Sorry, Your Church’s Days Are Numbered—Unless …

Warning: Is your church an endangered species?

My church’s days are numbered.

Churches like mine will not last into the next generation.

At least, not looking the way we look today.

There’s a cultural and financial storm underway. Unless we anticipate, acknowledge and respond well to it, churches like mine will be about as rare as printed newspapers, land-line phones and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

So, what do I mean by “churches like mine”? First, here’s what I don’t mean.

Megachurches will be OK. For the most part. They have a big enough giving base to weather the storms.

House churches will be fine as well. They have no overhead to worry about. And they’re doing church and relationships in a way that is increasingly more attractive to the coming generation.

Rural churches will probably be OK, too. Many new new trends tend not to hit small towns as deeply as big cities. Plus, small-town churches are more adept at struggling and surviving through hard times.

But churches like mine—the small to mid-size denominational church with a mortgage and a pastoral salary in a large metropolitan area—will start disappearing at a frightening pace in the next couple of decades.

Sorry to be the bearer of ill tidings. But the only alternative to facing the truth is to deny the truth—and suffer the consequences because of our denial.

Why Is My Church Endangered?

Fifteen years ago, my church was less healthy than it is today. It had half the attendance it has today. But we could afford to pay our mortgage, two full-time salaries and the upkeep on the building, while giving a good percentage to missions and funding all the ministries the church needed.

Today, we have double the attendance, more volunteerism, and a healthier mission and ministry. But we’re having to do more with less every year.


There are several reasons. Many of which no one has really figured out yet. But for today, I’ll outline three changes we need to acknowledge:

1. People’s financial realities have changed.

We’ve gone from one person’s salary paying the family’s bills in my parents’ era to both spouses needing to work in my era. And now we’re heading into an era in which at least one, sometimes both of the adults in the household (if there are two adults in the household), will need more than one source of income each. This reality is already hitting highly populated areas like mine.

2. What people are willing to give to has changed.

I dealt with this reality in a previous post titled “The Growing Disconnect Between Spiritual Hunger and Church Attendance,” so for now I’ll just say this: People no longer want to give their increasingly-hard-earned money to pay for our salaries or church mortgages. But they will give to causes they care about.

3. How people relate to God and the church has changed.

They used to trust God and us until given a reason not to. Now they don’t trust God or us until we prove that we’re worthy of it.

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Karl Vaters
Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors.