12 Predictions and Trends for the Church in 2016

I’ve been studying and watching churches for almost two decades now. As I spend time with church leaders, here are several trends I see continuing or emerging in 2016:

  1. Seminary training more local church-based. The growth of online education has made it possible to center much more theological training in the local church at the feet of gifted pastors.
  2. Increasing numbers of multi-ethnic congregations. These churches may not reach large percentages of ethnic groups, but young leaders are committed to growing congregations that look like their community.
  3. Growing numbers of successful church revitalizations. Some of these will be the fruit of temporary church mergers that launch an autonomous revived church. Others will be the product of leaders who are simply called to revitalization efforts.
  4. More full-time internships and associate pastorates. Not only are young leaders crying out for these opportunities prior to their becoming senior pastors, but the growing attention to a plurality of elders leadership is also propagating this shift.
  5. Emerging acceptance of bivocational church leadership. I’ve written elsewhere about my beliefs about bivocational work. Perhaps I’m biased, but I’m beginning to see this type of role not only accepted, but also embraced.
  6. Continued ministry falls due to pornography. Seldom does a week go by now without my hearing about someone losing this battle. I see no decline in its influence, despite the number of people trying to address the issue today (watch for tomorrow’s post on this site).
  7. Increased government interaction with the church.  “Intrusion” may be the better word, but the church will likely increasingly have to deal with issues like hiring and taxation.
  8. Fewer “children’s worship” opportunities. This change is occurring because many young church leaders are theologically opposed to separating the family for any part of a worship service.
  9. Decreasing numbers of churches offering multiple styles of worship. Several factors are contributing to this trend, including: (a) growing theological opposition to having more than one service at all; (b) commitment to one style that reaches multiple ethnic groups; (c) difficulty in finding theologically sound and practically gifted worship leaders.
  10. Changing “older adult” ministries. I’ve not thought much about older adult ministries until I started receiving my own AARP card. As an older adult in my church, I’m not interested in a “senior adult” ministry like the one in the church I pastored years ago. I’m more eager to serve today than I’ve ever been, and I’m not the only older adult who wants to walk beside and support young church leaders.  
  11. More long-term pastors making intentional transition plans. Many are doing so because they’ve now seen too many rough transitions after a long pastorate in other churches. 
  12. Local churches more involved in sending missionaries. While likely still being connected to sending agencies, churches will be more hands-on in the process.

Let me know your thoughts.


  • Chris Powell says:

    I believe the independent cell church/house church movement with a bi-vocational pastor will significantly grow in 2016.

  • I see nothing in there that will impact the trajectory of the church over the past fifty years, which is to lose more than they gain and those they gain will be superficial Christians. I saw nothing about evangelizing the churches own community or strengthening the flock against the enemy. Most church changes of late have been nothing more than appeasing the world, a world they are not supposed to be a part of. Sorry for the New Year reality check.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I’m not convinced, either, that these changes will lead to increased evangelism, though some of these certainly could. I pray that happens. Thanks. 

  • I pray that you are correct about number 12: Local churches more involved in sending missionaries. That’s my passion at withinreachglobal.org. Would love to connect with you more on this subject! davidjoannes.com

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