Last month I read the Recent Shifts in America’s Largest Protestant Churches report from Leadership Network. If you haven’t read it yet, I would encourage you to follow that link and fill out the form to download it. The report compares findings to a similar study they did 5 years ago (and beyond), so we can see any trends.

5 Family Ministry Implications

As I read through the report I thought about implications of the findings on the church where I serve, but also on family ministry in general. Here are 5 things I see in the report that should matter to those of us leading in family ministry.

Multisite Is Growing

The multisite movement (having one church in multiple locations) is continuing to grow. The number of churches that are multisite increased from 46% in 2010 to 62% now, and the average number of sites per church went from 2.5 to 3.5.

Implication for Family Ministry

I think we need to continue growing in our ability to define and document reproducible systems. We need established leadership pipelines where new people are stepping in and and experienced leaders are sent out. In children’s ministry we have to adjust to having more, smaller rooms and environments and being able to staff those well. Student ministries that have small groups as the foundation are the easiest to multiply over many campuses. We can continue thinking about how to bring campuses together once/month or once/quarter for large group events.

Small Groups & Spiritual Formation

79% of churches indicated small groups are central to their discipleship strategy. There was a direct correlation between churches that indicated small groups are a huge emphasis and churches who said their church had high spiritual vitality.

Implication for Family Ministry

We should continue to build our children’s and student ministries on the foundation of small groups and change our structures to match that foundation. I think we should resource small groups more and depend less on classes, events, and other things that might dilute small groups.

Internship Program

72% say they have an internship program. That is only a slight increase (from 69%) in 2008, but it’s a large percentage.

Implication for Family Ministry

This is in line with my multisite comment in that I believe the importance of developing leaders cannot be overstated. In family ministry we must be able to recruit, train and retain volunteers. We need a system for taking new volunteers from the onboarding process all the way through different leadership levels to the point where they’re ready to lead huge aspects of ministry on their own and be considered for staff positions as the church grows.

Attendance Frequency Declines

This isn’t news if you’re dialed in to any conversations in church world about this topic. Some of the best content and conversations can be found at Carey Nieuwhof’s blog and podcast. In this study and prior studies they looked at the attendance each church sees on a given week as a percentage of total attenders. That number has dropped from 95% in 2008 to 82% in 2015.

Implication for Family Ministry

I run frequency attendance reports to see how often children and students come in a given month to our church. I recently emailed Frank Bealer, Family Pastor at Elevation Church, about this specific thing. I know Frank has attendance frequency reports and I wanted to compare notes. Frank talked at the 2015 Orange Conference about the connection between great small groups for kids and students and a higher attendance frequency. I think we need to make the experience in small group so good that kids and students don’t want to miss. It also puts greater emphasis on the need to plan content knowing the average kid might be there half the time.

Decline In Willingness to Change

One of the sharpest changes in the report was the decline in a church’s willingness to change to meet new challenges. It was 54% in 2010 and only 37% in 2015. That could be because the senior leadership teams are getting older or it could be something else. I think of the changing music culture and how it impacts worship music. Those who ushered in a change in music style 2 decades ago may be unwilling to change style now when it means sacrificing their preference.

Implication for Family Ministry

The report said something I completely believe in, “Innovation and willingness to change are strongly correlated to growth and health.” In many ways the concept of family ministry is very new, partnering with parents is new, small groups as the foundation for kids and students is somewhat new, so it’s important that we’re open to change because we certainly don’t have it all figured out.

What stood out to you in the report?