Nearly every church has one thing in common, no matter the denomination, geographic location, or size. What’s the commonality? Nearly every church is struggling to define a new and effective church strategy and ministry model. The struggle is real, but it’s not necessarily new. It’s not like every church was crushing it before 2020 and are now declining.
Part of the problem is the natural rhythm of church.
Every Sunday, churches gather for services. Online or in-person (or both). It doesn’t matter. The point is every seven days, at a specific time, there is a gathering. At these gatherings, the experience is relatively predictable. The church service may look different from church to church or denomination to denomination. Still, for a church attendee going to their church on Sunday, the experience this Sunday is probably like last Sunday. And this Sunday will probably be very similar next Sunday, too.
In the churches I’ve attended and led, the one-hour programming became painfully predictable. Outside of slight, occasional deviations, the service consisted of:
- A short welcome,
- two or three worship songs,
- a brief’ish vision moment where we would celebrate baptism and talk about generosity,
- a sermon, and
- end with some a dismissal.
That’s the service. That was the service last week. It was the service this week. And it’ll probably be the service next week. And the next. And the next. As a church attendee, this creates a problem.
It wasn’t always a problem. When church attendance was expected and normalized (i.e., when cultural Christianity was the norm), the predictable nature of church didn’t matter. In some ways, it was positive. People knew what to expect. Nobody was surprised.
Cultural Christianity is dead, though. Very few people feel obligated to attend church. People who miss a week (or a year) don’t feel guilty or ashamed any longer.
This leads us to a significant problem birthed from a fundamental principle that is wreaking havoc in our churches today:
PRINCIPLE: When something is missable, people will miss it.
PROBLEM: When church is too predictable, it becomes missable.
It’s missable because I can just go next week and not really miss anything. Or I can go next month. Or wait until Easter or Christmas.
Easter and Christmas prove an essential point about church strategy
Think about it. When is your church most crowded? Easter? Christmas? Why? Well, you may be tempted to answer, “It’s Easter! That’s why!” But let’s go a bit deeper. Easter Sunday means last week wasn’t Easter, and next week won’t be Easter, either. Easter is Easter, making it NOT as missable.
The same is true for Christmas services.
Let me give you one more example. Several years ago at Woodstock City Church, we took on a Sunday sermon topic that was quite controversial. As such, we shut down our online service stream. We told people the week before that next week’s church service would only be available in person. And we most likely would not post the service or the sermon online later.
Any guesses what happed this in-person only Sunday?
The church was PACKED. Like 150% capacity packed. We brought in chairs and set up rows in every hallway and empty room we could find. That Sunday, our in-person attendance FAR surpassed the in-person and online combined count for a typical Sunday!
Learn more about Gavin’s church strategy on page two.