Because of my involvement in business and church leadership, I have a unique vantage point from which to observe the operations of church ministry and trends. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a futurist, nor am I related to George Barna. These are simply my observations and expectations concerning the local church. And because I have an undying love for the Body of Christ, I am trying to prepare for the future.
Random Realities and Speculations
- Pastors are aging. It is possible that more than half of the pastors in the US will retire in the next 15 years. Most churches have no plan for this leadership transition. (Barna Study)
- The average church in America spends 15 cents for every dollar that it brings in for ministry. The rest of the income (85%) goes toward other expenses. (See this report)
- 4,000 churches are closing their doors each year in America. 2,700 churches are being planted in that same timeframe. The majority of the 4,000 churches own buildings and/or property. The majority of the 2,700 do not.
- According to Christianity Today, one-third of all pastors in the US are bi-vocational.
- It is thought that the American church will face four major financial obstacles over the next 15-20 years…
- Housing Allowances for pastors will disappear.
- Tithing will no longer be tax exempt.
- Churches will be forced to pay property tax – this is already happening in many states across the US
- Millennials are not going to support the ministry ROI mentioned above.
These realities and speculations are not intended to be dire predictions. The church is the Bride of Christ, and Jesus will take care of His bride. But these issues must be considered by church leaders in our country if we are to steward our leadership into the next generation. In my opinion, there are three major issues that we need to consider – Money – Buildings – Leadership Transition. In this writing, I am going to address just one of these issues.
Buildings In business, there is one driving factor, only one. If that factor is missing or weak, we call that government. The factor is SALES. In business, selling is the lifeblood. It is not the only factor, but if you don’t have sales, business eventually fails. If you have a sales-oriented business, your business model has a much better chance at showing a growth curve that heads Northeast. If you have a service-oriented business, you are starting a death spiral.
Imagine coming to my business office and asking the question, “Greg, how is your business doing?” And I proceed to give you a tour of my office building! Frankly, I have seen many businesses in great office space go bankrupt. The building is not an indicator of business success.
Yet, in many cases, ministry seems to be the only venture where the building seems to take priority over sales. You would never do that in business!
While many people hate the business analogy in a church, let’s be real. If a church is not fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples, (let’s call it sales) – in other words, reaching lost people for Christ and helping them become like Him, that church becomes service-oriented. And like it or not, that church unintentionally begins the death spiral. Some spirals are very short. Some last until the next generation of leadership. But death and taxes…
The hard reality for the church in America is that only 4% of people in our country would be considered Christ followers. The metrics for this statistic is a person who attends church at least twice per month, has a regular daily quiet time, believes that Jesus is the Son of God and believes that the Bible is the Word of God. 4%! And it gets worse. According to Exponential and John Maxwell, somewhere between 53-60% of people in our country will never attend our church, or any church…that’s right…Never! And Jesus has called the church to go after them. A building will never help with that statistic.
I will have more on this in future writings. But for now, consider this information above, and do what I do. Think about what needs to change in the business of ministry for the future. Because we are not going to be able to do the same things we have done in the past and live to tell about it!