Church v.2020 – Ten Changes:
#10 More Collaboration – Less Competition
When compared with the American church of 2012, the future church (v.2020) will feature significantly more collaboration and markedly less competition. This will occur in many areas, including:
- An approach to marketing, church growth, and evangelism shaped by abundance rather than scarcity that encourages all people already on a spiritual or religious path to earnestly and faithfully pursue it. Efforts to reach those seeking something new as a part of their life journey will be motivated by love for neighbor and begin with an invitation to belong rather than to believe (more on belonging over believing will be discussed in the #5 change needed for the church of the future).
- An increase in the number of shared/community projects with theologically dissimilar congregations. More specifically:
- Congregations that historically only worked cooperatively with other congregations affiliated with their denomination or with denominations that have formal relationships recognize the most effective way to deal with issues in their larger geographic community is to partner in those efforts with other faith communities located in it whether or not they have disparate theological understandings. For many congregations this change will be necessitated by the shrinking number of theologically similar congregations in close proximity. For a fewer number, the change will be strategic in nature and will lay ground work for the possibility of other types of sharing in the longer term future.
- Congregations that already partner with a diverse group of Christian faith communities to address community concerns will move toward an ever widening circle of partners that embraces all persons and parties (without regard to religion or spirituality) desiring to address the given matter.
- An increase in interfaith activities of all kinds, especially:
- Education to increase religious literacy (more on the present state of religious knowledge, a helpful book for individual or group study, and more on one individual and group’s ideas to improve religious literacy in a community)
- Dialogue to promote understanding (like that being championed by the interfaith amigos and modeled by college students)
- Shared community projects alongside non-geographically centered efforts related to social justice
- Shared services (an example of this practice)
- Exchange of clergy, especially for an occasional worship service
The possibilities named above are already happening. I believe that the years leading to v.2020 will be marked by increased adoption rates. With this in mind, how does your congregation measure up to these expectations?
- When looking beyond your congregation’s existing membership, does your congregation tend toward an overall preferred style of interaction that is collaborative or competitive?
- Which of the areas listed above (marketing/evangelism, shared projects that favor geographical rather than theological proximity, or interfaith activities) is the greatest growing edge for your congregation? What practical steps can be undertaken to begin improving this area?
- Between 2000 and 2010 the percentage of congregations engaged in interfaith activity increased dramatically (worship more than doubled from 6.8% to 14% and community service/shared projects nearly tripled from 7.7% to 20.4%). How high do you expect these percentages will climb by 2020? What factors do you believe will contribute to the rate of growth you project?