Church Trends For 2023: How Will Traditional Churches in America Survive These Major Trend Changes
As we begin a new year, it’s always important to take a look at the church trends that are emerging and could potentially have an impact on churches in America.
Here are some of the top church trends for 2023:
- More churches will be using technology to connect with their congregation and community.
- Churches will be focusing more on mental health and wellness programs.
- Social media will continue to play a significant role in how churches communicate with their members and the community.
- Churches will be looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly.
- There will be a continued focus on racial reconciliation within the church.
As always, it’s crucial to stay ahead of the curve and be prepared for whatever changes may come your way. Let’s dive deeper into the 2023 church trends in America.
What Factors Influenced The Future Church Trends For 2023?
1. Changing Demographics
As we move into 2023, church leaders are facing many changing demographics that influence the trends in the church. With the mass migration of people moving out of cities, switching online jobs, and into new frontiers, those who remain in church are turning to digital services. This has shifted from physical church attendance to virtual church services.
In addition, the pandemic has dramatically affected church attendance, with many churches seeing a decline in in-person numbers. This has led to church leaders needing to focus more on connecting people than erecting traditional buildings.
Demographically, the past few years have seen increased congregational diversity, with Millennials and Gen Z seeking more inclusive and diverse churches. This has led to a need for church leaders to be more adaptive to the changing landscape and more mindful of their outreach efforts to reach different generations.
Concerns with pastor burnout and stress among Americans have been on the rise. This has created a need for church leaders to be aware of the effects of burnout and to put in place measures to help their pastors manage the stress and pressure of their role.
These are just some changing demographics that influenced church trends in 2023. By understanding and responding to these trends, church leaders can ensure they are best positioned to reach their congregation and successfully lead their church into the future.
2. Increased Technological Adoption: Livestreaming Options
The increased technology adoption in churches has significantly impacted trends in 2023. Churches have benefited from new software and tech to assist with their ministry efforts, such as virtual meetings, webinars, apps to facilitate donations and scheduling services, and digital tools to assist with marketing, data analysis, and volunteer management.
Mainline Churches that quickly adapted to the needs of the people increased their outreach and engagement while streamlining administrative tasks associated with running a church. These churches have seen the benefits of technology in helping them create an engaging community experience while still reaching out with messages of hope in Jesus.
3. Social Issues
In 2023, social issues such as gender and sexuality, racial climate, and financial concerns will significantly influence church trends. The Gallup report shows that the number of people in the U.S. who identify as LGBT rose from 3.5% in 2012 to 7.1% in 2021.
How churches respond to these statistics will forever define them within these communities. Will the church embrace people within the LGBT community with love and compassion as we should with all sinners, or will the body of Christ continue to single out this one sin?
4. Changing Needs of Worshipers
As our world continues to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic, it is clear that the needs of worshipers are changing and influencing church trends in 2023. In-person attendance is still lower than in pre-pandemic times, so churches must utilize a hybrid approach that includes in-person and digital services to reach the most people.
This hybrid approach must provide meaningful worship experiences and develop missional groups to build relationships and reach new people. In addition, churches must pay attention to these trends’ financial and staffing implications and ensure that the church’s budget can support these new ministries.
Churches need to focus on building relationships that make those who worship virtually feel connected to a community that cares. Bethel Church has accomplished this task in providing the Christian community with what it desires from a church community and is making a global reach.
5. Stress on Churches to Adapt
As churches face increased stress to adapt to changing societal conditions in the coming years, they may begin to see specific trends in 2023. Many churches will likely shift their focus to evangelism as they understand they cannot rely on cultural Christians or church transfers for growth.
Additionally, churches will become much more diverse as millennials and Gen Zers are increasingly drawn to multicultural environments. Due to their impending closure, church adoptions will also rise as more churches come into another church’s family, care, and authority.
Lastly, churches in America will seek to partner with churches in other nations where the gospel is rapidly spreading. These trends will directly result from churches being pressured to adjust to a new landscape.
6. Changing Marketing Needs
As churches adjust to a world of uncertainty in 2023, they need to stay updated on emerging technology trends to meet their congregations’ changing needs better. Church marketing strategies should leverage digital resources and software solutions to enhance its ministry efforts.
Some key trends churches should consider incorporating into their marketing plans include email marketing, management systems, design elements, and retainer services. By using these technologies to create an engaging and compelling user experience, churches can better connect with their members and reach out to those who may not have previously had access to the church.
Additionally, churches should consider the impact of location independence on their marketing techniques. With more people relocating and identifying with online-only churches, leaders must focus on engaging people meaningfully rather than relying on physical buildings. Churches can use digital technologies to create micro-gatherings, such as home-based meetings, and develop strategies for engaging young adults.
Finally, churches should know the vital statistics when creating their marketing plans. This could include anything from church attendance numbers to statistics about millennials and their connection to the church.
7. Changing Expectations of Congregants
Churches have re-evaluated their operations in the last few years and adjusted to the new reality. Many leaders were clinging to the idea that the next season would bring attendance back to pre-pandemic levels, but for most churches, that never materialized.
Now churches are settling into the reality that this is their congregation for the foreseeable future. This has caused churches to adjust their budget accordingly, prioritize staffing and facilities, and get to know their online audience like they’re real people. Additionally, they’re embracing the idea that some people expecting to return later won’t ever return.
As churches have had to adjust to the changing expectations of their congregants, they’ve had to find ways to foster connections and build a sense of community amongst their members. This has meant a shift towards online engagement and connection and an increased focus on identifying and building on small pockets of momentum and hope.
The changing expectations of congregants in 2023 have significantly influenced how churches operate and the trends they’re embracing. By recognizing their congregation for what it is and embracing the new reality, church leaders are setting themselves up to move forward and build a stronger future.
What are the Major Trends for Local Churches in 2023?
Churches catering to millennials
Millennial-focused churches have unique characteristics that make them distinct from other churches. They invest heavily in children’s ministry and neighborhood outreach to draw young families back to the pews. This focus on the younger generation resonates with an age group suffering through a crisis of friendship and longing for meaningful connection.
Additionally, churches that cater to millennials are taking advantage of the rising popularity of mobile apps, streaming services, and online worship services. A larger share of millennials prefer online services than boomers, and local churches in America must embrace this trend by providing interactive video content and website upgrades.
Increased focus on technology
In 2023, technology is helping churches focus more on their ministry efforts by providing tools that increase efficiency and enable better outreach. Cloud-based software solutions, integrated customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, online donation portals, and automated event scheduling software are helping churches serve their congregations more effectively while maintaining a sense of community.
Additionally, digital marketing tools such as social media management systems and email marketing automation platforms are helping churches reach people beyond their physical place of worship and share messages of hope. As technology continues to evolve, churches are leveraging these platforms to meet their ministry goals better and provide meaningful opportunities for their church members to connect outside the church buildings.
Emphasis on engaging sermons
In 2023, churches will continue to place a strong emphasis on engaging sermons as a way to bring people together and provide a sense of community. The current trends to watch include more engaging sermons due to the proliferation of unique online content, making it easier for people to access sermons from incredible communicators anytime and anywhere. This has changed how people think about sermons – they are no longer the main draw for church attendance but rather an anchor, providing a Biblical lens to understand and interpret the world around them.
To remain competitive in an increasingly digital world, churches in America in 2023 must approach sermons with a fresh perspective. This means moving away from the traditional model of selling sermons as the main draw and instead focusing on providing a multi-faceted experience that gives people a sense of connection and community.
This could include activities such as small group ministries, kid and student ministries, fly fishing ministries, mental health ministries, and other experiences that don’t translate online. By providing a well-rounded experience beyond sermons, churches can continue to engage their members and remain competitive in the digital age.
Increased focus on community outreach
As churches look ahead to 2023, increased focus on community outreach will be essential for developing meaningful relationships and reaching new people. With the emergence of hybrid ministries and online worship will remain necessary to reach and connect the most people.
In-person attendance is likely to remain lower than pre-pandemic levels. Thus, churches must focus on creative ways to engage with their local communities, such as missional groups, outreach programs, and other initiatives. By having a proactive presence in the community and emphasizing hospitality and participation, churches can cultivate meaningful relationships and create a space in which individuals can connect with a community that cares.
Growth of house churches
Pastors and church leaders once feared house churches. Resisting change must come to an end, as change is what believers are seeking. Not a change in the truth of the Gospel message but how people truly connect deeper in God’s word.
Micro, home-based gatherings are becoming more common and location independence is now a reality. Church leaders who can adapt quickly to this new landscape will be able to reach more people.
Shortly, churches will emphasize evangelism over transfer growth, adopt diversity and global partnerships, and rely on interim and consulted pastors more than ever before. The growth of house churches will force churches in America to become more adaptive and creative to stay viable.
Shift towards more progressive values.
The trend towards more progressive values is significantly affecting churches in 2023, as evidenced by the increased focus on evangelism and diversity, the rise of church adoptions, the growth of global partnerships with churches in other countries, the longer time between pastors, and the increase in interim pastors and church consultations.
This shift towards progressive values has created a more unpredictable and unstable environment, forcing churches to embrace more agile methods of leadership and innovation. As a result, church leaders are challenged to stay current with the ever-changing cultural context, especially concerning gender and sexuality, and to do their best to provide a safe and welcoming space for all congregation members, regardless of their background.
Growth in the use of social media
In 2023, churches recognize the importance of utilizing social media. Kids say Facebook is for old people and have turned to Snapchat, Tiktok, and BeReal to communicate with their friends.
While Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are still good social media platforms for the older generation, churches must also embrace these other current platforms for the younger generation is on.
Incorporating a media ministry can help bolster blog posts, online sermon series, and social media content curation, help aging adults who can’t attend a physical church, post leadership podcasts online, and help people continue to grow spiritually on the road.
Increased focus on creative worship
In 2023, creative worship is increasing in churches as churches pay attention to the trends of hybrid ministry, relationship building, staffing, and finances. As attendance of in-person worship has not yet rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, churches are focusing on the importance of hybrid approaches to worship and ministry to reach the most people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified feelings of isolation, loneliness, and mental health challenges, leading many individuals to seek opportunities for connection. As such, churches prioritize relationships to create meaningful and relevant worship experiences for those attending in person and virtually.
Emphasis on financial stewardship
What is the trend toward financial stewardship for churches in 2023? With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches have experienced a decline in attendance yet a steady or increased giving. This trend is unlikely to hold, as churches must find a purpose for the accumulated money and equip their congregations in financial management.
Resources like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace curriculum will help churches promote wise stewardship, benefit everyone in the community, and change people’s views of tithing and generosity.
What Should Church Leaders and Pastors be Aware of For 2023 and Beyond?
The Millennial Generation
The Millennial Generation, or Generation Y, consists of people born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. This age group is defined by their high levels of technology use, desire for flexibility in the workplace, and delayed entry into adulthood. As Millennials enter their life stages, they are having children, buying homes, and attending church at lower rates than their predecessors.
Church leaders are now faced with the challenge of drawing Millennials back to the “pews,” which can now be defined as online church attendance. This requires churches to be equipped to meet Millennials’ needs and create a culture that resonates with them.
Churches must invest in their children’s ministry and do neighborhood outreach to get Millennials back into a church building, allowing their kids to connect. This is a balancing act for everyone as Millennials also must realize the importance of their kids needing socialization and the ability to learn about Christ.
Increased Competition in Church Attendance
Churches have had to become more innovative and creative in their outreach and engagement strategies to stand out in a crowded marketplace. This has resulted in churches offering more online services and resources, investing in social media and technology to keep up with the competition, and creating engaging and meaningful experiences to draw in and retain new members.
Churches need to stop pointing fingers at what other local mega-churches are doing wrong or right and seek to understand why their church is stagnant or shrinking. These churches that have lost members see members who once spoke in harmony with their church switching to these mega-churches.
Larger Numbers of Unaffiliated Christians
More significant numbers of unaffiliated Christians are affecting churches in multiple ways. Pew Research Center found that the percentage of self-professing Christians in America declined by over 10 points during the past decade, from 75% to 63%, and the number of people who attend worship service every week or almost every week is now less than one-third of the population.
The Guardian reported that Christianity is now a minority religion in England and Wales, as less than half of the population now describe themselves as Christian. The Christian community must understand why we are seeing declining attendance and how to be honest with ourselves so we can reach those in need.
Changing Demographics in American Churches
Over the past few decades, American churches’ demographics have changed significantly. In 2023, churches will emphasize evangelism more as they understand the importance of leading people to grow in their faith. The growth of diversity within congregations will peak as Millennials and Gen Z become more open to different cultures. Additionally, the number of churches being adopted will be a record high, and churches will have more global partners.
To adjust to their tight budgets, many pastors and staff are becoming bi-vocational or co-vocational, meaning they have jobs outside the church or choose to remain in the marketplace. Another trend is that more church pastors and staff are getting theological and ministry training.
Increased Use of Technology in Churches
The development of mobile solutions, data analytics, automation, AI-powered personalization, and other digital resources evidences the increased use of technology in churches. These resources help churches stay current on the latest technology and find ways to take advantage of these new resources.
This includes cloud-based software solutions, social media management tools, email marketing automation platforms, online donation portals, software solutions to assist with marketing, data analysis, volunteer management, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, automated event scheduling software, and more. With these tools and resources, churches can provide more efficient and effective ministry efforts and better outreach to their congregations and communities.
Shift in Worship Styles and Services
In addition to traditional in-person and hybrid worship services, churches increasingly turn to online services and missional groups as creative ways to reach new people. Online services allow people to worship and participate in the church experience from the comfort of their homes.
Missional groups are small gatherings of people who meet in public locations to engage in service projects and build relationships with those in the community. Church leaders should be aware of the potential challenges associated with online services, such as technical and audio/visual difficulties, and be mindful of creating a safe, inclusive environment for missional groups.
Additionally, church leaders should consider the staffing needs of these types of services and the resources needed to support them.
Rise in Emotional, Contemplative Churches
Emotional, contemplative churches seek to create an atmosphere of spiritual depth and connection with God and the congregation’s members. They focus on developing an intimate relationship with the Lord through prayer, meditation, worship, and study.
Characteristics of this type of church include:
- Emphasizing a reflective atmosphere – A contemplative church seeks to create a peaceful and reflective atmosphere for worship, study, and prayer.
- Encouraging personal spiritual growth – Contemplative churches focus on helping members grow spiritually.
- Encouraging spiritual conversations – Another hallmark of a contemplative church is focusing on meaningful conversations about spiritual topics.
- Utilizing visuals, music, and liturgy – Contemplative churches often use visuals, music, and liturgy to enhance the worship experience.
- Fostering communal prayer – Contemplative churches often set aside time for communal prayer.
- Addressing the community’s needs – In addition to spiritual growth, contemplative churches can also address their communities’ physical and emotional needs.
Increase in Sexuality Conversations in Churches
As the conversation around gender and sexuality continues to evolve, churches must grapple with the reality that more and more people in their congregations may identify as LGBT.
To stay relevant, churches must face this issue head-on and learn to navigate the complexities of these conversations. The Church has not always had the best track record regarding cultural issues, but with the saturation of these issues in other areas of society, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Church to ignore.
To ensure that the Church remains a place of inclusion for all, churches must be more intentional about creating a safe space for LGBT individuals to engage in conversations about their faith and identity. This means providing pastoral care and spiritual guidance to LGBT individuals and their families while providing access to resources to help them better understand their faith and identity in Christ.
Finally, churches must strive to foster a spirit of understanding and acceptance regarding LGBT individuals in the church. It is important to remember that everyone deals with their sins, so why do we pick on this sin over another, like gluttony or sex outside of marriage?
By opening up these conversations and listening to the stories of LGBT individuals in the church, we can help create a more inclusive and compassionate atmosphere for all.
Growth of Church Planting and Expansion
Church planting and expansion come with many growth challenges that must be addressed to be successful. One challenge is the need to evangelize and reach out to new people to increase the congregation. Another challenge is the need to increase diversity within the community, as this is something that appeals to younger generations.
Church planting should be part of all churches as no small church should be designed to remain small and closed to adding new members. Growing churches require an active role from all church members in showing the love of Christ to non-believers.
When Christians become more like Christ versus simply preaching Jesus at Gen X like many organized religions do, people who experience the love of Christ within your church body will see a church congregation in a new light.
How to Adapt Your Church to These Changing 2023 Trends
Step 1: Present Documented Research to Your Church Elder Board and Congregation
- Gather information from churches connected to you. Ask about their experiences over the last few years, and compile the data into a report. Include ratings of fifteen critical areas of church health and present these ratings as percentages in the report.
- Connect with others outside of your inner circle, asking about their experiences.
- Present the research on the latest 2023 church statistics. Providing trends, statistics, and cultural shifts in the new year.
- Be open to change and ask for help from your other church leaders, members, or organizations. Consider consulting with outside experts in the field to gain more insights.
Step 2: Identify and address the needs of the generations you serve
- Identify the Generations You Serve – Before you can begin addressing the needs of the generations you serve, it is essential to identify who those generations are. In most churches, this will include Gen X-ers, Millennials, and Gen Z-ers.
- Listen to the Voices of the Generations – Once you’ve identified the generations you serve, it is crucial to listen to the voices of those generations. Ask questions, hold conversations, and ensure you’re hearing the real needs of the people in and outside of your church.
- Create Tailored Programs For This Generation – Once you have identified the needs of your church’s generations, partner with them to create tailored programs that meet those needs.
- Engage with the Younger Generations – Engaging with the younger generations is vital to creating a thriving church. Reach out, listen to their ideas, and help them understand how they can be a part of the church’s mission and vision.
- Connect the Generations – Once you’ve identified the needs of each generation, try to find ways to interconnect them. This could include having older generations mentor younger generations, collaborating on projects, or having joint events that bring generations together.
Step 3: Design a strategy to reach the millennials generation
To design a strategy to reach the millennial generation, churches should first understand the impact of the “boomer demographic bomb” and the different motivations of different generations. Gen-X want authenticity and to be on a mission, Gen-Z is searching for something real amid an online world of slacktivism, and Millennials have always wanted a bigger purpose to their work.
Churches should then trim down their “how” and “what” programs to fit the “why” of their church and communicate this message clearly and concisely. Churches can then use the data from Barna’s study to drive them to prayer and to gain a deeper understanding of the trends they need to adopt to reach millennials.
For example, the chart reveals an equal share of Boomers and Millenials prefer online service, and in-person attendance was preferred over each of the other two options by every generation, including Millenials.
Ultimately, churches should listen to the voices of the generation they are trying to meet and grow while staying true to their mission to make disciples by baptizing converts and teaching them to obey all Christ commanded.
Step 4: Create an experience for genZ that is tailored to their preferences
Gen Z wants to be part of something meaningful but also wants to be able to make it their own.
- Understand the needs of Gen Z.
- Leverage technology to engage Gen Z.
- Create opportunities for Gen Z to lead.
- Incorporate Gen Z culture and trends.
- Make it personalized.
Step 5: Create an identity for genZ that is authentic and relevant
All believers should be authentic with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, this can be the furthest thing from the truth when Christians gather on Sunday. Due to fear of persecution and judgment, we put on a happy smile and pretend our lives are perfect.
Church members may provide a small glimpse into their lives but leave out their actual struggles leaving everyone within the church living a lie out of fear. When we open the church up to be vulnerable and accepting of each other, we provide all generations with an authentic and relevant place.
This change must begin with key church leadership, including the pastors and elders of every church. Once they are authentic with their sins and struggles, the church members will be authentic with each other.
Step 6: Curate content for genZ that is relevant and engaging
Churches can curate content for Gen Z that is relevant and engaging by following these five steps:
- Identify who among your young church members would be an excellent fit to lead or co-lead an event or gathering. Involve them in creating and curating content, as their voices can be valuable in reaching this demographic.
- Utilize online resources to find content that is relevant to the interests of Gen Z. These can include popular websites, videos, podcasts, and articles on topics they find interesting.
- When curating content, it is essential to ensure accuracy and reliability. Take the time to review the content before sharing it, and make sure it meets the standards of your church.
- Utilize social media to engage Gen Z with the content you curate. Post links to articles, videos, and other content, and interact with comments and questions.
- Encourage Gen Z members of your church to share their own content. This could be videos, stories, artwork, or anything they find relevant and engaging. This will help them feel included and show their voices are valued.
Step 7: Manage staff burnout with awareness strategies
Burnout can be a severe issue for pastors, especially in the current climate of disruption and crisis. Fortunately, awareness strategies are available to help team members in full-time ministry navigate difficult times. With the right tools, pastors can manage and prevent burnout from restoring a sense of stability and hope within the church.
A clear understanding of church roles and expectations can be beneficial. This could include implementing a volunteer strategy and providing members with the resources they need to be successful. Additionally, setting boundaries and establishing a schedule that allows for both work and rest can be beneficial in helping to prevent burnout.
Embracing the church, you have instead of wishing for the one you used to have or wish you had can also be helpful. This means connecting with new people online, disciplining new people, and integrating them into church life.
Step 8: Address the volunteer crisis with strategies tailored to each situation
What strategies can be used to address the volunteer crisis in different churches?
- Change how you think about volunteering by focusing on the volunteers’ spiritual gifts and how they can be used to serve God rather than on the organization’s needs.
- Emphasize the growth of the individual and how volunteering can help them reach their spiritual potential.
- Communicate the purpose of each volunteer opportunity and why your church needs their help.
- Trim down volunteer programs to focus on the “why” of the church.
- Show appreciation for volunteers and recognize their efforts.
- Recruit and engage with the generational groups attending church less often (Millennials, Gen-X, and Gen-Z) by providing volunteer opportunities that fit their motivations and interests.
- Utilize social media and other digital tools to spread the word about volunteer opportunities.
- Connect with other churches and organizations in the community to coordinate volunteer efforts.
- Leverage digital tools and resources to make volunteering more efficient and convenient.
- Don’t fear losing members by joining other churches’ volunteer outreach programs.
Step 9: Prepare for an influx of visitors from outside your denomination with the use of social media insights
Social media insights can help prepare a church for an influx of visitors from outside its denomination. First, knowing what platforms and content your visitor’s use is essential. By analyzing your visitors’ interests and behaviors on social media, you can create content that resonates with them. Additionally, it is crucial to create a social media presence that is tailored to the audience you are trying to reach.
The next step is to create a robust social media strategy. This includes determining the goal of your strategy, creating relevant content, and optimizing your posts for maximum engagement. Additionally, it would be best to use analytics tools to monitor your posts and gain insights into your audience, such as their demographics, interests, and behaviors.
Finally, using social media to build relationships with your visitors is essential. Engage with them regularly by liking, sharing, and commenting on their posts. Invite them to join your church and respond to their questions and feedback.
By building relationships with your visitors, you can ensure that your church is welcoming and inclusive of all visitors, regardless of denomination.
Why Is Church Insurance More Important Now Than Ever Before in 2023?
Church insurance is more important now than ever, given the prevalence of cyber-attacks and other external threats that can put church data and systems at risk. As we move to online churches, we must consider the different types of new risk exposures we as a church community face.
With databases containing personal information for members, churches must protect their assets and adopt best security practices to ensure that their members’ data remains secure.
Religious organizations must have church insurance coverage to protect their assets and members in a cyber-attack or other unforeseen circumstances.
Having the right insurance plan to cover all potential risks is essential for churches to protect their members and assets. Integrity Now Insurance Brokers is a church insurance agency that helps religious organizations structure church insurance programs that cover property damage, theft, liability, and financial losses due to cyber-attacks.
Insurance policies can also include member privacy coverage, helping keep members’ data secure. These aspects are essential for churches to consider as they ensure their data and systems remain secure and their members are protected.
Contact one of our church insurance agents and request a quote to see how we can help your church property insurance stay relevant and affordable today.