Multiplication Center

Things that AREN’T REALLY CHANGING but yet I think are coming (part 3)

November 16, 2009



As a reminder, this list comes from my recent speech to the Cornerstone Knowledge Network. The first two parts:

What is Changing – found here

What is NOT Changing but say say is Changing – found here

This list is What is NOT changing yet but is coming upon us very quickly.


Reading and getting some comments from others around the globe about the first two lists, let me remind readers. I work with large churches primarily in US and Canada.  I believe they have influence beyond their relatively small numbers via conferences, publications and the like. So even if you disagree with what I write here, and that is great to disagree, my point is that these things being talked about in this one circle are going to influence a lot of other circles.

OK, on with the list:

1. Online leadership development – This has been a hot topic among the churches we connect for some time. The promise and potential for some equipping and mentoring mediated via online, web based applications is certainly strong and interest from all those that hear about them. I could name several churches and product providers that have fairly robust prototypes and plan to roll out on a wider scale. But  there are still some issues to be resolved. We have clearly seen a change in the academic world in this regard and I think some of that will follow over to the church world.

2. Women as teaching pastors – this is no better than a micro trend right now but as I reflect on my 15 year journey with large churches through Leadership Network I see a real change underway on this issue. Even in some of the most conservative traditions I see more openness to women “teachers” to whole congregations. For some traditions this has been “normal” for years.

In this regard as Large Churches expand their teaching team approaches I see more adding a female voice as the “third” or “fourth” regular teacher.

I will make my case for team leadership and preaching elsewhere but I would be watching this for the future.

3. “Foreign” teachers/evangelists as having an impact on teaching teams for large churches. I use the word “foreign” to illustrate one who comes from outside the US to speak and teach. A micro trend I have observed is that many large churches want a teaching pastor with an accent. In some cases the shift in vocal inflection has led to a rise of interest on the part of the hearers. In other ways as well I see these leaders as being naturally equipped to speak into the life of the US believers in order to call out our weaknesses and shortcomings in an approachable way.

I will say that most of these teachers/preachers tend to come from vestiges of the British empire (be it UK, Australia or former African and other Asian colonies) who have better English speaking skills than I do and funny way of talking to boot.

I can see a day when 10% or more of large churches will have a “funny talker” on their teaching team on a regular basis.

I have contended for 10 years now that I think “the next Billy Graham” or leader that will speak into the life of the American Church scene with power and conviction will be either from Asia or Africa. (more on that in a later post)

4. More and more missionaries coming to US from outside – this follows  the thought above. But almost quietly and imperceptibly Christian missionaries from Africa, Asia and Central America are following other immigrants from those regions to the US and are establishing 1st generation immigrant churches here. This is happening now and I view it with great joy and feel that over time it will bring greater health to the US church as a whole.

The challenge for current US church leaders will be to learn from these leaders how to better serve the kingdom cause. I think this is also going to help change our view of “international missions” as these churches are deeply connected to “boots on the ground back home” in their native regions.

5. Dramatic changes on how churches think about budgeting and money – I have noted parts of this idea elsewhere but in brief, the economic changes have led to some painful restructuring on how large churches deal with their income streams as well as how they address financial issues within their church body.

When I joined Leadership Network a lot of churches still bought into the philosophy that “we best not talk about money” in the weekend services. That has certainly changed.

But my point here was that many large growing churches seemed to always believe that contributions and attendance would be ever rising. (Don’t laugh many thought the same about their home equity and stock portfolios as well).

The stories I am hearing at the end of 2009 are that income is holding its own but leaders know they can’t make dramatic budget increases.

I see more and more leaders buying into the philosophy of only budgeting 80% of the previous years’ income and building spending plans for that money. Anything above that amount goes into an “opportunity fund” that can be allocated during the year for unplanned opportunities and needs or saved for when those opportunities arise.

It’s not widespread yet, but seems to be gaining some traction. The journey between that and where many churches are now though will be painful.

6. Outsourcing more services in churches – This is a slow but ever growing micro trend in large churches. In some ways smaller churches could actually be ahead in this area but I don’t think that many of those leaders are doing it intentionally. In the large church world this is coming.

What types of services? Everything from contributions, database and financial management, facilities services even youth and college ministry departments.

We may not be long for the day when separate business or not for profits will serve multiple large and mid sized churches with youth ministry.

7. Succession plans/Search services  As a group of Senior/Lead Pastors of larger churches hit the 30 year mark of service I am getting many more calls from both these pastors and their governing board chairs with the question: How do we do this and who can help us?

The first question is not “how do we do this ourselves” but “who should we hire to help us to do this?” This is similar to number 6 but I give it a special place because of the conversations I have had in recent months.

The other driver right now is the banks and financial institutions who are now demanding that a formal, agreed upon succession plan be in place to extend facilities financing. This drives the conversation beyond the “key person” insurance policies right to the hear of the culture of the church and is forcing these conversations much earlier than before.

8. Funeral business – it has been widely reported that the boomers are changing the funeral rituals in

America. In addition, the funeral home/mortuary/cemetery/death industry has seen a lot of internal changes in the past 15 years. Green-funerals-green-resting-place

I have held several conversations with leaders of churches with aging constituencies trying to find partnerships and new ways of celebrating a life and tying it closer to the church family than the previous customs of separating the roles of “funeral home” and “church/minister”.

I see a day coming very soon that in addition to the “wedding coordinator” positions on large church staffs we will have “funeral/memorial service” coordinators that handle all these details.

OK, while I have several more, this post is long enough.

I have enjoyed the feedback and push back so keep it coming.

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