The Church of Tomorrow
This morning I drove to Northwest Arkansas with my worship pastor, Keith Clutts, to look at the facilities of Cross Church Fayetteville. They are a one-year-old church located in a business complex and last Sunday they had nearly 2,000 people in attendance. They do this by cramming people, 500 at a time, into a multi-purpose room over the course of four worship services. Dr. Nick Floyd is the pastor of Cross Church Fayetteville and he was gracious enough to show us around and discuss the experience of rapid growth they have realized.
The purpose of the trip was to see how they use their facility because our church, Grand Avenue Baptist Church, is planning on launching a second campus in 2012 and we will likely be using a multi-purpose type of facility like Cross Church. We were hunting for ideas.
On the way home Keith and I talked about the way church has changed in the last 20 years. Changes in growth strategy (multi-site as a model), changes in approaches to facilities (multi-purpose versus dedicated space), changes in technology usage (iPads, YouVersion notes, wifi, etc.), and the list goes on and on.
We speculated how church would change in the next 20 years and what it would look like. Here’s what I think…the church of tomorrow will:
- Be highly orthodox in its theology. Churches that have surrendered to liberalism in their theology are dying. Conservative theological churches are thriving. As the divide between the sacred and the secular widens in USAmerican life, people will choose sides and the more clearly the church defines itself theologically the more people will flock to it.
- Flexibility of facilities is the key. Once upon a time churches bought lots of land, built lots of single-use buildings, spent lots of money on those buildings, and centralized all the ministries of the church to those facilities. Today, these buildings and large campuses are a challenge to maintain and renovate. Selling and rebuilding are difficult to impossible. The trend for smaller, cheaper, more flexible church space is already in place and will continue to grow.
- Small is the new big. Dr. Floyd said he would rather preach four times to groups of 500 people than preach once to 2,000 people. Something is lost, he said, when you put 2,000 people in one giant room. He is right. I have always believed that people like small crowds and preachers typically like large crowds. There is an intimacy that you lose once you cross the 500-person barrier in a room of people. During our own church’s renovation of our 1,200+ seat auditorium, we used our gym for two worship services. The FIRST thing people told me was how they loved the intimacy of the room. Multiple service and multiple sites is the future of the church.
- Technology. This is a tough one. Not to predict but to paint. What I mean is this: Technology in the church is catching fire today. We have embraced all sorts of technology at Grand to help us with our message. We use lights, video, and sound to its fullest. We have free wifi in our worship center. People use the wifi signal to tap into our YouVersion notes on their smartphones and iPads. Our membership (and others) follow the news and teaching ministry of our church on our mobile app. The technology we use NOW blows the mind compared to anything we ever would have dreamed of just 10 years ago. It is clear that technology is going to be a huge tool for the church in the future. But painting what that looks like is impossible. Just as we could never have imagined what we would have today, tomorrow is equally fuzzy. The churches that are creative enough to embrace emerging technologies will capture the people.
Those are just a few of my predictions. What do you see in 20 years for the church. We could have some fun with this one!