial reporting that only a CPA or a CFO can understand. Church members need to be able to understand clearly how funds are given or spent.

    7. Transparent financial reporting. If church members sense pertinent financial information is being withheld, they tend to give less or nothing at all.

    Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/05/05/7-traits-of-churches-with-increasing-giving/

    BUDGETING & Benchmarks for Church Finances from 4 Scholars

    Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  “Below are excerpts from writings of five nationally-recognized scholars on suggested benchmarks for church budgets. Compare these with your budgets and expenditures to measure your fiscal health.”

    Thom Rainer, Jun 16, 2012, retrieved from http://thomrainer.com/2012/06/16/three_questions_pastors_often_ask_about_church_finances/

    What is the amount of personnel expenses that should be in a church budget? First, I’ll give the simple response. Personnel expenses typically should not exceed 55% of a budget. But such guidelines are subject to a number of caveats. If the church has debt obligations in its budget, for example, those payments will reduce the amount a church can put toward personnel costs. The average personnel costs are about 40% of budget, but averages can be misleading as well. As a general guideline, however, I would say the broad range of personnel costs should be 35% to 55% of budget.

    What are the sources of income for most churches? As you would expect, the tithes and offerings are the dominant source of income for churches. About one-third of all churches have no other sources of income. But many church leaders may be surprised to know that, on the average, churches receive 13% of their income from other sources. These sources include investment income, ancillary ministry income (such as a school or mom’s day out program), denominational support, and rental income.

    How can I know if the amount our members give to the church is healthy or not?   Begin with an average and work from there. The average weekly per capita giving (WPCG) in an American church is $26. That is the amount, on the average, that every adult and child gives to the church each week. To calculate your church’s WPCG, divide your average weekly undesignated receipts by your average worship attendance (including children). For example. If the average weekly budget receipts are $4,000 (roughly an annual budget of $200,000), and the average worship attendance is 150, the church’s WPCG is $26.67 ($4,000 divided by 150). That number would be very close to the national average. The economic demographics of your church, however, could affect this number significantly

    Kent E. Fillinge, 5/02/11, retrieved from Christian Standard Magazine, http://christianstandard.com/2011/05/is-the-church-in-a-recession/

    Average Weekly Giving Per Person

    Weekly per person giving (that’s general fund giving divided by average weekend worship attendance) increased among three of the four church size categories last year.

    After taking a slight dip in 2009, the weekly per person giving average in megachurches rebounded to surpass 2008 levels, but still fell short of 2007, prerecession giving figures. The average megachurch attendee put $26.77 per week in the offering plate last year. The average weekly giving ranged from a high of $40.66 per person at one megachurch to a low of $12.93 per person at another.

    Emerging megachurch attendees were the most generous givers last year, with average weekly per person giving of $27.48, a 16 percent increase from 2009. Giving at emerging megachurches ranged from $76.30 per person to $13.31 per person.

    Large churches also saw weekly per person giving increase in 2010, to an average of $26.63, a 50-cent per person increase from the year before. Average weekly giving ranged from $42.28 to $15.59.

    Medium churches experienced a decline in average weekly giving of more than a dollar per person, to $25.60. Average giving ranged from $39.28 per person to $10.66.

    James D. Berkley, 1997, Christianity Today, “Is Your Church Fiscally Fit? Ten ways to assess you financial strength,” retrieved from http://www.buildingchurchleaders.com/articles/1997/le-7l3-7l3057.html

    Total annual income

    Church-expert Lyle Schaller provides a simple benchmark for annual contributions. He writes in The Interventionist: “A useful beginning point is to multiply the average worship attendance times $1,000.” If my church has 125 attenders on an average Sunday, and annual giving is $125,000, we’re in the ballpark.

    Another way to look at the same figures is to multiply $20 per head in worship for any given week. If my church averages two hundred in attendance, it should be receiving about $4,000 a week. Of course such figures need to be adjusted for churches in particularly wealthy or poverty-stricken areas, for especially small or large churches, for new church plants—well, for just about any church, because there is no typical church.

    The Typical Churchgoer Pays about $10 A Week For Personnel Costs

    “The ‘price’ of church is rising faster than the cost of a movie ticket,” notes Schaller. “It used to be the per capita ‘cost’ of church was close to the cost of going to a movie. Now it’s closer to the expense of going to a professional sporting event—about $20.” Of course, no church charges attenders their proportion of the weekly church expenses (“Marge, I’ve only got two twenties on me. We can’t afford to bring Billy to church this week!”). But Schaller’s analysis does show the comparative costs of “doing church.”

    Another way to look at annual giving is to compare this year’s receipts per attender to 1968’s figures. Between 1968 and now, according to Schaller, the Consumer Price Index went up roughly 400 percent, and personal income rose even more. So if my church received an average of $200 per attender per year in 1968, and now it receives an average of $900, we’re ahead!

    A third way to look at annual receipts is comparing them with total household income. What percentage of members’ income is being given to the church?

    A little sleuthing at the local planning agency will probably produce a figure for average household income. Multiply that by the number of households in the congregation (and adjust a little for the comparative wealth of a given church), and this approximates church members’ total earnings.

    Then, divide the church’s total giving by its total earnings. If the result is 10 percent, the church is a biblical lot! More likely it’s under 5 percent or perhaps around 3 percent. If we can find the figures, we can compare the percentage of income given in previous years to establish a trend.

     Stephen Anderson, excerpted from the book, Preparing to Build retrieved 2013 from http://www.frugalmom.net/giving_in_the_church.htm and http://amichurchconsulting.com/purchase/?hop=frugalmom

    When initially working with churches that need to build, I always ask two very simple questions.

    1) What is your average attendance, counting men, women and children of all ages?

    2) What was your total income in tithes and offerings last year (or last 12 months)?

    Once these two numbers are ascertained with reasonable accuracy, it is a simple process to divide the total income by the total average attendance to determine the average giving per person per year. A church with 150 average attendance and annual giving of $165,000 would be $1,100 per person per year.

    Over the years, I became aware of what seemed to be an emerging pattern in the relationship between income and attendance. It appeared that for a significant percentage of churches, one could take their average attendance and by adding three zeros, come up with a very close approximation of their annual income. If true, this would mean that average giving in the church was approximately $1,000 per year for every man, woman and child in attendance. This happened so many times I decided to put my impressions to the test. Over the years I had accumulated hard data, including giving and attendance information, from churches into a database. I exported the information into a spreadsheet and did the simple math. I was pleased to discover that mathematical analysis confirmed my anecdotal estimate.

    An analysis of nearly 200 churches, with average total attendances ranging from 9 to 2,500 persons, indicated a median giving per person per year of $1,038.

    There appears to be no significant correlation between the size of the church and giving per person. In fact, 80% of the churches that ranked in the top 10 for giving per person had attendance of less than 500 with 2 of those reporting attendance of less than 50 persons and 2 reporting 1000 or over. The average attendance of churches in the giving per person top 10 was 305, with an average income to the church per person per year (counting men, women and children of all ages) of $2,250.

    It is important to remember that averages are just that, an average…

    Church giving drops $1.2 billion reports 2012 Yearbook of Churches, retrieved from http://www.ncccusa.org/news/120209yearbook2012.html

    New York, March 20, 2012 — Churches continue to feel the effects of “the Great Recession” of 2008 as contributions dropped $1.2 billion, according to the National Council of Churches’ 2012 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

    Membership trends in denominations reporting to the Yearbook remain stable, with growing churches still growing and declining churches still declining, reports the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, the Yearbook’s editor.

    The 80th annual edition of the Yearbook, one of the oldest and most respected sources of church membership and financial trends in the U.S. and Canada, may be ordered for $55 each at www.yearbookofchurches.org.

    Not all churches report their financial information to the Yearbook, Lindner said, but the downward trends are reasons for concern.

    The nearly $29 billion contributed by nearly 45 million church members is down $1.2 billion from figures reported in the 2011 Yearbook, Lindner said.

    “This enormous loss of revenue dwarfs the $431 million decrease reported last year and provides clear evidence of the impact of the deepening crises in the reporting period,” Lindner wrote.

    In terms of per capita giving, the $763 contributed per person is down $17 from the previous year, according to Lindner, a 2.2 percent drop. The decline “took place in the context of ongoing high unemployment and a protracted economic downturn,” Lindner wrote.

    TRENDS & Thom Rainer’s 15 Church Trends for 2015 #ThomRainer #LifeWay

    Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Thom Ranier is a first-rate researcher as well as a friend. We both have received the Donald A. McGavran award for leadership in church growth. So when Thom comes out with his annual ‘trends for the year’ – everybody should take notice. Listen to this podcast for the details, but here are the major points.”

    Some highlights from the episode include (taken from the website):

    • The Millennial generation is almost insisting on smaller worship gatherings.
    • A larger percentage of church attendees are attending larger churches.
    • The multi-teaching pastor trend we are seeing in churches is a healthy trend for pastors and churches.
    • In 2015, less than 5% of churches in America will continue to hold a separate Sunday evening service.
    • The majority of churches in America have been isolated from their community in recent years. But that is changing.
    • Denominations are becoming more streamlined with more money going to the mission field.
    • A church that does not put an emphasis on small groups is likely not a healthy church.

    The 15 trends to look for in 2015 are:

    1. More partnerships between denominations and churches.
    2. Continued increased in the number of multi-site churches.
    3. Smaller worship gatherings.
    4. Continued flow of people from smaller churches to larger churches.
    5. The tipping point for a plurality of teaching pastors.
    6. The tipping point of churches eliminating Sunday evening worship services.
    7. Congregations growing in favor in their respective communities.
    8. The beginnings of prayer movement in our churches.
    9. More emphasis on congregational singing.
    10. More focus on theological education in local churches.
    11. The waning and reconfiguration of denominational structures.
    12. A rapid increase in bivocational church staff.
    13. Increased difficulty in matching prospective pastors with churches with pastoral vacancies.
    14. Growth of verbal incarnational evangelism.
    15. The tipping point for small groups.

    Listen to more at … http://thomrainer.com/2015/01/23/15-church-trends-2015-rainer-leadership-092/

    ALLIANCE MULTICULTURAL CASE STUDY & The Orchard Evangelical Free Church

    Fast Facts: The Orchard Evangelical Free Church was founded in 1953 and has been growing ever since. It is now one congregation worshiping in four communities in the greater Chicagoland area; each of which stays true to the Gospel-centered mission while also tailoring their ministries to their unique congregations. The Orchard – Arlington Heights Campus would like specific prayer as they build teams to invite everyone who lives and works in Arlington Heights to our church. Pray that the Lord would raise up gifted and passionate leaders to bring Gospel-engagement to every neighborhood, school and people group. Pray that the Holy Spirit would soften the hearts of their neighbors, friends and family members and open their eyes to their need for a Savior.

    Website: TheOrchardEFC.org

    Retrieved from … http://thomrainer.com/2014/11/09/pray-orchard/

    MARRIAGE & Eight Ways for Pastors to Affair-Proof Their Marriages #ThomRainer

    by Thom Rainer, 10/6/14

    … Here are their eight ways for pastors to affair-proof their marriages.

    1. Put your family as the highest priority of your ministry…
    2. Pray with your wife…
    3. Pray for your wife…
    4. Date your wife…
    5. Don’t have unreasonable expectations of your wife at church…
    6. Discern and discuss how much your wife wants to hear about church matters…
    7. Defend your wife…
    8. Converse with your wife…

    Read the details at … http://thomrainer.com/2014/10/06/eight-ways-pastors-affair-proof-marriages/

    TENURE & 10 Traits of Pastors Who Have Healthy Long-term Tenure

    by Thom Rainer, 9/29/14

    Read the entire article here … http://thomrainer.com/2014/09/29/ten-traits-pastors-healthy-long-term-tenure/

    Here are some takeaways by Thom.

    I approached this issue by looking at over 30 pastors whose tenure exceeded ten years. And from my perspective, their tenures have been healthy and loving. Here are the ten traits of those pastors:

    1. They pray daily for their church members and staff. Many of the pastors kept the church membership roll in front of them and prayed through the entire congregation and staff every year.
    2. They view their family as their first line of ministry. They did not see a dichotomy between church and family. To the contrary, they saw their family as the first priority of ministry in the church. I will elaborate on this matter in my post this Saturday, where I will share ways Satan seeks to destroy the families of pastors.
    3. They connect with and love people in their community. Pastors are more likely to stay at a church longer if they love the community in which they are located. That love must be deliberate and intentional.
    4. They choose their battles carefully and wisely. Not every issue is worth a fight. Long-term pastors are not cowardly; they are just highly selective and wise.
    5. They welcome structures that make them accountable. Certainly, they don’t seek structures that hinder their leadership. But a leader who avoids accountability is headed down a path of destruction.
    6. They spend time developing staff. These pastors view their staff, whether fulltime paid, part-time, or volunteer, as one of their highest priorities for development and mentorship.
    7. They expect conflict and criticism. They are a reality in any family or congregation. But these leaders are not surprised or frustrated by conflict and criticism. They realize, if it is handled well, it can be healthy for the church.
    8. They connect with other pastors and ministries in the community. They realize that their congregations cannot minister to and reach the community alone. Other churches and pastors thus become partners in ministry rather than competitors.
    9. They affirm both theology and practical ministry. Their foundation is the Word of God. They have a robust theology. But they don’t neglect such practical issues as attendance trends, outreach ministries, financial health, and parking lot capacity.
    10. They ask long-term questions. They are constantly seeking to lead the church beyond their own tenure. They avoid short-term solutions with long-term negative consequences.

    ATTENDANCE & A List of Principles That Break the 1,000 & 1,500 Barriers #ElmerTowns #GaryMcIntosh

    Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “I often ask student-researchers in my Missional Church MISS 600 course to research and compile a list of strategies and tactics to break through different church size barriers.  Below is a list complied by students in churches facing 1,000 and 1,500 size barriers (with their commentary on their perception of the relevance of each strategies/tactics).”

    Kenny G. said:

    Towns (1998) has suggested 8 issues that churches around 1,000 begin to deal with.

    1.     Uncharted Waters – in this section he notes that it is at this point that pastors and boards typically begin to enter areas of leadership that they do not understand and they have trouble spotting the troublesome issues (Towns, Wagner, & Rainer, 1998, Chapter 7, para. 6).j

    2.     Growth itself as a barrier – here he notes that the increased number of people leads to more problems because there are more people with more problems which adds layers of complexity (Towns, Wagner, & Rainer, 1998, Chapter 7, para8).

    3.     Lack of cohesion in critical mass – At this level, Towns, Wagner, and Rainer (1998) notes that the things that hold the group together begin to become less noticeable and thus, there is a lack of cohesion (Chapter 7, para. 9).

    4.     Platform for growth without personal bonding – the church grows because of its platform and not because of personal relationships. This leads to a bit of the revolving door syndrome which keeps new people coming in but not staying (Towns, Wagner, & Rainer 1998, Chapter 7, para. 10).

    5.     Space limitation – this one sort of speaks for itself; the church runs out of room for new people (Towns, Wagner, & Rainer, 1998, Chapter 7, para. 13). Park Chapel is dealing with this issue right now.

    6.     Change in leadership style – at this level the leadership must shift to a more executive style (Towns, Wagner, & Rainer, 1998, Chapter 7, para. 20).

    7.     Limited pastoral leadership – the senior/lead/head pastor must shift his/her focus from ministry directly to the congregation to equipping/training those who will serve the ministries (Towns, Wagner, & Rainer, 1998, Chapter 7, para. 23).

    8.     Projection of needs onto the congregation – pastors must look to the diversity of needs in the growing congregation instead of the one or two things that got them to this point (Towns, Wagner, & Rainer, 1998, Chapter 7, para. 29).

    Gary McIntosh (2009) offers things that a church must do to get beyond the 1,500 mark.

    1.     Adjusting roles of board and staff – the board (in PC’s case, elders) must step out of everyday decision-making and let that be handled by the staff. The board functions as the policy forming, overall budgeting, values, and long-range planning issues (McIntosh, 2009, p. 165)

    2.     Adjust staff organization – the senior pastor must change how he/she functions either to more executive-type leadership or to a team of leaders (McIntosh, 2009, p. 166).

    3.     Team Building – staff members must shift from being “practitioners” to “team-builders” because the numbers necessitate more hands on ministry than they themselves can provide (McIntosh, 2009, p. 166).

    4.     Be a church of small groups – the church must shift from having small groups to be a church of small groups (McIntosh, 2009, p. 167). This allows the congregants to continue to experience the cohesion that is necessary for them to stick around and develop more intimate relationships.

    5.     Think beyond the local church – must have a globally minded board (and ministers) because the church’s impact with stretch beyond their local context (McIntosh, 2009, p. 167).

    As can be seen, many of these suggestions in McIntosh address the issues raised by Towns, Wagner, and Rainer. This is the best I could come up with – and I apologize for potentially causing my fellow classmates more work.

    McIntosh, G. L. (2009). Taking your church to the next level: What go you here won’t get you there [Google Books version]. Retrieved from books.google.com

    Towns, E., Wagner, C. P., & T. S. (1998). The everychurch guide to growth: How any plateaued church can grow [Lifeway Reader version]. Retrieved from reader.lifeway.com

    TENURE & The Dangerous Third Year of Pastoral Tenure #ThomRainer

    The-Dangerous-Third-Year-of-Pastoral-Tenureby Thom Rainer

    “At least part of the answer to the question above can be found by analyzing the third year of a pastor’s tenure. When I wrote Breakout Churches several years ago, I did just that. My book was primarily about long-tenured pastors who see sustained church health after a period of decline.

    But in that study to find longer-tenured pastors, I discovered that the largest numbers of pastors were leaving their churches in the third year of their ministry at that specific church. The finding both intrigued me and concerned me. I began to interview those pastors to ask them why they left.

    The Reasons for the Third Year Departure

    Though I found no singular reason for the third year departure, I heard a number of common themes:

    • The honeymoon was over from the church’s perspective…
    • The honeymoon was over from the pastor’s perspective..,
    • When a new pastor arrives, most church members have their own expectations of the pastor…
    • Typically by the third year, the church has a number of new members who arrived under the present pastor’s tenure…
    • In any longer term relationship, that which seems quaint and charming can become irritating and frustrating. ..
    • All relationships have seasons. …

    Possible Ways to Address the Third Year

    Here are a few ways to address that dangerous third year of a pastor’s ministry. None are a panacea; but some may be helpful.

    • Have an awareness of the possibility of a third year letdown. It is not unusual, and you are not alone.
    • Be prepared for the down season to last a while. The dropout rates for pastors in years four and five were pretty high as well.
    • Surround the pastor with prayer. Be intentional about praying for the pastor’s emotional, physical, and spiritual strength during this season.
    • Keep the church outwardly focused as much as possible. Church members who are focused inwardly tend to be more critical and dissatisfied.
    • Be aware that pastors who make it through these seasons are usually stronger on the other side. Their churches are as well.
    • Church members need to be highly intentional about encouraging the pastor and the pastor’s family. While they always need encouragement, they really need it during this season.

    Read more at … http://thomrainer.com/2014/06/18/dangerous-third-year-pastoral-tenure/

    LEADERSHIP & Favorite 25 Leadership Quotes of Thom Rainer

    by Thom Rainer, 10/9/13, retrieved from http://thomrainer.com/2013/10/09/top-25-leadership-quotes/ including:

    2.    Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. —Peter Drucker

    3.    The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. —Max DePree

    10.    If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. —John Quincy Adams

    16.    The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. —Theodore Roosevelt

    17.    Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems. —Brian Tracy

    22.    Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy. —Norman Schwarzkopf

    And 19 more, read more at … http://thomrainer.com/2013/10/09/top-25-leadership-quotes/