Monday, May 7, 2012

Four Areas of Change Churches May Need to Consider to Reach the Next Generation

After reading some of the more popular books on postmodern evangelism and church growth, leaders of small churches may be under the false impression they must toss out everything they practice and believe in and find some radical new way of doing church before they can reach the next generation. While many churches really do need to examine some of their methods and programs, they do not need to throw out everything and start over. Some well thought out adjustments in four key areas will allow small churches to reach out to the next generation effectively.

The first three areas to consider adjustments in are: helping the church regain its position as the social center of the community; helping the church regain its position as the ceremonial center of the community; and using the church’s facilities as an outreach tool. Though these three areas have been historically strong in most churches, they have begun to slip in eectiveness as the culture has become more secular. Church leaders need to consider any changes that might help them reverse the decline their churches may have experienced in these three areas. Over the course of my next several posts, I will give suggestions for what kind of changes church leaders can think about and considers in these three areas.

I can already see some of my more “cutting edge” friends rolling their eyes and saying, “That is all just attractional evangelism and it will not be enough.” (If that term is unfamiliar, do not worry—I will explain what it means in my next post).

I am well aware that the three areas mentioned above attractional in nature and that it those changes alone will not be enough to reach the next generation. But remember, I said there were FOUR key areas that we need to consider changes in.

To reach significant numbers of postmoderns we must also deal with the fourth area of change, which is philosophical. Those philosophical changes have a number of practical applications that must also be discussed and considered if small churches want to reach the next generation. This fourth area will require a greater degree of change for churches and will therefore entail greater struggle. Some people refer to these philosophical changes, and their practical applications, as “missional evangelism.” (If that term is not familiar to you, do not worry. I will explain it in tomorrow’s post as well).

The reason I break the four key areas into two categories and deal with them separately is because church leaders often need to work their way up to more challenging philosophical ideas. Some churches may choose not to implement the ideas from the fourth area at all. Though that may result in reaching fewer postmodern people, if the church implements at least some of the ideas of the first three areas, they will be reaching some postmodern people. Reaching some is better than reaching none, and sometimes churches can endure only so much change at one time. So I would rather break up the ideas and present them one at a time and gain some traction than lob the entire load at leaders at one time and overwhelm them.

Read my next few posts with a heart that is seeking to hear from the Lord. Then prayerfully implement some of the ideas from the first few posts. As the Lord leads, consider how the ideas from the second set of posts might be implemented as well. Keep in mind that the goal is to bring glory to God by sharing the Christian faith with the changing community around our churches without abandoning biblical principles in the process. It can be a fine line. It will take discernment, prayer, and a deep reliance on the leading of the Holy Spirit, but it can be done.

Adapted from my book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, which can be purchased at thousands of online retailers or directly from the author.


  1. you are keeping us in suspense!!!!

  2. Of course I am. Because I would prefer that you to go buy the book!

  3. There aren't just four areas that are needed to reach this postmodern generation, there are nine, which are listed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. And like Paul says at the end of verse 23, "Against such things there is no law."