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3 Cultural Trends Impacting Your Church Today (and what to do about them!)

binocularsA part of our role as church leaders is to be students of the culture we find ourselves in. Rather than just swimming along and doing things like we’ve always done … we need to respond to the current changes in the culture around us. Here are three facts of our culture and some reflections on how they are impacting my thinking (and actions) about leading in the church today.

92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising, up 18% since 2007. Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information with a 70% trust rating, up 15% since 2008. Television ads were trusted by only 47%, down 24% since 2009. (Nielsen, April 2012)

The fact that people are increasingly more likely to trust the opinions of their friends and family over “traditional” media reinforces that we need to work hard to motivate and empower our people to invite their circles of influence to church. There was a day when we could do a mass mailer or television ad and you would be able to move people into your church but those days are increasingly behind us.

The great thing about this is that churches of all sizes can work with their people to encourage them to invite friends. Spending money on mass media marketing is becoming an unwise decision for churches. A few years ago NewSpring was investing huge into TV ads that played during American Idol but notice what happened this past Easter when they invested nearly 100% of their promotional effort & resources into creating compelling content that was simple for their people to share. [Read about NewSpring’s 70% Easter Attendance Bump]

The average age of brands in Millward Brown’s BrandZ Top 100 Global Brands Report has fallen consistently, from 84 in 2006 to 68 in 2012. (Millward Brown, May 2012)

Legacy is becoming a liability. People are increasingly favoring brands and products that are younger. The implications for the church in this trend are massive because we represent a 2,000 year old faith.

As the baby boomer generation faces down massive succession issues around the country it will be fascinating to watch if the next generation embraces those ministries … or simply starts newer, younger, fresher (in the eyes of the culture – better) approaches. Will the next generation want to be a part of an older established ministry or will they implicitly trust younger ministries because they are newer. As the culture continues to obsess with the cult of youth … how can we offer the wisdom of age and experience?

Brands that simplify decision-making are 115% more likely to be recommended. (Corporate Executive Board, May 2012)

When I saw this trend it reminded me that people are not necessarily looking for what’s true but what works. Andy Stanley in his book Deep & Wide put it this way: “People are far more interested in what works than what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest. Including your spouse. They are on happiness quests.” Our culture is looking to understand the message of Jesus in a way that makes sense in their every day lives.

Are we articulating the irreducible functionality of the faith while at the same time not watering down the message? Our role is to make it simple but not simplistic. Our teaching can’t be heavenly platitudes that have no earthly value. Every time we interact with people they are asking if what they are hearing is helpful to them.

How do you respond to those trends? Join the conversation and leave a comment! (Especially if you disagree with my conclusions!)


1 Comment

  1. Personal recommendation is becoming more powerful now than nearly anytime in the last 500 years. The stats are clear but even anecdotal evidence is becoming very strong. I love the idea of putting budget and resources toward creating content that others would want to share. Genius.

    Good article, insight. Thx for sharing.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.