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The New York Times has just published a piece looking at trends in the U. S. church.  It’s an interesting read: DALLAS — The mural painted on the side of a building in the Deep Ellum warehouse district here is intentionally vague, simply showing a faceless man in a suit holding an umbrella over the words “Life in Deep Ellum.” Inside there are the trappings of a revitalization project, including an art gallery, a yoga studio and a business incubator, sharing the building with a coffee shop and a performance space.
But it is, in fact, a church. Life in Deep Ellum is part of a wave of experimentation around the country by evangelicals to reinvent “church” in an increasingly secular culture, and it comes as the megachurch boom of recent decades, with stadium seating for huge crowds, Jumbotrons and smoke machines, faces strong headwinds. A national decline in church attendance, the struggling economy and the challenges of marketing to millennials have all led to the need for new approaches. “It’s unsettling for a movement that’s lasted 2,000 years to now find that, ‘Oh, some of the things we always assumed would connect with the community aren’t connecting with everyone in the community in the way they used to,’ ” said Warren Bird, the director of research for the Leadership Network, a firm that tracks church trends. According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who are not affiliated with any religion is on the rise, including a third of Americans under 30. Even so, nearly 80 percent of unaffiliated Americans say they believe in God, and close to half say they pray at least once a month. The “spiritual but not religious” category is an important audience that evangelical leaders hope to reach in a culture that many believers call “post-Christian.” So they arrange meetings in movie theaters, schools, warehouses and downtown entertainment districts. They house exercise studios and coffee shops to draw more traffic. Many have even cast aside the words “church” and “church service” in favor of terms like “spiritual communities” and “gatherings,” with services that do not stick to any script. // Read more here…
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New research from Leadership Network and Warren Bird: Although the size of the churches surveyed varied, the average growth rate for all churches combined is between 6-8% per year, based on worship attendance numbers (adults and children combined) from the past three years. The majority of churches surveyed have also seen an increase in offerings since January, 2012. This trend increases with church size. Churches of 2,000 or more have seen a significant increase, with 28% increasing in the 6-10% range Interestingly, the 80/20 “rule” applies to giving. We asked: Which answer best completes this sentence describing how total giving is reflected in your church? “__ of the giving comes from 20% of our family units.” Most churches replied “80%” or “70%”, indicating that a large amount of giving comes from a small number of households. Churches receive from 1% to 80% of their total offerings via electronic means (online, bank transfer, credit/debit card, lobby kiosk, etc.), with the biggest group of churches receiving between 1% and 20% of their offerings electronically. Larger churches are more likely to receive a greater portion of their giving through electronic donations. All churches surveyed of a weekly attendance of 2,000 or more receive at least some portion of their donations electronically, and the majority are receiving between 1% and 30% of their offerings electronically. These findings are just a few of the insights from the 2012 Leadership Network Economic Outlook Survey. A full, illustrated report of the complete survey findings is planned to release in early 2013. via Church Offerings Increased in 2012 – Worship Attendance Too » Leadership Network. Are you optimistic for 2013?  Is your budget more, less, or the same as it was in 2012?
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New research from Leadership Network… this is just being released from Warren Bird and my colleagues at Leadership Network: Despite the current economic landscape, 73% of all churches surveyed expect to meet budget this year(“this year” being 2012 calendar year or current fiscal year). This response was to the question: “How do you respond to this statement? ‘Our church will meet its budget for this year.’ (whether calendar or fiscal year)” Participating churches ranged in size from less than 50 to over 40,000 people in weekly worship attendance. The larger the church, the more likely they are to say they will meet budget. More than half of the churches surveyed use a Jan-Dec calendar year for their fiscal year, but as church size increases, so does the likelihood that the fiscal year does not follow the calendar year. This optimism is particularly encouraging when you compare the outlook to the responses to the question, “Overall, how has the economic slowdown that began in 2008 impacted your church? This is just part of the story.  Read more here right now… How is YOUR church doing?  Are you on-track to meet or excede your budget this year? And how’s next year looking financially? Leave your comment/insight below… Todd
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Leadership is a big topic in the church these days. Heck… I work for “Leadership” Network. But some say our leadership culture has gone too far.  Lance Ford has written a new book called “UnLeaders”.  He’s a quote from Lance:
The leadership culture in the Church has fed a lot of egos and crowded out the character of Jesus in the name of leadership.
You can read this quote in full context of an interview here… As with anything, when we concentrate just on one thing, we will get derailed. I think leadership in the church is vitally important.  Without great leaders, churches flounder.  Seriously. But do you agree with Lance, that all this concentrate on leadership has fed egos and crowded out the character of Jesus? What do YOU think? Todd
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Dave Travis is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Encouragement Officer of Leadership Network. He is the co-author of Beyond the Box: Innovative Churches that Work and Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America’s Largest Churches. He has appeared on NBC Nightly News and CNN, and in other numerous articles in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and other major news outlets. This interview explores his latest publication What’s Next? A Look Over the Next Hill for Innovative Churches and Their Leaders (2012 Edition) Tell us the gist of What’s Next? The idea is to trace the outlines of the recent past and attempt to discern the contours of the future. For more than 15 years, Leadership Network has studied the world around us, especially trends for churches. We’ve done our own research, as well as reviewing the best work of others, to better understand our cultural climate. Overall, how do you view what’s ahead for church ministry? For thoughtful and well-prepared leaders, there will never be a shortage of fresh opportunity. Our vision is to help them preach, teach, disciple, and baptize more people who, in turn, will go out themselves in exponentially increasing numbers to be salt and light in a dark and thirsty time. Dave Travis answers why he wrote What’s Next? in this video.
  Why focus on the need for “innovative churches”? When the world changes, innovation becomes necessary. Innovation, in turn, changes the world. We don’t pursue innovation for its own sake. Its value is in creating a higher level of performance. Our focus is not on every new idea, but on those few that transform the shape of future ministry. We value innovative entrepreneurs because they are game-changers. They create movements of ideas and actions that galvanize those around them. When the forest begins to seem too thick, they are the ones who invent new tools for path-clearing. These innovators work within their own cultural milieu, making the gospel come to life within the specifics of how local people live and think. You list several developments we’ll be seeing more of. One involves “second- and third-tier” cities. Conventional wisdom called for us to look for large, innovative churches in the biggest cities and their suburbs. This has changed in the last decade or so. Expansive church campuses are cropping up in all types of locales. A few could be classified as rural or even as villages; we see them predominantly in towns, exurbs, and resort/retirement havens. We look at “these old bones” – our cities – and wonder if they can live again. They can, particularly with churches smartly built to reach younger seekers. But the greatest movement and opportunity will continue to be in circles that extend from those cities. Dave talks about the big idea of What’s Next?
  What’s next, economically, for innovative churches? We’ve seen a trend toward churches establishing annual budgets that are at 80% to 90% of the previous year’s income. Overages are then reserved as “opportunity funds” for strategic purposes throughout the year. With the recession driving prices down, greater opportunities present themselves in the areas of land, buildings, or mission opportunities—a classic example of turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones. Other churches and leaders have been wise enough to take a greater role in helping church attendees reduce their personal debt. In your section on authenticators, you reference social capital bundling. What does that mean, especially for the church? As churches carry out various practical ministries that improve their communities, in our view these ministries become the “authenticators” of the church locally. The church has credibility not because of the pastor’s communication abilities, but because the members act for the good of the surrounding area. Younger people in particular are no longer won over by just Christian apologetics or social programming. They believe the church is validated by how it collectively lives out its core beliefs. That’s not the case for every new church visitor, of course, but social capital is a strong ingredient in the recipe of churches that are reaching people currently. Dave tells leaders why they should read What’s Next?
  Some people wrongly think Leadership Network works only with megachurches. We champion all sorts of innovation. An example would be innovative church planting. It seemed like a radical move a decade ago when Leadership Network formed a core group of churches that would each aggressively train, support, and launch at least four new churches per year. But the trend only accelerated. Nearly every large church is now involved in planting new fellowships at some level. Churches are engaged in startups, either from their own church programs, or from a network program composed of two or more partners. As a result, this past decade has been a time of exponential growth in terms of new churches. In fact, we documented a few years ago in the book Viral Churches by Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird that church starts were now exceeding closures—a significant trend reversal. Is ethnic diversity in churches on the rise? Younger generations have come of age with diversity as an expected condition. They see no reason why the church would not “look like America,” as they see it. Thus racial and ethnic diversity become another authenticator of a genuine church. If they look around and see a homogeneous congregation, they tend to discount the effectiveness of the church experience. Since 2000, our surveys have pointed to larger churches having a fairly high degree of racial diversity, as compared to smaller churches. If you are a large, growing, innovative church in a diverse community, your participants, staff and leadership need to reflect that reality—or risk being discounted by younger generations. Dave explains the most challenging concept in What’s Next?
  Where will most staff come from in the future? Most likely a combination of places, as always. But one of the key development arenas will be structured internship and residency programs, targeting younger generations who come forward to ask for practical training. How is Leadership Network best helping churches these days? Part of our mission is to help our clients move from ideas to implementation to impact. We do this through our Leadership Community and InnovationLab processes, where ideas are refined into implementation plans, and progress is then measured. At Leadership Network, we identify innovative, entrepreneurial churches to engage with our core processes. Last year alone, we held 55 small gatherings of leaders, with 6 to 12 or more churches represented at each gathering. We are also the “diffusers of innovation,” as Everett Rogers in Diffusion of Innovations would say. We share with others in multiple ways what those teams are learning, so new ideas can be adapted to other places and other local contexts. Dave tells leaders which chapter they should read in What’s Next? if they only have time to read one.
  Your under-$10 purchase price for What’s Next? won’t cover the cost to gather all this knowledge. How is Leadership Network funded? While our clients pay fees for various processes and services, we are primarily funded by visionary and generous donors. Our initial launch came on U.S. soil in 1984, but we now serve client churches in Canada and Europe, and we plan to expand even further. Our “elite” processes are limited to selected clients, but we’re always eager to build new relationships and to find out how to serve new friends—helping them move from ideas to implementation to impact. What’s Next? is available in paperback or Kindle editions. Order 10 or more copies and get free shipping! This interview was based largely on quotes from just a few of the 64 pages of What’s Next? To read the full publication, designed to be read in just under an hour, go to What’s Next? for both the print and Kindle editions. To dialog with the author, write dave.travis@leadnet.org. To learn more about ways to engage with Leadership Network sign up for the free e-newsletter Advance atwww.leadnet.org/advance or explore our program offerings at www.leadnet.org/programs. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Warren Bird, Ph.D., research director at Leadership Network, is a former pastor and seminary professor, and is author or co-author of 24 books for ministry leaders, the most recent one with Jim Tomberlin: Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work. Some of Warren’s recent online reports include “The Heartbeat of Rising Influence Churches,” “Pastors Who Are Shaping the Future” and “A New Decade of Megachurches.” Follow him on Twitter @warrenbird
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Warren Bird writes: Leadership Network’s latest church salary report, just released, is the largest-scale project that anyone has compiled to date on North America’s largest churches. It reports on 209 large churches, including 44 churches with weekend worship attendances of 5,000 and higher. Here are what I believe to be the most important findings for churches with attendances of 2,000 and higher. They are among the many points highlighted in the executive summary.
  • Senior pastor salaries in very large churches increased 2% per year for the last two years, and 0% per year for the two years before that.
  • Church size – represented by budget and attendance – is the most influential factor in salary differences for congregations of all sizes, including very large churches.
  • Geography and location (suburb, downtown, etc.) affect salary differences, but only mildly.
  • Founding pastors tend to receive higher pay than successor pastors.
  • Senior pastor pay in single site churches is higher than in multisite churches until attendance reaches about 6,000; then multisite churches begin to pay higher.
  • The second-highest paid staff member typically receives 66% of the salary of the senior pastor in very large churches.
To download the 10-page, illustrated executive summary 2012 Large Church Salary Report: Research Trends from Leadership Network, click here.
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Leadership
Andy Stanley is not speaking at our next online conference. In fact, neither is anyone else you’ve heard of… yet. We’re happy to invite you to Leadership Network’s next online conference called “groundSWELL”.  The topic is the future of the church; and the speakers are all aged 13-19.  That’s right… every speaker is a teenager! The future of the church is alive and well inside each one of our churches.  But what will it take to reach their generation? We asked some of the sharpest teenage minds in the church TODAY about what the church will need to be like TOMORROW. You’ll hear from LAUREN.  Lauren is a very articulate young woman, zealous-for-God and the lost..  At 17 years old, whe’s a leader among her peers, and a real leader and voice for the future in her church. NICK officially joined his church staff when he was just 16; and is currently training for full-time ministry.  He’s passionate about studying all-things church, and will no-doubt be an unstoppable force in the next generation of the church. And you’ll meet JACOB.  Jacob is a tremendous leader and speaker.  As a teenager, he led his church in Chicago to start a movement to help eradicate world hunger and reach out to those who need the Gospel of Jesus. These are just three of the more than two dozen young leaders we’ll introduce you to. We asked these young leaders “What does the church need to change to reach your generation?”  Their answers make up our entire three hour online conference. The conference is scheduled for Thursday, March 1.  It is free and online… all you need is your computer and a good internet connection.  But you must pre-register to attend. I hope you’ll join us as we take a look at the future of the church through the eyes of those who will be leading it.  You may not have heard of the speakers yet, but they are our future leaders.  And we can learn from them today. Take one minute right now to register for this free event at http://groundswell.tv.  It all happens on March 1.
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Leadership
Warren Bird writes: Nine out of ten congregations say they want to add more members. That’s one of the important findings of a research group I’m part of that conducted a huge survey known as FACT – for Faith Communities Today 2010 survey. But more than learning that churches want to grow, we found a bunch of factors strongly related to growth. Here’s the analysis of more than 7,000 local houses of worship compiled by C. Kirk Hadaway, Church Officer for Congregational Research, The Episcopal Church, and one of the leaders of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership which sponsors the FACT series of research studies. What Correlates With Growth? Location is important. Congregations located in the downtown or central city neighborhoods of metropolitan areas were more likely to grow in recent years. Those in newer suburbs were also likely to grow. This is a significant change from a similar study completed in 2005 when the newer suburbs were more likely to be the location of growing congregations than central city neighborhoods. Congregations located in the South are also more likely to grow than those located in other parts of the country. New congregations are more likely to grow than are those with a longer history. The majority of new congregations started since 1992 have had significant increases in the number of active participants. This growth advantage does not last forever. “After 15 to 20 years the window of opportunity closes.” If a congregation has a significant percentage of ethnic minorities or is predominantly made up of an ethnic minority it is more likely to grow. Youth is a key factor. Congregations in which people over 50 make up 30 percent or less of the active participants are most likely to have growth. A clear sense of mission and purpose is “one of the strongest correlates of growth.” There is also a strong relationship between growth and the sense that the congregation is “spiritually vital and alive.” What other growth plates are there?  You can read more from Warren here at the Leadership Network website.  And you can follow Warren on Twitter @warrenbird. What have you seen as your biggest “Growth Edges”?
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Leadership
I hope you’ll mark your calendars and help support my latest project at Leadership Network.  I’m really excited about this one.  It’s a four hour online video conference for church staff people we’re calling “Staff Infection:  Cultivating a Healthy Church Team”. It’s free. We’ve assembled some of the behind the scenes people who run the teams at some pretty amazing churches and asked them how they do it.  Anything from running effective staff meetings to implementing organizational changes, to dealing with competition on your team. You’ll hear from great churches like 12 Stone Church, New Life Church, Cross Point, Community Christian, Granger, North Coast, Thomas Road Baptist Church, Westridge Church, Cincinnati Vineyard and more! It’s what we’re calling a ‘national church staff meeting’.  Only this one won’t be your typical boring staff meeting… this is one that can help strengthen and revitalize your team. Please mark Wednesday, May 18 on your calendar… and better yet… head over here to register you and your staff now.  Did I mention it’s free? Thanks for your support!
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Current Events
It’s often the Turning Points in our lives that define us and set us on course for a new direction. For great leaders, these are often the very moments that refine our determination, discernment and decision making for years to come. We’ve gathered a brilliant group of women who’ve agreed to share not only their stories of success, but also their moments of failure. What they’ve learned can be applied to your life as you lead through change in your own ministry! Join us for our next Leadership Network Online Experience: Turning Points: Leading through Change Wednesday, March 2, 2010 starting at 11:00 a.m. EST. Register right now for FREE right here…

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