Just about 4 years ago, I wrote about an article I had read by Carey Nieuwhof, a former lawyer and the founding pastor of Connexus Church in Barrie, Ontario, one of the most influential churches in North America. He has a blog and podcast about the future of the “church” in North America.


Cary had determined what the “hallmarks” will be of the churches that will make an impact in the next decade. Back then – and pre-COVID – we were having our own conversation about the future of Vine Street Christian Church. Now … today … we can look back and see how we’re doing, at least according to Carey’s list.

Here, according to Carey, are the hallmarks of the churches that will make an impact in the next decade:


  1. The ability to say no. One of the reasons churches don’t change is because leaders are unwilling to say no to current members who prefer things the way they were.


  1. Outsider focus. Churches that become passionate about people outside their walls will be far more effective than churches that are passionate about keeping the few people they have inside their walls.


  1. Quick decision making. If you have a decision-making process that’s slow and complicated, you will not be able to keep up with the pace of change needed. If you can’t make a decision within 24 hours, your process is too slow.


  1. Flexibility. Flexible and adaptable churches that can innovate around strategy and different initiatives will have the freedom to make the changes they need to make an impact moving forward.


  1. A willingness to embrace smaller to become bigger. When small churches stop trying to be mega-churches, good things can happen. In fact, more and more larger churches will start embracing smaller venues, locations and partnerships to keep growing.


  1. A quicker, lighter footprint. If you’re waiting for millions to build your building, you might wait forever. Get innovative and start looking at portable and non-traditional ways of growing your ministry.


  1. Valuing online relationships as real relationships. Churches that aren’t online beyond a website are going to miss the boat. Real interaction with real people online is…well…real.


  1. An openness to questions. Churches that understand that embracing questions is as important as providing immediate answers will make an impact in the future. We’re discovering that if you embrace questions, the answers eventually find their way into people’s lives. The Holy Spirit actually does move in people’s lives.


  1. A high value on experimentation. The more traditional you are, the less you will value experimentation. The churches that connect with their community will be the churches willing enough to try a variety of things, and who also have the courage to kill them as soon as they stop producing results.


  1. Prioritizing a “for you not from you” culture. Churches in decline often think in terms of what they can get from people – money, time, growth etc. Churches that will make an impact on the future will be passionate about what they want for people – financial balance, generosity, the joy of serving, better families, and of course, Christ at the center of everyone’s life.


  1. A tailored experience, not a tailored message. Churches that decide they will hold the message sacred but tailor the experience to an ever-shifting culture will be more effective.


          I know we have a lot of work and prayer to do as we move forward together into this uncharted territory. But it’s good to stop and take a pause and see how much progress we’ve made. And I think we’ve made a lot!


What about you? How do you think we’re doing in these post-COVID times? What should we be doing that we’re not? What are we missing? And who are we missing?  


Praying our church into the future,

Pastor Bob <><