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7 Paradigms of the “New Normal” in Church Leadership

By April 19, 2013March 14th, 2021Church, Leadership

Things have changed. Have you noticed?

The rest of the world has reacted. I’m not sure we have in the church…or at least as quickly as we should.

But, we must….

If we want to continue to reach people in the culture and introduce them to the God we love and serve.

Here are 7 paradigms of the “new normal” in church leadership:

We must do more with less – The resources for Kingdom work may not be what they once were. People now define generosity differently. We need to educate them. Disciple them in giving. But, just like the business community is learning, things may never be the same again. We may have to solve some problems without adding staff or new programs that cost money. I’ll be honest, as a former small business owner and church planter, this isn’t all bad and may make us healthier in the long run after we learn to adjust.

We have to think outside the walls – They aren’t coming to us any more for answers…even in times of crisis. We are no longer the first place people think about when life falls apart. We have to actually do the “Go” part of the Great Commission.

Church is an opinion, not a trusted source – The church used to be the center of discussion. Everyone wanted to know what the church thinks, especially on moral issues. Our opinion is quickly dismissed these days by many. We must build relationships to be heard.

People trust their friends…more than the churchA recent study said the most trusted source in advertising is a friend’s recommendation…believed 92% of the time. I don’t know the church’s percentage, but from experience I can tell you it’s far less than that. Teaching relational evangelism is mission critical.

Easter is for church people – Unchurched people don’t come, on their own, even on Easter (or other special occasions), without an invitation. (With an invitation they are likely to come.) We aren’t on their radar. More church people than usual show up on Easter. That’s why our numbers go up so much. The point, again, we have to invite and go through relationships.

Regular attendance is semi-regular – I’ve been noticing this for several years, even back when I was teaching Sunday school, but especially now as a pastor. Several of my friends have mentioned it recently. Two or three times a month…that’s regular attendance in many people’s minds.

Loyalty has dwindled – Just as people are less loyal to brands, they are less loyal to churches too. They can also watch us or others online without coming to our buildings. We will have to work harder to connect people through discipleship opportunities. Connected people are loyal.

Those are only seven. I know there are more. But, seven is usually my “go to” number. Please note, I’m not endorsing these or saying I agree with them. I’m simply stating some realities I see the church must consider. If we want to reach people within a culture it helps to know the culture.

By the way, it is interesting that we’ve been doing cultural training to send people on foreign mission trips for years, yet that seems like a “foreign” concept to some when it comes to training for the changing culture in our own backyards.

What paradigms of the “new normal” would you add?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • Jim says:

    Things are ALWAYS changing. Jesus constantly challenged the religious leaders of His day as well as the traditions they had allowed to destroy the relationship God sought with them, the relationships He wanted them to have with each other, and the relationship He wanted Israel to have with the world.

    When you compare the church today to the 1st century church, you have to admit that we have added a lot of our own traditions and 'laws' to the Gospel message which once again interfere with the relationship God seeks with us and that He wants us to have with each other. Kind of a Jesus + Law thing that produces feelings of guilt and suppresses the glorious freedom in Christ that God's grace provides.

    I suspect there are various motivations for churches to continue to push the Jesus + Law thing…fear that freedom from tithing will cause greater financial strain (note that I did not say freedom from cheerful giving), fear that freedom from progressive sanctification will diminish their perception of influence in their community, fear that freedom from programs will diminish the coolness factor that our culture demands. The message of grace is true freedom and shows how true Jesus' claim that "my yoke is easy and my burden is light" is. Simply allow Christ to be expressed through your life and through Him fulfill His only commands to love God and love others as God loves us.

  • Jason Raitz says:

    Fantastic article! Absolutely agree! As a brand new church planter, I have experienced all of these! I used to work at a very large Mega Church where the resources available were amazing. A much different story now and honestly, I love it. My dependency on God has sailed through the roof and we're seeing amazing generosity!

  • @jhlemaster says:

    Great post. You have hit the "new normal" and most church leaders don't see it. My only concern with calling them new normal, implies there is nothing we can do about it. I see 3-5 of these new actions as a result of very poor or non-existent discipleship. These new norms have come about, because we don't have high expectations for followers of Christ. Being a young pastor myself I understand changing culture, but it just seems we are always being reactionary and never proactive to church culture, let alone impacting the culture of our community.

  • Great insights Ron!

    Randall Hall
    Synergy for Ministry

  • kayetkm says:

    Your post describes the situation in our church very well. As I walk through my area on a Sunday, I see people sitting in cafes, playing in parks and shopping, but I don't see many of them at church. They are not waiting for better music, preaching or kids' programs; they are not interested. I agree with you that we have to do more of the 'going' so that people will have a chance to meet Jesus.

  • bryankr

    I don't indorse them, either, but I have to agree with them. One in particular; The Church is not a trusted source…that is the one I have been working on for some time! It seems people are not as worried about the state of their souls as they used to be, and I think one reason foe that is the simple fact of the definitions for "right" and "normal" have changed so much, and usually have changed to fit whatever lifestyle they already have! That puts the field of Ministry in a very different place. One we were never trained for. No longer can we get them to see where they are doing harm because of the use of alcohol , or drug use. These are the norm for so many, and they have developed such a belief system, they will never have to change! As far as the general public is concerned, we may as well be selling " snake oil". As best I can tell, many people don't really see a "need" for us. Quite a conundrum.

  • Great post Ron, I have seen all this myself. Do you see, "Regular attendance is semi-regular" as something just deal with as a new normal, or do we still work towards a more dedicated disciple?

    • ronedmondson says:

      Yes. I think we try to commit them to more. Must had better strategies for discipleship. Committed people are more regular in attendance.

  • katsuiro says:

    I would add something which seems very important and I would say "pollutant", especially here in France:
    church people consider church as a democracy, where they can make their arguments based on their biblical knowledge and experience.
    uhhh church is a theocracy… and we have to learn that statement

  • Dean Deguara

    Your right about culture. I’m sure just by mentioning the word you will get blasted and your comment section will turn into a war zone. This may not be a new paradigm and I’m not sure what to call it, but something I’ve noticed more. Family members may attend different churches based on individual preferences. The wife likes the teaching better at this church, the husband is plugged into the sports ministry over here, the teen likes the youth group all their friends go to, and the young children decide where the family’s home church is based on how awesome the children’s mimistry is.

  • Ron, you nailed it well with this blog. Things are changing, especially do more with less.