How to Stay Relevant as a Church: Music & Free Coffee Matter Less Than You Think

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For churches in 2018, the pressure has never been more real to have a church that is “relevant” and (if we’re being honest) “cool.” If you don’t offer locally grown, organic fair-trade coffee, have a donut wall, and preach in skinny jeans, you might feel like you’re doing something wrong. But figuring out how to stay relevant as a church is about more than just following trends.

Of course, music, environment, and the like play a big part in how your church feels. But what if they’re not quite as “make-or-break” as we think they are?

Why Are Church Members Leaving?

LifeWay Research published new research to determine the biggest factor that would cause church members to leave their church. And no… It wasn’t if they started doing too many hymns or didn’t have enough electric guitar solos. It wasn’t if they switched from Starbucks coffee to an off-brand to save money. And it wasn’t if the preaching was a little too Joel Osteen and not Steven Furtick.

According to the study, the number one reason that would cause someone to leave their church was actually a change in doctrine. A whopping 54% of participants stated they would leave their church if the doctrine changed. On the other hand, only 5% of participants said they would leave their church if the music changed.

LifeWay Research Executive Director Scott McConnell put it this way: “Mess with the music and people may grumble. Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”

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Tips for Keeping Church Members Happy

So what does this research mean for us as pastors and ministry leaders? Here are three thoughts to help you use this information and learn how to stay relevant as a church.

1. Put the right amount of focus on what matters the most.

It’s easy to get so caught up in what happens on the stage that we start to neglect what happens off the stage. For example, the foundational beliefs and values of your church shouldn’t be something that you created 10 years ago and have never revisited. You have to spend time with your leadership team making sure your theology is clear and being intentional about how you communicate that to your church people.

2. Don’t be afraid to take risks when it comes to service elements.

This research should make you feel a little more at ease the next time your worship leader asks for your blessing to try something new, like revive an old hymn, sing part of a song in another language, or change up the style of a song. It’s tempting to let fear click in when your team wants to push the envelope. But, when you look at the greatest churches in America, that’s exactly what they do. If you’re clear on the vision and purpose of your church, you’ll be more confident knowing what you can and should say “yes” or “no” to.

3. Make sure all external communication accurately reflects the beliefs of the church.

This research shows us that if we should be intentional about anything, it’s the way we communicate about our beliefs, doctrines & theology. Most churches have multiple communicators, on both the physical platform and digital platform by means of social media and website copy. It’s more important than ever to make sure your team not only clearly understands your doctrine but also knows what language to use when communicating it. The fact is – it doesn’t have to be an actual theological difference that drives someone away from a church. It could simply be a perceived theological difference as a result of unclear or poor communication.

If you had to rate your church on a scale of 1 – 10, based on how clearly you communicate beliefs and doctrine, what number would you choose and why?

Consider your answer carefully and keep it in mind next time you’re discussing with your team about how to stay relevant as a church in 2018.