FALL 2017 • FACTSANDTRENDS.NET
GENERATION THEY’RE OPEN TO FAITH. HERE’S HOW TO REACH THEM.
+NONES FIND FAITH CULTIVATING GENEROSITY WORSHIP AND YOUR HEART
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Contents FALL 2017 • FACTSANDTRENDS.NET
THEY’RE OPEN TO FAITH. HERE’S HOW TO REACH THEM.
+NONES FIND FAITH CULTIVATING GENEROSITY WORSHIP AND YOUR HEART
Read more about Generation Z in our cover section.
IN EVERY ISSUE
12 Catching some Z’s
30 Creating a culture of generosity
4 Inside F&T
What the church can do to reach Generation Z, the most connected—and distracted—generation in history. By Mark Moring
18 From a Z’s perspective How one member of Generation Z describes her tribe. By Jessica Berlin
20 Redefining apologetics for a new generation “Show” beats “tell” in an age of skepticism. By Mark Moring
22 S ocial media “thumbstoppers” 6 keys to capturing the attention of Generation Z. By Aaron Earls
24 Raising lowercase z’s What parents of younger kids are asking the church. By Aaron Wilson
26 Cyberbullying 5 insights for helping Generation Z. By Joshua Straub
6 ways to encourage your congregation to live with open hands. By Art Rainer
32 Beyond bars Prison ministry starts with a simple act of faith. By Bob Smietana
38 N ones no more Only half of those raised irreligious stay that way as adults. By Aaron Earls
41 Worship and your heart Music deeply shapes us—and not just on Sundays. By Daniel Im
42 Is your city bursting at the seams? 3 ways to prepare your church for rapid population growth. By Joy Allmond
46 The Reformation still reverberates 10 ways the 16th-century church continues to shape the world 500 years later. By Ray Van Neste and J. Michael Garrett
Meet the influencers of tomorrow. By Carol Pipes
5 From My Perspective 5 realities of churches in North America. By Thom S. Rainer
7 Insights Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting the church and our world.
44 Calibrate Transforming the church library. By David Francis
48 On Our Radar Relevant and practical resources for you and your church.
JOIN US ONLINE FactsAndTrends.net Visit FactsAndTrends.net for exclusive online content. Read additional pieces from our writers and editors, as well as contributions from other Christian leaders.
FactsAndTrends @FactsAndTrends Facts & Trends • 3
Meet the influencers of tomorrow
Volume 63 • Number 5 • Fall 2017 Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing information, insights, and resources for effective ministry.
PRODUCTION TEAM Editor in Chief | Carol Pipes Senior Editor | Lisa Cannon Green Managing Editor | Joy Allmond Senior Writer | Bob Smietana Online Editor | Aaron Earls Associate Editor | Aaron Wilson Graphic Designer | Katie Shull
o many adjectives can be used to describe the emerging generation known as Generation Z. They’ve been called conscientious, determined, independent, competitive, stressed, and distracted. They are true digital natives and they are the most racially diverse generation in American history. The oldest of this cohort is barely out of high school, yet marketers, demographers, retailers, and employers are anxious to learn the ins and outs of Gen Z. What motivates them? How do they view the world? Will they influence the workplace the way the millennials preceding them have? And what about the church? The question we’re always asking at Facts & Trends is how trends or cultural changes will affect the church. While they are still coming of age, it’s difficult to draw definitive conclusions about Generation Z—but much can be learned. Mark Moring takes on the topic for our cover story. Digging into the research available, he unpacks the most significant characteristics of Gen Z. He also offers insight on how we can engage them with the gospel and equip them for the future. One thing we know for certain about Gen Z is that they are the most digitally savvy and connected generation to date (sorry, millennials). Gen Z’s don’t know a world without internet or smartphones. Gen Z’s live their lives on Instagram and Snapchat, navigating social media land mines along the way. In our cover section, Dr. Joshua Straub tackles the issue of cyberbullying and shares ways church leaders can help both parents and students combat this growing problem. Our own Aaron Wilson looks at what it’s like raising the youngest of this generation. He explores the questions that parents of younger Z’s want church leaders to help them answer. I pray the information in this issue will prove to be helpful to your ministry and inspire you to see the next generation of influencers as a mission field and a force for God’s kingdom. Carol Pipes, Editor in Chief @CarolPipes | Carol.Pipes@LifeWay.com
4 • Facts & Trends
LIFEWAY LEADERSHIP President and Publisher | Thom S. Rainer Executive Vice President | Brad Waggoner CONTRIBUTORS Jessica Berlin, David Francis, J. Michael Garrett, Daniel Im, Rob McClurkan, Mark Moring, Art Rainer, Joshua Straub, Ray Van Neste ADVERTISING Send advertising questions/comments to: F acts & Trends Advertising One LifeWay Plaza, MSN 192 Nashville, TN 37234 Email: Carol.Pipes@LifeWay.com Media kits: FactsAndTrends.net/Advertise This magazine includes paid advertisements for some products and services not affiliated with LifeWay. The inclusion of the paid advertisements does not constitute an endorsement by LifeWay Christian Resources of the products or services.
Subscriptions For a free print subscription to Facts & Trends, send your name, address, and phone number to FactsAndTrends@LifeWay.com.
Permissions Facts & Trends grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or classroom, provided copies are distributed free and indicate Facts & Trends as the source.
Contact Us: Email - FactsAndTrends@LifeWay.com Mail - F acts & Trends, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0192 Facts & Trends is published quarterly by LifeWay Christian Resources. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, copyright 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. FALL 2017
FROM MY PERSPECTIVE
5 realities of churches in North America
he evangelistic deterioration of churches across North America has been a reality for decades. There is a lot of bad news out there showing that churches are not reaching people with the gospel. But there is good news, too. My team recently looked at data from a random sample of 1,000 Southern Baptist churches to see what happened in those churches from 2013 to 2016. We found 65 percent of churches are either declining or plateaued—56 percent are in absolute decline and 9 percent are plateaued. That means 35 percent of churches are growing in worship attendance. Here are some highlights of what we learned from this study. You can find more insights from this study at EvangelismRenewal.com. 1. We are a nation of small churches. Over 61 percent of the churches studied average fewer than 100 in worship attendance. 2. The smaller the church, the greater the rate of decline in attendance. This study found that a declining church with an attendance of 200 or more declines at a rate of 4 percent a year. A declining church with less than 100 in attendance declines at a rate of 7.6 percent. This is one of the greatest areas of concern from this study. Once a church declines below 100 in worship attendance, it is likely to die within just a few years. The life expectancy for many of these churches is 10 years or less. 3. Growing churches are primarily growing through transfer growth. Only 6 percent to 7.5 percent are growing through conversions. The majority of growing churches are simply recirculating the saints. 4. If a church is growing, it is highly likely to be growing faster than the community in which it is located. In fact, 91 percent of the growing churches are outpacing the growth of their respective communities.
5. Churches growing through conversions are intentionally evangelistic. This was an area of particular interest. How many churches are reaching people who are not believers in Christ? And among those that are, how are they doing it? It should come as no surprise that we found evangelism does not happen unless the church is intentional about it. Effective evangelistic churches are intentional with their community outreach efforts and in their personal relationships. I believe there is hope for any church and pastor seeking to turn things around evangelistically—no matter the size. At the first church I pastored, we started with an attendance of seven. We had no programs or money. All I had was the Holy Spirit giving me opportunities to share the gospel. The turnaround started with me leading one person to Christ. Others in the congregation began to do the same. After one year, the attendance had grown to nearly 70. It wasn’t money or the latest fad. It was just obedience. I believe this research project of growing churches is one of the most exciting my team has conducted. This is the type of project that can point church leaders to true evangelistic renewal and health for the future. Based on the data and interviews with church leaders, we were able to discover key traits of effective evangelistic churches. That information is available at EvangelismRenewal.com. You’ll also find resources to help your church become more evangelistically effective. It is my prayer that the research, the website, and the resources will spark millions of gospel conversations that God will use to bring about the conversion of men and women, boys and girls. I am praying God will lead our churches to an evangelism renewal. THOM S. RAINER (@ThomRainer) is President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Read more at ThomRainer.com.
Facts & Trends • 5
FactsAndTrends.net Exclusive content available on our website Kay Warren: God Uses the Ordinary to Accomplish the Miraculous When she and Rick Warren started Saddleback Church, Kay felt overwhelmed and inadequate until she recognized God wants to use her whether she is ordinary or not.
10 Surprising Reasons to Pray for Your Pastor People usually pray for the Sunday sermon and that’s a good thing, but there are other ways to intercede on behalf of your pastor.
College Freshmen Increasingly Drop Religion In the last 30 years, the number of incoming college freshmen who say they are nonreligious has tripled—from 10 percent to 31 percent.
Where Are All the Megachurches? The Bible Belt may have to add a few more notches. It’s getting mega-sized as the South has almost as many megachurches as the rest of the U.S. combined.
6 • Facts & Trends
FactsAndTrends FALL 2017
Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world
Few Americans like being sinners
ost Americans think they’re sinners, according to LifeWay Research. But they disagree on how to cope with that condition.
Overall, two-thirds of Americans say they’re sinners. One in 10 say sin doesn’t exist, while a similar number (8 percent) say they are not sinners. Fifteen percent prefer not to say whether they are sinners. People in the Northeast (9 percent) are more likely to be fine with being a sinner than those in the South (5 percent) and West (4 percent). They’re also more likely to say sin does not exist (14 percent). Americans with evangelical beliefs are more likely to say they rely on Jesus to overcome their sin (78 percent) than those without evangelical beliefs (19 percent). Nones—those with no religious preference—are most likely to say sin doesn’t exist (32 percent). One in 10 nones are OK with being a sinner, while 27 percent say they work on overcoming their sin. Younger Americans, those 18 to 44, are twice as likely (14 percent) as Americans 45 and older (7 percent) to say sin doesn’t exist.
Which of the following best describes you? I am a sinner, and I am fine with that
5% I am a sinner, and I work on being less of one
34% I am a sinner, and I depend on Jesus to overcome that
28% I am not a sinner
8% Sin doesn’t exist
10% Prefer not to say
Facts & Trends • 7
In evangelism, small things matter
mall churches can make a big difference by sticking to the basics. New research with the Billy Graham Center and the Caskey Center for Church Excellence identifies at least 13 effective ways small churches can attract and retain more new converts, including many practices churches have used for years. The research, additionally sponsored by 11 denominations, and undertaken by LifeWay Research, tested 29 factors that could potentially affect the number of people who decide to follow Christ and stay committed to small churches. Thirteen of those factors predicted which churches retained more converts. Doing all 13 well can create an environment that helps newcomers connect with the church, says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “There’s no single approach or strategy that leads to more converts in small churches,” he says. “Instead, it appears that doing a lot of small things really adds up.” The phone survey of 1,500 pastors of small churches—evangelical and black Protestant congregations of 250 or fewer—asked how many converts each church had in the last 12 months and whether those converts stayed with the church after they came to faith. Researchers then compared the 20 percent of churches with the most retained converts (11.7 or more per 100 attendees) to the 50 percent with the fewest retained converts (5.56 or fewer per 100 attendees).
Among pastors of small evangelical and African-American Protestant congregations:
COMPARING EVANGELISM ACTIVITIES OF CHURCHES Pastors of churches with 11.7 or more converts per 100 attendees
Pastors of churches with 5.6 or fewer converts per 100 attendees
Engage in ministry outside the church at least every six months to share the gospel with the unchurched
Offer classes for new attenders at least every six months
Ask people weekly to commit to Christ following a personal
Block out time on their calendar at least weekly to share their
Attend training on personal evangelism at least every six months
Devote 30 percent or more of the church’s budget to evangelism
presentation of the gospel
faith with non-Christians outside the church office
8 • Facts & Trends
Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world
Kentucky church blesses thousands at Thanksgiving
astor Grant Hasty had a big idea. Six years ago, his church, Crossroads Community, had just moved into a former restaurant along Highway 27 in rural Stearns, Kentucky. The building still had a fully functioning commercial kitchen. Why not put it to work, thought Hasty, and invite some neighbors to lunch? So in 2011, the church opened the Lord’s Café, a sit-down restaurant that offers home-cooked meals three days a week—and where no one ever gets a bill. For the last six years, the church has served about 300 meals a week during the school year. It’s a vital ministry in a county where about 22 percent of the people struggle to put food on the table, according to FeedingAmerica.org. At Thanksgiving, the church issues an open invitation to the whole community. The first year, 300 people showed up, and it’s grown ever since. In 2016, the church—which has an average attendance of fewer than 100 —served 1,376 Thanksgiving dinners. About 120 volunteers from five states came to help. All the food was donated or paid for with donations. The church served sit-down meals
1 in 8 people struggle with hunger. Source: FeedingAmerica.com
from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Each guest was waited on by a volunteer, who prayed with the guest and served the meal. Many of the volunteers were church members, some who’d gone through struggles of their own. Henry, who greets people at the door, used to be a drug dealer. Karen, who works in the kitchen, has three adult children who struggle with addictions and lost her baby granddaughter to a childhood illness. Dean, who washes dishes, lost his wife to cancer. Before she died, he used to walk to the café—five miles each way—to pick up a meal for her.
“Everyone here has a story,” says Hasty. Along with serving sit-down meals, the church also provided takeout meals for shut-ins and their caregivers and hosted a clothing giveaway at Thanksgiving. “We want everyone who shows up to experience the love of Christ,” says Hasty. For more information about Thanksgiving at Crossroads Community, visit CrossroadsCommunityBC.org.
1 in 6 Americans claim nondenominational label
sk American Christians today what type of church they attend and they’re likely to say nondenominational. According to Gallup, just 30 percent of American adults identified with a specific Protestant denomination in 2016, down from 50 percent in 2000. Over the same time frame, the percentage of Americans who regard themselves as Christians without claiming a specific
denomination rose from 9 percent to 17 percent. Gallup says the shrinking percentage of Americans who identify with a specific Protestant denomination stems from two realities: • “There are fewer Protestants of any kind in the American population today.” Thus, “the pool of those who identify with a specific Protestant denomination is smaller.”
Protestants shrank from 57 percent of the population in 2000 to 47 percent in 2016, Gallup says. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who do not claim a religious identity of any kind rose from 10 percent to 20 percent. • Americans who self-identify as Christians increasingly put themselves in the nondenominational category. Source: Gallup.com and BPNews.net Facts & Trends • 9
Sometimes scruffy little churches, who have this helpless dependence on God, find out that God’s arm is really strong. I still think God has a better road map for us than we can come up with for ourselves.” —Rev. Michael Spurlock, former pastor of All Saints Church in Smyrna, Tennessee
Evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage, but most Americans don’t
mericans of all kinds say same-sex marriage should be legal.
Ten years ago, only a third of Americans (37 percent) thought same-sex marriage should be legal, while more than half (54 percent) opposed the practice. Today, fewer than a third oppose legal same-sex marriage, according to a June 2017 survey from Pew Research. Two-thirds favor allowing the practice. Many groups who opposed same-sex marriage changed their minds in the past year, Pew found. Fifty-six percent of baby boomers, 51 percent of African-Americans, and 48 percent of Protestants now say gay marriage should be legal. Thirty-nine percent of baby boomers, 41 percent of African-Americans, and 46 percent of Protestants disagree. A year ago, a majority of all three groups opposed same-sex marriage being legal. White evangelicals (59 percent) still oppose legal samesex marriage. However, younger evangelicals—those born after 1964—are twice as likely to support legal same-sex marriage (47 percent) as evangelicals born in 1964 or earlier (26 percent).
Public support of same-sex marriage in the U.S. 62%
Note: “Don’t know” responses not shown.
Same-sex marriage Supreme Court decision
Source: PewResearch.org 10 • Facts & Trends
Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world
One in 10 churches have had funds stolen Among Protestant pastors:
Has anyone ever embezzled funds from your current church, either before you were pastor or since you arrived?
Not that I know of
Few Americans qualify as Bible-minded
ost Americans have a few Bibles at home. But only about 1 in 4 qualify as “Bible-minded,” according to a study from the American Bible Society. The study, focused on the nation’s top 100 media markets, determined Bible-mindedness by asking respondents how often they read the Bible and their beliefs about its accuracy.
TOP FIVE BIBLE-MINDED CITIES:
s more churches turn to the internet and smartphone apps to get the word out about church events and programs, some Americans might not be getting the message—especially if they don’t have a lot of money. Among Americans whose households earn less than $30,000 a year, a third don’t have smartphones, according to Pew Research. About half don’t have a computer or home broadband access. One in 5 have access to the internet only through a smartphone. By contrast, 8 in 10 Americans whose households earn between $30,000 and $99,000 have smartphones (81 percent), computers (87 percent), and home broadband (80 percent).
Percent of U.S. adults who have the following by income level
1 2 3 4 5
New technology leaves poor Americans behind
Chattanooga, Tennessee Birmingham/Anniston, Alabama Roanoke/Lynchburg, Virginia Tri-Cities, Tennessee Shreveport, Louisiana
LEAST BIBLE-MINDED CITIES: 96 Buffalo, New York 97 Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Iowa 98 Providence, Rhode Island/New Bedford, Massachusetts 99 Boston, Massachusetts/Manchester, New Hampshire 100 Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York Source: AmericanBible.org FACTSANDTRENDS.NET
81 95 56
Desktop or laptop computer
87 97 53
80 94 32
55 72 17
All of the above
Source: PewResearch.org Facts & Trends • 11
CATCHING SOME ’S
What the church can do to reach Generation Z, the most connected—and distracted—generation in history
By MARK MORING
So, you’re a youth pastor, and you’re talking to your teens about a Very Important Topic. A few might be making eye contact with you, maybe even taking an occasional glance at that nifty PowerPoint you stayed up all night putting together. But most have their heads bowed—not in prayer, but glued to that little glowing screen in the palms of their hands. The good news is that many of them really are paying attention. Many of the kids in Generation Z—those born since the mid-1990—are proficient multitaskers. They can talk on the phone while texting a friend while posting on Instagram while watching TV while doing their homework while … you get the point. They’re wired in all directions—including into you and your presentation—so they’re engaged and totally getting it. The bad news is that for each of those kids, there are likely just as many who aren’t tuned in to your lesson, because Z’s are easily distracted by
12 • Facts & Trends
that same little glowing screen in their hands. Few things are calling out to them more loudly than their smartphones with their addicting apps and social media feeds. But the great news is that while it may be complex to connect with Gen Z, the payoff down the road could really shake up the Church in ways we can’t even imagine. Decades of declining attendance, lost faith, rejection of morals and authority and absolutes and truth—all those things just might make a comeback. Might. In his introduction to Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World (BakerBooks), James Emery White writes that Z’s “will be the most
religious force in the West and the heart of the missional challenge facing the church.” Like the baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials before them, Gen Z’s have their own ways of seeing the world—even if it is primarily through that little glowing screen. And, as always, parents and pastors must know their audience. “We have to be students of the culture,” says Jim Burns, executive director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. “We have to look at who and what is affecting their generation. And it’s complicated.”
WHO ARE THE Z’S? As demographers study the rise of this new generation of Americans, there’s not yet a consensus on when it begins and ends. Gen Z is often characterized as those born in 1996 and later, though estimates range from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s. For this article, Facts & Trends considers Generation Z to be: •T hose born between 1996 and 2014 • Ages 3 to 21 today
Facts & Trends • 13
U.S. population by generation
Generation Z (born 1996-2014)
2.5% (born since 2015) 1.0% Greatest Generation
Silent Generation (born 1928-1945)
(born 1927 and before)
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)
10 traits of Z nation
What do you need to know about the kids in Generation Z? Here are some of the most important things. 1. They’re everywhere. Gen Z—those born between 1996 and 2014—makes up 24.3 percent of the U.S. population, according to U.S. Census estimates for 2016. That’s more than millennials (22.1 percent), more than Gen X (19 percent), and more than baby boomers (22.9 percent). By 2020, the Washington Post says, Z’s will have about $3 trillion in purchasing power. 2. They’ve always been wired. They’ve never known a world without the internet or cell phones; younger Z’s have never known a world without smartphones. Google has always existed. They take Wi-Fi for granted. They spend between six and nine hours a day absorbing media, according to a survey from Common Sense Media.
Source: U.S. Census estimates for 2016
14 • Facts & Trends
Z’S AND TECHNOLOGY
Among teens, 92 percent go online daily, Pew Research reports. Their preferred mode of communication is digital, primarily through social media and texting. Drew Wike, director of student ministries at Greenwood Baptist Church in Florence, South Carolina, recently noticed some of his students sitting together in a restaurant. “They weren’t talking to each other,” he says. “They were texting each other.”
50% YouTube Which platform do you prefer for keeping in touch with friends?
23% Facebook & YouTube (tied)
Which platform do you prefer for catching up on the news?
Which platform do you prefer for a good laugh?
Which platform do you prefer for how-to info?
4. They’re more accepting of sexual fluidity. Gen Z supports gay marriage and transgender rights. For them, such things are part of everyday life. It would be rare for a Z to not have a friend from the LGBT community. Additionally, a 2016 survey of gender and sexuality by J. Walter Thompson Company, a New York-based marketing firm, found only 48 percent of those 13 to 20 years old described themselves as “completely heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of those 21 to 34. In his book, White describes the Gen Z attitude as “an increasing sexual fluidity that refuses either the homosexual or heterosexual label. The idea is that both labels are repressive.”
Which platform could you not live without?
Which platform do you use?
3. They’ve seen porn. And maybe lots of it. No other generation has had pornography so readily available, literally at their fingertips. A survey of college students in New England found 73 percent had seen porn online before they turned 18. “Sexting”—sending and receiving sexually explicit text messages— starts early for many Z’s. A survey of middle-school-aged students in Los Angeles found 25 percent said they’d received a sext. A smaller study of college students by professors at Drexel University found more than half (54 percent) reported sending a sext before they turned 18, often as a form of flirting.
TOP ANSWER FOR EACH:
Respondents 13-20 years old. Source: Defy Media Acumen Survey by Adweek, March 2017
Facts & Trends • 15
They see the world for what it is. They’re not afraid, but they’re going into it with their eyes wide open.” —Josh Branum, family pastor at Faithbridge Church, Jacksonville, Florida
5. They’re racially diverse . . . and multiracial. Z’s have friends from a variety of ethnicities. About half of kids under 5 in the U.S. are ethnic minorities, according to the U.S. Census. Six of the 15 most common last names in the United States were of Hispanic origin in 2010, compared to none of the top 15 in 1990, the Census Bureau says. If your church’s congregation is not diverse, Z’s will wonder why. And when Z’s get married, they’re more likely than their forebears to wed someone of another ethnic group. About 1 in 6 marriages today are of an interracial couple, according to Pew Research. In 1980, the rate was fewer than 1 in 10. 6. They’re pretty independent. Gen Xers, repeatedly warned about “helicopter parenting,” have reacted by giving their kids—Z’s—plenty of space. This hands-off parenting has yielded both pros and cons. On the pro side, Z’s are pretty self-directed and confident. On the con side, they’re not necessarily equipped with much real-life wisdom or many boundaries. In an age of cyber-bullying, sexting, internet porn, and hooking up—not to mention hacking, scams, and identity theft—the consequences can be dangerous. 7. They’re aware of a troubled planet. Most Z’s have grown up since 9/11 and have only known a world where terrorist attacks are the norm. Additionally, they’ve lived through the Great Recession, and they’ve seen their parents, or many of their friends’ parents, struggle through job losses, foreclosures, and more.“They’re a hopeful generation, but realistic,” says Josh Branum, family pastor at Faithbridge Church in Jacksonville, Florida. “They see the world for what it is. They’re not afraid, but they’re going into it with their eyes wide open.”
16 • Facts & Trends
8. They’re justice-minded. Partly because of No. 7 above, Z’s want to make a difference in the world. Like millennials before them, they’re keenly aware of justice issues concerning poverty, human trafficking, refugees, racism, and more. They want opportunities to have an impact, and they’re likely to become generous givers to charitable organizations as adults. “They’re kids who volunteer, who have a heart for mission and justice, who sign up for things that previous generations didn’t,” says Burns. “It’s part of their DNA.” 9. They’re post-Christian. Almost a quarter (23 percent) of America’s adults—and a third of millennials—are “nones,” claiming no religious identity at all, according to Pew Research. Many Z’s are growing up in homes where there’s no religion whatsoever, and they may have no experience of religion. “Gen Z is very secularized,” says Rick Eubanks, student minister at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Burleson, Texas. “Previous generations grew up with some Judeo-Christian values of the past, at least as a reference point. Today’s generation has little to no acquaintance with the gospel. “So we have to start with square one: This is a Bible. It has 66 books. It has your story and God’s story. We have to speak in simple terms.” 10. They’re open to faith. Although only 4 in 10 attend religious services weekly, 78 percent of older Gen Z’s say they believe in God, according to a survey by Northeastern University. They view religious leaders as better role models than celebrities, professional athletes, or political leaders. “They’re hungry for spiritual things,” says Eubanks. “They’re seeking something outside of themselves, which can FALL 2017
be a good thing.” There are more characteristics to Z’s, of course, but White sums it up like this: First, they are lost. They are not simply living in and being shaped by a post-Christian cultural context. They do not even have a memory of the gospel. The degree of spiritual illiteracy is simply stunning. … [Second], they are leaderless. Little if any direction is coming from their families, and even less from their attempts to access guidance from the internet. … So how can they be reached?
Reaching the Z’s
As Burns notes, you can’t reach the Z’s unless you understand them and their world. He takes his cue from Paul in Acts 17:22-31, addressing the Greeks at Mars Hill. “He talked to them in their language,” says Burns. “We have to do the same with Generation Z. We’ve got to listen to what they listen to, watch what they watch, read what they read.” Burns and others recommend that parents and youth leaders get on Snapchat and Instagram, the social media platforms of choice for Z’s. Observe their behavior and posts, but don’t necessarily chime in. “We should be watching, not stalking,” says Burns. Derek Brown, student minister at Logos Baptist Church in Dothan, Alabama, adds, “I think it’s helpful for students to know that people do watch them on social media, and not just their peers.” Eubanks says Z’s “divulge who they are” online, so he pays attention to their activity. “Through social media, I can learn a lot about what’s going on in their lives,” Eubanks says. If he sees something of concern, he’ll contact that student and ask if he can help. “They’re not offended, because they know I’m not trying to pry, but
that I love them. If you genuinely love them and incarnate into their culture, you earn that right.” (Z’s might disagree with the advice that adults should follow them on social media. Read one teen’s words of wisdom in “From a Z’s perspective” on page 18.) And like teens of all generations before them, Z’s struggle with self-image and doubt. But unlike previous generations, Z’s actually attempt to measure their worth through such counterfeit indicators as the number of “friends” and “likes” on social media. So it’s vital to remind them they’re made in God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully so. Even today’s youth group meetings should look different from those of a decade ago. “As pastors, we have to connect with them in mediums they’re going to use,” says Branum. Presentations should “be a little more creative, because these kids are used to being entertained. We have to be engaging. And if they prefer to learn things visually, we have to accommodate that.” Eubanks adds, “Their attention span is shorter. They think in terms of small sound bites, quick quips and quotes, memes, videos, images, and emojis. A 35-minute lecture probably isn’t the best way to reach students these days.” He stresses keeping the floor open for discussion, because Z’s are curious and inquisitive. “How comfortable are we in allowing them to interrupt?” he asks. “We have to create a culture where asking questions is OK. If we don’t, we’re missing a valuable opportunity.” MARK MORING is a freelance writer in Atlanta with a heart for teens. He is also fond of catching Z’s, especially on lazy Sunday afternoons while “watching” the NFL.
DIG DEEPER •M eet Generation Z, by James Emery White • Parenting Teens magazine •S tudent Ministry That Matters, by Ben Trueblood
Available at LifeWay.com
Facts & Trends • 17
Jessica Berlin stands in her front yard after her high school graduation.
From a Z’s perspective How one member of Generation Z describes her tribe By JESSICA BERLIN
18 • Facts & Trends
We are not millennials. I can’t emphasize that enough. We see the world differently than millennials. We see animosity between the older generation and millennials, and we don’t want any part of that. We see the world’s problems too, but we have a more practical worldview than we get credit for. Just let us develop into our own generation and stop comparing us to the millennials. I wish parents understood that we feel a lot of pressure. In wealthy and competitive areas like northern Virginia, where I live, grades are stressed to the point where many teenagers have depression or anxiety just thinking about school. Some might even consider ending their life over a few bad grades. There’s also pressure to get into a good college, get scholarships, and get a good job without having too many student loans. This pressure is crippling and starts so early in high school that even freshmen are terrified of getting a C. For a teenager, stress is all-consuming. I wish youth pastors didn’t feel the need to treat us like they are our best friends and act like we are the same age. It isn’t working when you try to be sooooo relatable. Talk to us as a friend, but you are older than us. We are in a weird transition from childhood to
adulthood, and the way you treat us affects the way we listen to you. There is a sweet spot between trying to relate to teenagers and trying to be like one. Youth group lessons that only scratch the surface don’t work. Dive deeper and get kids engaged in a discussion. The best way to get kids to listen is to make them feel like they’re listened to. Also, be aware that many teenagers feel like religion is oppressive, so focus on relationship over religion.
The best way to get kids to listen is to make them feel like they’re listened to.” —Jessica Berlin, current freshman at NC State and member of Generation Z
As for our supposed obsession with technology and social media, don’t make more of it than it is. Many adults complain that we always have our noses stuck in a phone. We grew up with this technology. For us, it’s not that strange. We like having information at our fingertips. We love the instant connection with people. It’s the way we interact, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just different. Short attention spans? Well, we do love more interactive and visual online experiences over reading articles. But again, it comes back to the fact that we’re so busy and stressed. A tweet has a word limit and you cannot ramble; you have to get to your point quickly.
Pictures do the same thing. An Instagram picture gives a teenager an update on how a friend is doing with only a few words. The more efficient you get, the faster you can keep moving, and the more information you can take in. This generation likes to move fast. Parents shouldn’t try to follow us on social media. Let us have our space. If you’re worried about what we’re posting, ask us for our password so you can check every now and then. The worst thing you can do is be overly involved in our social media and make us feel uncomfortable or embarrassed enough to stop using it altogether. Also, please check with us before posting things or pictures about us. We’re very self-conscious. It may seem silly, but a bad picture posted online is awful for the volatile self-esteem of a teenager. To stay better connected, parents can just learn to talk to their teenagers. Become a safe space for us to talk freely about our day. The thing that most alienates us from our parents is if we feel like we have to hide something from them. Finally, I think parents and leaders should focus on helping us find our identity and self-worth in Christ, not in the online opinion of others. This is so important. I’m guilty of this when I focus on how many “likes” I get on Instagram, or what people think of me rather than what I think of me and my relationship with Jesus. JESSICA BERLIN is a freshman at North Carolina State University on a soccer scholarship. In high school, she was in the National Honor Society and an officer in student government. She has also been active in her church and Young Life.
Facts & Trends • 19
Redefining apologetics for a new generation
By MARK MORING
In an age of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” when many believe that one “truth” is as good as another, it’s harder and harder to empirically argue for the Christian faith. Even if there were a YouTube video of the stone rolling away and Jesus walking out of the tomb, the skeptic would still say, “Yeah? So?” So when it comes to convincing Generation Z of the truth of Christianity, “prove it” just won’t cut it. While certainly beneficial, traditional apologetics, relying on logic and reason, may not be as effective with today’s youth as they were for previous generations. But the apologetics of story are alive and well, because Z’s are experiential. They want to see and know your experience, and then experience it themselves: If God is real, don’t try to prove it or argue me into believing it. Show me. Tell your story: Here’s who I was before I met Jesus, and here’s who I am since. If you’ve experienced a life-changing encounter with Christ, that’s Exhibit A for Generation Z. “We have to show them there is more, that we have life in Christ, that it is better than anything they could ever have,” says Josh Branum, family pastor at Faithbridge Church in Jacksonville, Florida. “With Gen Z, there’s this search for authenticity, for finding something that’s real.” “It’s life apologetics,” adds Rick Eubanks, student minister at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Burleson, Texas. “My best apologetic today is listening to their story and then sharing mine. That’s one apologetic they cannot get away from.”
Two more vital forms of apologetics that resonate with Z’s are spirituality and science. James Emery White explores both areas in Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World (BakerBooks). Though Z’s are spiritual seekers, they’re also “spiritually illiterate,” as White describes them. “They do not know what the Bible says. They do not know the basics of Christian belief or theology. They do not know what the cross is about. … But their spiritual illiteracy is deeper than that. They are more than post-Christian. They don’t even have a memory of the gospel. “As a result, there is a profound spiritual emptiness. They’ve never encountered God …. Yet they cannot help but be incurably spiritual. That is the defining mark of what it means to be human.” White says Z’s seek to fill this void with all things spiritual, even the wrong things. They may believe in horoscopes, fortune-tellers, or witchcraft. If they believe in the supernatural, that’s certainly an open door—not only to reach the nonreligious Z’s in your world but even to clarify orthodox Christian theology to the kids who are regulars at your church. So consider planning a series on the supernatural; they’ll have tons of questions, and you, working with Scripture and the Holy Spirit, can provide the answers. Another big open door is their interest in science—or, at the very least, the natural world. A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center found that 80 percent of young adults—a group that includes the oldest members of Generation Z—have “a deep sense of wonder about the universe.” A 2015 LifeWay Research study found more than 4 in 10 nonreligious
20 • Facts & Trends
My best apologetic today is listening to their story and then sharing mine.” —Rick Eubanks, Student Minister at Oak Grove Baptist Church, Burleson, Texas Americans believe physics and humanity point to a creator. Two-thirds of young adults in that study agreed with the statement, “Since the universe has organization, I think there is a creator who designed it.” “I have found that discussing the awe and wonder of the universe, openly raising the many questions surrounding the universe and then positing the existence of God, is one of the most valuable apologetics/pre-evangelism approaches that can be pursued,” writes White. “The existence of human life, the complexity of the universe, and even the starting point of a Big Bang resonate deeply with nonbelievers and provide numerous opportunities to present a coherent and compelling case for God.” And, as with “spirituality,” this awesomeness-of-creation approach works with both Christians and non-Christians. The believers will be even more awed by a God they already know, and the nonbelievers might just come to meet Him for the first time. FALL 2017
Facts & Trends â€¢ 21
Social media ‘thumbstoppers’ 6 KEYS TO CAPTURING THE ATTENTION OF GENERATION Z By aaron earls
If you’re on social media, you know those moments. You’re scrolling through the never-ending, ever-growing feed on your phone with your thumb reflexively moving up and down when suddenly something catches your attention and causes you to stop and take notice. Those moments are called “thumbstoppers.” And they are often few and far between. Many people passively scroll through Facebook feeds or Twitter timelines without paying much attention. This presents a problem for churches trying to use social media as an avenue of influence and outreach. Churches, like everyone else, are contending for an often-disengaged audience.
22 • Facts & Trends
So how can your church effectively use social media to reach distracted, mostly young online readers? DEFY Media examined the views and choices of 13- to 24-year-olds to find out what makes them take notice. Here are six social media keys to capturing the attention of Generation Z and others. Have good content. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most important thing for churches is to create and share quality content. No strategy can overcome bad content. If you want to be noticed by students on social media, create things that matter and are relevant to them. Tweet out a link for overcoming stress or social anxiety — common issues raised by teenagers. Post an Instagram video showing an exciting youth event. Have a strategy for what you share and why you share it. Build relationships. In many cases, the who can be almost as important as the what of online content. Almost 6 in 10 students surveyed say they stop to look at something if it was liked or viewed by a lot of people (59 percent) or sent by someone they respect (58 percent). If something is popular, teenagers and young adults want to know about it. If it’s from a trusted source, they stop to look. Churches must cultivate relationships with young social media users who are already part of their congregation. Encourage them to share relevant church-related content with their friends online.
Be relatable. More than half of 13- to 24-year-olds in the DEFY Media study say they stop scrolling when they see something that happened to people they know (55 percent), notice an activity they can imagine doing with their friends (53 percent), or see something they’ve thought but never said aloud (53 percent). You won’t reach young people if you don’t know them. Churches trying to reach the next generation must first spend time learning about them. Talk to parents of teenagers. Talk to the students themselves. Find out what interests them and how that intersects with the church and its mission. Look professional. It should be obvious, but you have to make your content look nice on both your website and social media. More than half (52 percent) of Generation Z members say if something looks polished and professional, they will stop scrolling. Many churches can’t afford to hire a full-time graphic designer, but they probably have someone in the congregation with a good design eye who can help in this area. If nothing else, get to know the style of your target audience and learn to create content that appeals to them. Surprise them. This can be easily overused, so be careful. Most social media users have grown tired of clickbait headlines promising something “shocking.” But half (51 percent) of teenagers and young adults say seeing something
they didn’t expect causes them to stop scrolling. Occasionally use a headline that might surprise readers. Try something like “7 Problems in Sunday’s Sermon” for an article based on a sermon about problems Paul encountered in his missionary journeys. Be creative, but don’t go overboard. Use this sparingly to add variety to your social media feed and hopefully gain more readers. Point to your mission. Almost half (49 percent) say they stop scrolling when they see something that has a message or is about a cause. This should be easy for the church. Both millennials and Generation Z are cause-driven. Share big ideas. Point to worthy causes. Speak about the most important message of all—the gospel. They want to be involved in something worthwhile. Use your social media to remind them the church is about growing God’s kingdom, not expanding a human institution. Inspire teenagers and young adults to look past themselves and their screens. Social media is not inherently bad. It’s a place where you can connect with teenagers and young adults in your church and community. But it can’t be haphazard. Young people need churches to help them understand how to live out their faith in their digital world. One way to do that is to create social media posts that will cause them to stop scrolling and start serving. AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of FactsAndTrends.net.
Facts & Trends • 23
Raising lowercase z’s WHAT PARENTS OF YOUNGER KIDS ARE ASKING THE CHURCH
By AAron WILSON
Caleb and Amy are two members of your church. Caleb is in second grade and is excited about his upcoming Super Mario themed birthday party. Amy, a teenager, recently got her driver’s license and is eager to begin her first summer job. While Caleb and Amy may not think they share much in common, both are members of Generation Z—a population currently bookended by young children on one side and young adults just entering their 20s on the other. While much modern research on Z’s focuses on those who are older, younger Z’s have parents in your congregation who are hungry for spiritual leadership that speaks to the unique challenges their kids face. Here are three questions parents of younger Z’s want church leaders to help them answer. How do I navigate technology with my kid? Perhaps no event more clearly divides younger and older Z’s than 2007’s invention of the iPhone. Older Z’s grew up learning smartphones alongside their parents.
24 • Facts & Trends
Younger Z parents, on the other hand, had a significant head start over their kids and are well-informed about technology’s dangers, such as sexting, pornography, and online bullying. As a result, parents of younger Z’s are nervous about how to protect children who are asking for their own phones. A Nielsen study in 2016 found more than half of kids get their own phone and service plan by age 10. This makes the question, “When do I give my children their first smartphone?” one of the most pressing issues facing parents of younger Z’s. When a child receives a smartphone isn’t as important as the parental training that surrounds the event, says Bekah Stoneking, who edits children’s curriculum at LifeWay Christian Resources. “Putting age and time limits around technology is wise, but it’s not the whole answer,” says Stoneking, a former second-grade teacher and children’s minister. “Modeling right behavior and giving opportunity for guided practice is what helps kids use technology responsibly.” Your church can help encourage this discussion by having parents write articles on your church website or news bulletin about navigating technology with their kids. Also consider holding classes for parents to examine the heart issues behind the use of new technologies. A good resource for this is the new book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, by Tony Reinke. How do I help my kid, who hates to read, engage Scripture? Older Z’s grew up on the tail end of the Harry Potter series and during release of The Hunger Games books and movies. They watched older siblings line up at midnight to buy books and grew up with a cultural phenomenon that told
them reading was cool. Younger Z’s, however, have never had a book series define them in this way. The statistics reflect this. Common Sense Media reports that in 1999, children ages 2 to 7 were read to for an average of 45 minutes per day. In 2013, that number dropped to about 30 minutes. In 2014, the number of 13-year-olds who said they rarely or never read for pleasure was 22 percent, a statistic that’s almost tripled over the last three decades. These trends are sobering for Christian parents who want to instill in their children a worldview that revolves around a book—God’s Word. Jana Magruder, director of kids ministry at LifeWay, recognizes the need to teach Z’s Bible skills while also meeting them where they are. This is one reason LifeWay creates apps for each of its main curriculum lines, she says. “While we know most kids don’t use iPads and iPhones at church, they’re going home where the technology is. Christian apps can be tools for parents to quickly review what their kids are learning each week.” Your church can also host reading programs with incentives throughout the year to help kids get excited about reading. And if your church is connected with a Christian school, consider hosting book fairs in the spring and fall. LifeWay Christian Stores provide a free summer reading program for kids and also partner with churches and Christian schools to host book fairs designed to draw kids into the Word. How do I teach my kid about patience? Younger Z’s have never known a world without streaming media or two-day shipping. According to a study by the University of Massachusetts at Am-
herst, the average willingness for a person to wait for an online video to load is only two seconds. For younger Z’s, these norms feed a sense of immediate expectation. Jenna Gerringer, a fourth-grade teacher in Gastonia, North Carolina, laments that her kids now bring these speedy expectations into the classroom. “They’ll hand in a test and immediately ask what they got as a grade,” says Gerringer. “I’m looking at them saying, ‘You seriously just put it in my hand; did you see me grade it?’” A church’s worship service can be a great place for younger kids to learn patience. Kids not only sit still and listen but also absorb content leading them to ask their parents questions about communion, prayer, baptism, and other parts of Christian worship. Consider ways your church culture can welcome kids into the service without making parents feel uncomfortable when their kids are disruptive (it will happen). AARON WILSON (@AaronBWilson26) is associate editor of Facts & Trends and the father of two rambunctious lowercase z’s.
DIG DEEPER •T he Tech-Wise Family, by Andy Crouch • Christ-Centered Parenting by Russell Moore and Phillip Bethancourt
Available at LifeWay Stores and LifeWay.com
Facts & Trends • 25
5 INSIGHTS FOR HELPING GENERATION Z By Joshua Straub
One of my earliest memories of being bullied happened at a sleepover with my friend, Dan. We were outside playing in a sandbox when two neighbor kids joined us. But they didn’t want to play in the sand.
Instead, our new “friends” decided to play a game where we threw stones at one another—except they didn’t allow me to throw. I was pelted in the head, legs, stomach, face, and arms. The more I pleaded for mercy, the harder the stones came. I cried. They called me a sissy. The rules have changed No one else knew about that stoning. There was no YouTube video. No pictures on Instagram. Smartphones and Snapchat didn’t exist yet. That shameful day wasn’t recorded and posted for our entire school to see. Bullying in the 21st century is much different from bullying in years past. Fists flying at the flagpole in front of a small crowd after school are now replaced with tactless words, often anonymous, on places like Ask.fm. Or they’re very specific, incredibly hurtful messages that disappear in seconds on Snapchat. The stones hurt. I felt shame that day. But I’m grateful it wasn’t multiplied to hundreds of peers and prolonged for weeks or even longer. Facts about cyberbullying The problem with bullying today is heightened by the fact that victims of cyberbullying are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and more suicidal attempts than kids not bullied online. Even online bullies themselves are found to be more likely to have suicidal 26 • Facts & Trends
thoughts than other kids. With the sophistication of social networks, shame tends to be felt more deeply. Once nasty messages and unattractive photos are sent through cellphones, they may re-emerge later, causing anxiety and depression. According to LifeWay Research, feeling shame is the biggest culture fear among Americans. Anxiety and depression are increasing among Generation Z, with many young Americans caught in what Christian counselor Sissy Goff calls “an endless loop of worry.” Cyberbullying exacerbates feelings of inadequacy, leaving kids feeling anxious, afraid, and depressed. Signs include withdrawing from parents, friends, and activities. Schoolwork, grades, and behavior also tend to regress.
5 ways to help our kids 1. Become a student of the latest trends. As leaders guiding today’s families, we need to educate ourselves on the newest trends hitting our kids. Most recently, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why chronicled 13 reasons a 17-year-old female student committed suicide. Many teenagers either watched or were keenly aware of this hugely popular series. The show paints mental health professionals and adults in general—those willing to help—in a grim light and has led some suicide prevention specialists to fear it could prompt copycat suicides. FALL 2017
Facts & Trends â€¢ 27
2. Empower students. The games, challenges, and apps used as cyberbullying tools change so rapidly that keeping up is nearly impossible unless you’re immersed in the culture. Don’t be afraid to admit you can’t keep up. One of the best ways to empower students is to get them to teach you. It will instill in them a sense of belonging, like they’re a part of helping you lead others in ministry.
DIG DEEPER •S afe House: How Emotional Safety Is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well. By Joshua Straub •1 2 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, by Tony Reinke
Available at LifeWay Stores and LifeWay.com
3. Educate and support parents. This may be the single most important thing you can do. The biggest request of many of the bullied teens brave enough to come to me for help is, “Please don’t tell my parents.” In fact, only 10 percent of teens tell their parents if they become a victim of cyberbullying. Of the parents who do find out, many either deny the seriousness of the situation as only a “phase” or “kids just being kids,” or they blame their own kids for getting bullied and not fighting back. Both situations add insult to injury. Ignoring the teen’s shame only increases it. Our kids need our empathy, safety, and love. In a world marked by divorce, fatherlessness, ubiquitous screens, and busy schedules, kids are under increasing relational stress at home. Research repeatedly shows that in spite of these barriers, it’s the quality of the relationship with the parent that matters most for child resilience. Children who feel safe and loved by mom and dad tend to have healthier self-esteem and emotion regulation— both critical for raising kids who develop empathy. Empathetic kids are not bullies. Teach parents to be involved, to listen, and to empathize. Help them understand how to put safeguards and limits on the
28 • Facts & Trends
internet and cell phones. Many teens today share their passwords with friends in the name of “building trust.” Help parents address these cyberbullying tactics and stop them from happening. 4. Talk about it with students. I often hear, “My son/daughter would never do that.” However, sexting (sending sexually explicit pictures or messages to another via text) is far more common than many leaders think—yes, even among the most faithful of students in our youth ministries. Though sending cruel messages and spreading rumors are the most common forms of cyberbullying, circulating sexually suggestive pictures and texts has become one of the most shame-filled ways of bullying another. Educate your students on the legal, relational, occupational, and even educational ramifications of what they post, send, and receive. 5. Partner with student advocates in your community. My niece volunteers with a program started by her principal called The Listening Post. College students sit on one side of a curtain while high school students who are bullied or contemplating suicide can talk to someone who simply listens on the other side. Similarly, high school students listen to elementary students who are being bullied online. Yes, elementary students. As my niece told me, “We just need one person to listen to us and take us seriously. Many kids I know today don’t have that.” JOSHUA STRAUB, Ph.D. (@joshuastraub) is the marriage and family strategist at LifeWay Christian Resources. He has served as a professor of child psychology and authored several books on parenting. FALL 2017
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The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume II
Collector’s Edition: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854 edited by Christian T. George In 1857, Charles Spurgeon—the most popular preacher in the Victorian world—promised his readers that he would publish his earliest sermons. For almost 160 years, these sermons have been lost to history. In 2017, B&H Academic began releasing a multi-volume set that includes full-color facsimiles, transcriptions, contextual and biographical introductions, and editorial annotations. MSRP: $59.99 • Release date: September 30, 2017 Volume 1 and 2 also available in Collector’s Edition $79.99
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6 WAYS TO CREATE A CULTURE OF GENEROSITY IN YOUR CHURCH By Art Rainer
Every year, your church goes through a sermon series on generosity. But every year, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Giving remains about the same as the prior year.
The church has the capacity to be more generous. You know this. Yet the desire just doesn’t seem to be there. Many church leaders find themselves in this situation. It can lead to frustration and disappointment, because you know generosity is a reflection of a person’s heart. And while you’re concerned about the church budget, you’re more concerned about your church members aligning with God’s design for them. You want them to experience what it’s like to live with open hands, to be conduits through which God’s generosity flows to others. And you don’t want it to be momentary. You want to see your church consistently immersed in a culture of generosity. How can you do this? Here are six ways to build a culture of generosity in your church.
1. Teach about generosity more often. The Bible tells us the way we manage our resources reflects the priorities
30 • Facts & Trends
found in our hearts. To disciple others well, church leaders must teach on stewardship and money—and in more than a single sermon series. The Bible has more than 2,000 verses on stewardship and money. Jesus spoke repeatedly about money throughout his ministry. If God consistently emphasizes stewardship and money, should not church leaders? Consider weaving teachings on generosity throughout the year, from the service to the small group. 2. Talk about the church’s mission, not the budget shortfall. Do you give time and money to a losing effort? Unfortunately, this is how many church members feel when they place their money in the offering plate. They look at the bulletin and see a negative number in the budget area. When the pastor speaks on money, it’s often about how the church is financially struggling. Mission motivates. People give to mission. God has called your church to do great things for His kingdom. He has called your church to make a difference in your community and around the world. Talk about that mission constantly. 3. Tell stories. Randy Alcorn wrote, “Giving is a giant lever positioned on the fulcrum of the world, allowing us to move mountains in the next world. Because we give, eternity will be different—for others and for us.” One person’s generosity can change another person’s life for eternity. Regularly tell the people of your church how their generosity is making a difference in God’s kingdom. Create a system to collect stories of life change in your church. This can be as simple as asking church leaders what God did in their ministry that week. Then,
with permission, tell the stories to the church—so people can see that their giving moves mountains. 4. Tell giver stories too. When people align their life and money with God’s design, they often find themselves on an adventure they never could have imagined. There are countless stories of men and women who struggle with the idea of generosity but, in faith, obey God. In a totally unexpected way, God transforms their hearts and minds. They find themselves regretting only that they did not obey earlier. Encourage your church by telling these stories. They may help people in your congregation take that next step in their Christian walk. 5. Discuss why your church can be trusted to manage money well. You don’t give to organizations whose financial management you don’t trust. Sometimes churchgoers hesitate to give to their local church because they simply don’t know whether they can trust its financial management. Overcome these perceptions by discussing how the church’s stewardship can be trusted. Be transparent about how the church spends money. Explain how financial accountability works for the church. If you get an external audit or are certified by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, tell them about it. This discussion can happen in new member classes or at some point during a service. 6. Make generosity about something bigger than money. Scripture reveals that generosity is not exclusively about money. We are to be generous with all the resources God has given us. Teach about the need to be generous with
finances—but also teach generosity with homes, hobbies, abilities, and networks. Show churchgoers how they can go through life with their hands open, ready to respond when God moves them to give. God designed us to be conduits through which His generosity flows. What would happen if the people of your church aligned with God’s design for them and their money? What would happen if your church congregation had a generosity-first mindset? And what if it all starts with you? Be a leader who lives generously and then guides the church to do the same. Create a culture of generosity in your church. ART RAINER (@ArtRainer) is the author of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money. He is the vice president for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University and an MBA from the University of Kentucky.
DIG DEEPER The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money (B&H Publishing Group) is a book written to engage both the financial novice and the expert. Through biblical principles and practical application, The Money Challenge reveals how financial health is simply a means to a much more exciting and generous end— kingdom advancement. For church leaders, this is a great resource to recommend to the congregation. Learn more at TheMoneyChallengeBook.com.
Facts & Trends • 31
Prison ministry starts with a simple act of faith By Bob Smietana 32 â€¢ Facts & Trends
Robert and Pat Vinroot sometimes skip church on Sundays, but they almost never miss services at Transformation Church on Friday and Saturday. Especially since they get to go to jail. For the last five years, the Vinroots have worshiped almost weekly with inmates at Kershaw Correctional Institution in South Carolina, about an hour outside Columbia. About 300 inmates, known as the “Mighty Men of Kershaw,” attend the services, and many are now official members of the church. Inmates help lead worship for the services and facilitate small groups, which study the Scriptures and points from that week’s sermon. Transformation Church has developed ministries at four other prisons in South Carolina. And it all started with a simple step of faith by the Vinroots. A retired missionary friend asked them to hand out gift bags at Kershaw prison at Christmastime, and on a whim, they decided to go along. Robert, a retired airline pilot, and Pat, a former teacher and counselor, had never been inside a jail before. But they thought highly of their friend, says Robert, so they decided to go with her. “I didn’t think we had a calling for [prison ministry],” he says. “But God works in mysterious ways.” Obstacles to prison ministry Christians have been no stranger to ministry in jails. Jesus said He had come to proclaim freedom to captives and promised blessing to those who visited people in prison. Paul and Silas sang hymns and prayed with their fellow
Robert and Pat Vinroot stand beside the sign for the Kershaw Correctional Institution in South Carolina.
prisoners and shared the gospel with their jailer in Philippi. And most Protestant pastors visit jails and want to help prisoners and their families, according to a 2016 LifeWay Research survey. But their churches often lack the training or finances to run an effective prison ministry. Eighty-three percent of Protestant senior pastors have visited a correctional facility, according to LifeWay Research. Almost all believe churches should help families of those incarcerated (97 percent) and provide care for those getting out of jail (95 percent). The need is great. About 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the nation’s 1,800 prisons, 900 juvenile correctional facilities, and 3,200 local jails, according to PrisonPolicy.org. Americans are jailed more than 11 million times a year, while 641,000 people are released from prisons. Still, few churches have an organized jail ministry. Two-thirds (65 percent) of pastors say their churches lack the volunteer leaders needed to lead a prison ministry. A similar number (62 percent) lack the training, while half (48 percent) lack the finances and more than a few (40 percent) don’t know where to start. Three in 10 (29 percent) say their church has too many other ministries, while 21 percent say they don’t see a
need for such ministry. Karen Swanson, director of the Institute for Prison Ministries at Wheaton College, says she knows many churches are overwhelmed by the idea of starting a prison or jail ministry. Other projects, such as distributing school supplies to kids or volunteering at a food pantry, are relatively easy to start. Ministering to inmates and their families is more difficult, Swanson says, requiring special training and often a long-term commitment from volunteers. Still, she hopes more churches will get involved in jail or prison ministry. They may be surprised to find the ministry hits close to home. “The mission field is in your backyard,” Swanson says. “Almost every county has a jail. And almost all prisoners are going to return home.” A little help from their friends When they are in church—which is still most Sundays—the Vinroots often run into former inmates who were once part of Transformation Church’s prison ministry and now attend at the main campus near Charlotte, North Carolina. A captain of the guards at Kershaw also attends, and he, along with several former inmates, recently spoke at a training event for church volunteers. Ironically, the Vinroots hadn’t ever heard of Transformation Church or its Facts & Trends • 33
Transformation Church’s prison ministry has built a long-term relationship with inmates and staff at Kershaw. The church now has services at five prisons. Inmates use the same small group materials as other Transformation Church attendees.
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY TRANSFORMATION CHURCH
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pastor, Derwin Gray, when they first started volunteering at the prison. After that first visit with their missionary friend back in 2012, they’d started mentoring inmates through a Prison to Society program on Tuesdays. Pat would often bring books to share with the men at the prison. One week she came across Gray’s book Hero at a local secondhand store. It looked interesting, so Pat got a copy. While reading it, the Vinroots found Gray’s background is similar to those of many of the inmates. He’d come from a broken home and his dad was mostly absent. Some of his childhood friends had ended up in jail. A football scholarship and the love of his grandmother had kept him on the right path in life. Pat wondered if Gray might be willing to speak to the inmates. A friend of a friend put them in touch with the pastor’s wife. “It took us about a month to get it all arranged. He came down and it was a huge success,” says Robert Vinroot. Not long afterward, the inmates asked if the volunteers could show videos of Gray’s sermons. That request eventually led to regular services—and later group Bible studies—at Kershaw prison, which now is considered one of Transformation’s campuses. These days, Gray begins sermons with a shout out to the inmates, including the “Mighty Men” of Kershaw and Lee prisons and the “beautiful women” of Camille Griffin Graham women’s prison in Columbia. “We believe in you,” Gray said during a recent sermon. The church hadn’t been looking to get involved in prison ministry when the Vinroots first contacted him, Gray says. But he had been praying that God would expand the church’s ministry. Talking with Pat convinced him to go and speak at the prison. “She called and began to share her
When we go into the prison, we go in as learners. We don’t go in as rescuers.” —Derwin Gray, pastor of Transformation Church near Charlotte, North Carolina Friday nights, but a shortage of guards forced a schedule change. Now there are services on Friday and Saturday, each drawing about 150 inmates at Kershaw. Being there on a regular basis has allowed the church to build long-term relationships with inmates and the staff of the prison. “If you show up one or two times a year and the men appreciate you, that is nice,” says Vinroot. “But what is really important to them is consistency.”
heart,” he says. “For me, it resonated.” Gray goes back to the prison a few times a year, mainly when there is a baptism service. About 300 inmates have been baptized since 2012. The church now has services at five prisons. At two, dozens of inmates have gone through leadership development classes—the same program that church members outside the prison go through. The church’s approach is to treat everyone—prisoners and guards alike—as men and women made in God’s image. But the volunteers don’t go only to serve, says Gray. “When we go into the prison, we go in as learners,” he says. “We don’t go in as rescuers.” Most of the ministry is done by a combination of volunteers from the church and leaders among the inmates. Vinroot says having a consistent presence at the prison has been a huge help. The church used to hold services on
Opportunities for ministry Holding worship services isn’t the only way churches can do prison ministry, says Yolanda Walker, a chaplain with the Tennessee Prison for Women. Walker’s biggest need is for volunteers with Take One, a mentorship program for prisoners. She says many inmates need help with practical skills—how to write a resume, use a computer, get a GED, or find a job. “If they don’t have a high school diploma or a GED,” she says, “it’s going to be hard for them to make it when they get out.” Volunteers don’t just help with practical skills. Sometimes a mentor can provide a listening ear to a prisoner or offer spiritual guidance when things get tough. “There’s some sense of community and family,” she says. “When an inmate is not having a good day, they have someone they can call.” One of the best ways for a church to get involved with jail or prison ministry is to call the chaplain or volunteer coordinator and ask, “What can I do to help?” Or the church can call an Facts & Trends • 35
When an inmate is not having a good day, they have someone they can call.” —Yolanda Walker, chaplain at the Tennesse Prison for Women
Yolanda Walker, chaplain at the Tennesse Prison for Women 36 • Facts & Trends
organization like Prison Fellowship or God Behind Bars to find out how to get involved. And there’s no need to go behind bars to do jail ministry. When Christian business owners hire former inmates, they’re doing prison ministry, says Walker. Signing up with Amachi, a national program that matches volunteer mentors with children whose parents are incarcerated, is doing prison ministry. Even buying Christmas gifts can be prison ministry. Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program, which provides gifts for the children of inmates, is always in need of sponsors. “Some people may say, ‘I don’t want to be bothered with those inmates, but I will help their kids,’” she says. “The inmates don’t have the finances to buy gifts—but they want their child to get something for Christmas.” Welcoming inmates at church If a church does get involved in prison ministry, there’s no telling where it could lead. Eight years ago, Anita Sullivan-Akers was an inmate at the Davidson County jail in Nashville, Tennessee. A former successful caterer and single mom, she’d lost her career and her kids to a drug addiction and ended up in jail. “I started using crack when I was about 30,” she says. “It was all craziness after that.” During a church service at the jail, she met one of the volunteers, a “churchy” mom and nonprofit leader who helped out during a worship service at the jail. The two hit it off and became friends. At the time, Sullivan-Akers felt hopeless in the face of her addiction. She needed someone who could show her the way out—and someone who thought she was worth saving. A church volunteer made all the difference in the world, she says. Today, Sullivan-Akers has her life back. She’s reunited with her kids and has a flourishing career—including running a catering program for a Nashville-based nonprofit that employs former inmates. Most weeks, she’s back at jail—this time as a church volunteer. According to Sullivan-Akers, “People there need a shot of hope.” BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends. FALL 2017
Inmates disciple inmates in West Virginia
By Bob Smietana
Jesus told his followers to go out into the world to make disciples. For inmates at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in West Virginia, that commandment means ministry goes on even behind bars. Over the past year, inmates at Mount Olive have led small groups using LifeWay Christian Resources’ Disciples Path: The Journey as part of a moral rehabilitation program run by that state’s Department of Corrections. The program aims to transform inmates from the inside out, says Clarence “CJ” Rider, director of inmate services and activities for the West Virginia Department of Corrections. Funded by outside donations, the initiative is open to all inmates, no matter what they believe. “Our overall objective is to change the inmates’ attitude and heart,” says Rider. West Virginia-based Catalyst Ministries, which runs the discipleship program, also sponsors a Bible college at Mount Olive and Malachi Dads, a mentoring program that helps prisoners become better dads. Almost all the programs are led by inmates. Royce Dean Burnette, who has been in prison for 20 years, says the discipleship program has given purpose to his life. He’s led a discipleship group and is now a student at the Bible college. “I had just about given up when Malachi Dads came along,” he wrote in response to interview questions. “I am doing life without mercy and 120 years. I have leukemia, and I am slowly dying each day. Transferring all that was given to me to someone else is the only logical thing to do in the service of the Lord.” Sammy Brewster, a prisoner at
Mount Olive for 17 years, says leading a discipleship group lets him put his faith to work. “It’s very humbling,” he wrote. “It makes you feel like you are doing something positive for Christ, as well as your own Christian faith.” LifeWay’s Matt Morris, brand manager for Disciples Path, visited Mount Olive prison in January and trained leaders there on how to use Disciples Path. He’d never been to a prison before and spent time listening to the inmates tell their stories. A number had become Christians in prison and had seen God transform their lives. “Hearing those stories was just incredible,” he says. “When I left, they said, ‘Don’t forget us. We want you to come back.’” Answer to prayer For Calvin Sutphin, founder of Catalyst Ministries, the discipleship program is an answer to prayer. Sutphin founded Catalyst after coming to faith in Jesus during a stint in rehab for substance abuse. He says he was looking for a way to put his newfound faith to work—and God led him to prison. Prison ministry, says Sutphin, has changed his life and given him a reason to get up each day. His experiences in rehab and recovery, as well as the past five years of ministry, have caused him to rely more on Christ. “I’ve been going into the prison for five years, and I am as excited to go tomorrow as I was five years ago,” he says. “When you answer a call from God, it’s just a great place to be.” Sutphin tells inmates that their lives can change, “that God is a God of restoration and reconciliation.” Culture change At first, Mount Olive’s moral rehabilitation program used a number of different Bible studies, Rider says.
Inmates received certificates for finishing each study, but there was no overall strategy. Disciples Path, he says, gives inmates a clearly defined path for spiritual growth. “We really have seen some fruit from the program,” Rider says. In one case, a prisoner wanted to be baptized after going through one of the classes. Among those who helped with the baptism were guards on the unit. “When the staff starts to see the benefit, that’s a bit of a breakthrough,” he says. Having inmates serve as leaders will lead to a bigger culture change, says Rider. Once inmates go home, they’ll be better equipped to succeed in the outside world. This fall, Sutphin and Catalyst Ministries will launch an expanded re-entry program. Sutphin hopes to partner with local companies to find jobs for former inmates and to show inmates that their experience in prison—leading discussion, volunteering in programs—can help them on the outside. “I tell them, ‘Your re-entry starts now.’” BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.
DIG DEEPER Disciple’s Path: The Journey provides an intentional one-year mission toward maturity in Christ. It’s a purposeful process covering four volumes, 13 sessions each. The Journey was created to nurture believers into disciples who make disciples. Learn more at DisciplesPath.com.
Facts & Trends • 37
NONES NO MORE Only half of those raised irreligious stay that way as adults By Aaron Earls
38 â€¢ Facts & Trends
Faith wasn’t important in Dan Kassis’ home growing up, and he had no intention of changing that—until he found himself in a difficult time as a college freshman. He had heard the gospel before, but it didn’t stick with him until he found himself alone at night wandering on a football field near his dorm, thinking about his struggles. Kassis says he looked out at the Santa Susana Mountains north of the San Fernando Valley in California and asked God for a sign. “At that moment, there was a brilliant streak of white, yellow, and orange light from east to west across the sky over the mountain—a meteor, except exactly when I needed it,” he says. “I began confessing my sins and professing my faith in Christ, wanting Him to be my Savior and Lord.” Kassis is not alone. About half of Americans (47 percent) who were raised with no religion— known as the “nones”—eventually find some kind of faith, according to Pew Research. And many of those, like Kassis, become Christians. Two in 10 nones (19 percent) become evangelical Protestants, 17 percent join another Christian tradition, and 10 percent become part of a non-Christian faith. By comparison, 35 percent of those raised evangelicals change their religious identity—16 percent switch to a different Christian tradition, 15 percent become religiously unaffiliated, and 3 percent join a non-Christian faith. Mainline Protestants are the only Christian group with worse retention numbers than nones. Fewer than half (45 percent) still identify with their childhood religion. While 24 percent migrate
to a different Christian tradition, even more (26 percent) become unaffiliated. Like Kassis, most people who change religious affiliation do so when they are relatively young. According to additional research from Pew, almost three-quarters (72 percent) of the unaffiliated who become religious say they left the ranks of the nones before the age of 24. While LifeWay Research has found few people outside of church think about spiritual topics like where they’ll spend eternity, most do consider the ultimate purpose of their lives, and they will listen to friends share about what’s important to them. Those can be avenues for Christians to explore with friends and family who grew up irreligious. Rebounding nones Despite the overall likelihood of nones finding faith, younger generations are more likely than previous ones to stay unaffiliated. Those raised nones are increasingly remaining irreligious into adulthood, says Greg Smith, associate director of research at Pew. “In our 2007 Religious Landscape Survey, for instance, just 46 percent of everyone who was raised as a none still identified as a none in adulthood. By 2014, that figure had increased to 53 percent,” Smith says. “Like so much in American religion, this shift is being driven in part by generational replacement.” The younger the generation, the more likely those raised religiously unaffiliated are to stay that way. Only 26 percent of nones in the silent generation, who were children during World War II, remained nones as adults, the lowest rate among any religious persuasion. Among millennials, however, 67 percent of those raised religiously unaffiliated remain so as adults. That is second only to those raised Jewish, 70 percent of whom say they stayed that way.
47% of Americans
who were raised with no religion— known as the “nones”— eventually find some kind of faith. Pew Research
Facts & Trends • 39
Only 33% of atheists and agnostics say religious conversations make them uncomfortable. LifeWay Research
“In short, religious switching is a big part of what’s driving the growth of the nones,” says Smith. “But at the same time, it’s also true that more people are being raised as nones, and more of them are remaining nones in adulthood.” The trend may be coming from the increase in the number of nones raised in a home where both parents are irreligious. Only 3 percent of the silent generation had two unaffiliated parents. Among millennials, that number has doubled to 6 percent. And having two parents of the same religious preference significantly increases the likelihood that a child will adopt the parents’ faith—or lack thereof. In a separate study, Pew found 62 percent of those raised exclusively by religiously unaffiliated parents remained religiously unaffiliated as adults, while only 35 percent became Christians. The numbers are almost reversed for those raised by one unaffiliated parent and one Protestant. Just 34 percent identify as a none in adulthood, while 59 percent adopt Christianity. Future of evangelicalism Among evangelicals, the retention numbers are on a slight decline by generation. Almost 7 in 10 evangelicals in the silent generation (69 percent) remain that way in adulthood. For baby boomers, the figure is 68 percent. It drops to 63 percent for Generation X and 61 percent for millennials. Evangelicals, however, are the Christian group most likely to retain millennials. Sixty percent of historically black Protestant millennials stay that way as adults. Half of millennials raised Catholic are still Catholic as adults. Only 37 percent of millennials raised as mainline Protestants remain in their parents’ faith tradition.
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Beyond retention, if evangelicals want to continue winning converts among people like Kassis, they’ll have to do so in a culture that is making it easier for nones to stay that way. As someone who became a Christian from an unaffiliated background, Kassis says Christians should be open and honest with nones. “Don’t hold back about the truth you believe,” he says. “Don’t pretend you know everything, but honestly and clearly express what you know and believe.” Perhaps surprisingly to many Christians, most irreligious people don’t mind having a conversation about religion, a LifeWay Research study shows. Only 33 percent of atheists and agnostics say those discussions make them uncomfortable. Most unchurched Americans, 32 percent of whom are nonreligious, say they’re OK with a friend bringing up religion. Almost 8 in 10 of those who have not attended a worship service in the last six months (79 percent) say they don’t mind friends talking about their faith. When Christians decide to talk to their unbelieving friends, Kassis says to stay persistent. “Don’t give up on people when they seem like they aren’t going to ever believe,” he says. While he didn’t become an evangelical Christian until college, it was the faithful witness of friends and teachers from earlier in his life that came to mind standing on that football field. “My drum teachers in late elementary and junior high school were both believers,” he says. “They had a deep effect on me.” Kassis has also seen persistence pay off with his own family. “I witnessed to my dad for 12 years before he began to respond at all.” AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends. FALL 2017
Music and your brain, worship and your heart By Daniel Im
My children love to sing and dance. Often after dinner we’ll goof around, turn up the tunes, and sing songs. No, not like the von Trapp family—but we have sung “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music more than once. One evening, I began singing “A Whole New World” from Disney’s Aladdin. I loved the melody as a child, but while teaching it to my children, I quickly realized something about the lyrics—I didn’t agree with them. In particular, this line bothered me: “No one to tell us no or where to go.” I certainly didn’t want my children saying that to me. The thing about music is that it deeply shapes us—often without us recognizing the full extent of its influence. A 2008 study by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of schoolchildren in Boston found that children with three or more years of musical instrument training performed better than those who didn’t learn an instrument in auditory discrimination and fine motor skills. They also tested better on vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning, which involves understanding visual information. You would naturally expect someone who is learning an instrument to develop fine motor skills, which they did. However, you wouldn’t necessarily expect better vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning. It’s amazing how the brain is wired and how music shapes your brain. Similarly, have you ever considered the way worship shapes your heart? In Psalm 40, we come across a song that would have been sung publicly in
worship. God used this song to shape the hearts of His people and remind them of their identity and their calling in this world. The psalm is a heartfelt cry of thankfulness for who God is and what He has done, is doing, and will continue to do. This psalm is powerful because it helps us understand the relationship between worship and gratitude. Worship begins when we realize everything is ultimately from God. In other words, worship starts with gratitude. In fact, this psalm begins and ends with the declaration that we are in need of God’s work and His salvation. So when we worship, let’s thank Him not only for His past saving work but also for His ongoing work in our lives. This psalm also teaches us that worship is about openly, blatantly, bluntly, conspicuously, consciously, and boldly speaking to the Lord and about Him to others. It’s about never ceasing to declare His righteousness, faithfulness, constant love, and truth. Most importantly, this psalm shows us just how normal worship must be. It’s not something reserved for Sundays or beautifully designed sanctuaries. It’s an everyday thing. Yes, it’s important to gather regularly to worship as the church, but that’s not where worship begins or ends. We are called to worship when we’re at home putting our children to bed. When we’re driving to work. When we’re on the treadmill. When we’re eating smoked ribs. When we’re in between meetings. And when we’re studying the Bible. May we be a worshipful people and allow the Lord our God—the Creator and Sustainer of all things—to shape and mold our hearts.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and they will trust in the Lord. — Psalm 40:3
DANIEL IM (@DanielSangi), an author and teaching pastor, leads church multiplication for LifeWay Leadership via NewChurches.com.
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Is your city bursting at the seams? 3 WAYS TO PREPARE YOUR CONGREGATION By Joy Allmond
42 â€¢ Facts & Trends
Movers scurried around Providence Church’s office recently, removing furniture that was to be sold and leaving with boxes of books.
Be hospitable Because many new residents have few or no local, personal connections, they crave relationships over programs, Walker says. “I could cite example after example of people who have moved here and started coming to church because they felt it was a good place to meet people,” Walker says. “In some cases, the stress of moving can be a spiritually dark time in someone’s life. And one of our jobs as the church is to be a place where people feel the freedom to talk about that—and to hear how the gospel relates to it.”
Several years ago, Providence Church sent around 100 of its members to plant a church in nearby McKinney, the third-fastest-growing large city on the U.S. Census Bureau list. The church has launched a leadership institute where future pastors are being mentored and is looking forward to more plants—particularly north and west of Dallas. “Growth should not be seen as an opportunity to become a megachurch,” he says. “As a pastor, it’s a chance for me to steward well what God has entrusted to me. He has put myself and others in the heart of Frisco for this time, and I feel the weight of that stewardship. “It puts even more emphasis on what we’re doing—preaching the gospel. And that makes me feel even more called.”
Despite appearances, the Frisco, Texas, church was not closing its doors. Instead, the building was being renovated to accommodate the church’s exponential growth—growth that mirrors the surging population of the suburbs surrounding Dallas. In a U.S. Census Bureau report released earlier this year, Frisco was named the second-fastest-growing city of 50,000 or more in America, with Conroe, Texas, a suburb of Houston, in the first-place spot. Several states away, MurfreesValue people over programs boro, Tennessee—10th on the In areas of rapid population census list—has experienced growth, it’s important to guard similar population growth. Dustin Walker, pastor of families and communities, against the temptation to grow “One of my favorite things City Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee church numbers merely for the to do each week when we go sake of gaining more attendees, through the visitor information warns Derwin Gray, lead pastor cards is to look at the area The key to effective ministry to the of Transformation Church. codes of the phone numbers,” says influx of people moving to places like His church is near Charlotte, North Dustin Walker, pastor of families and Murfreesboro, Walker explains, is Carolina, a city recognized in recent community at City Church in Murbiblical hospitality. years for its population boom. freesboro. “I get a kick out of seeing “The idea of hospitality within the Since the birth of Transformation where people are coming from.” church is so important,” he says. Church six years ago, the congreMurfreesboro, a college town 35 “We’ve been entrusted with the gation rapidly expanded from a few miles southeast of Nashville, is packed gospel. And part of that is simply hundred people to around 3,500. with Middle Tennessee State Univerreaching out. “We try to equip our congregation sity students and recent graduates. It “As more people move into our to not view people as potential also attracts young professionals who cities, we need to be more intentional prospects or specifically people we are work in Nashville but are willing to about inviting them to our churches— trying to reach,” Gray says. endure the commute because of the and into our lives.” “Regardless of whether people lower cost of living, Walker says. who come into our city and visit What does growth mean for church- Steward through multiplication our church come to faith or become es in cities like Conroe, Frisco, and One of the “good” problems to members, our goal is to value them, Murfreesboro? Here are three ways have is the need for church mulsimply because they are valuable to for pastors, ministry leaders, and tiplication—and the subsequent God. We want to love them.” church members to make an impact in requirement for more pastors and fast-growing areas—or any place that leaders, says Afshin Ziafat, lead pastor JOY ALLMOND (@JoyAllmond) is managing editor of Facts & Trends. attracts new residents. of Frisco’s Providence Church.
We’ve been entrusted with the gospel. And part of that is simply reaching out.”
Facts & Trends • 43
Transforming the church library By David Francis
What do we do with the church library? That’s a question many pastors ponder as they seek to be good stewards of their church facilities. For Ron Edmondson, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, the answer is “The Sending Center”—an updated version of the church library that marries discipleship with missions in one room. Immanuel opened its Sending Center in May, and it was packed. The new center is a place to find information about missions and service opportunities, to pick up or purchase prayer and discipleship resources, or to just hang out and enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation. Plus, people can still check out books, although the library team cleared and
donated a lot of titles, determining to focus on Christian fiction, children’s books, and the most current nonfiction books about Christian living. The center will also become the distribution point for group Bible study materials. “The intent and overall goal is to energize the room again while furthering the church’s mission,” says Edmondson. Before the changes, Edmonson says, interest in the library had waned—a situation common to many churches. Nevertheless, Edmondson didn’t want to close the library. “We still saw value in what the ministry could contribute to the overall mission of the church—to lead people to become growing followers of Jesus Christ,” he says. Morlee Maynard, professor of Christian education at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, helped Edmondson crystallize his strategy for the revived library.
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“There is a movement among church librarians to rethink the space as a disciple-making center,” says Maynard, who also serves as church library ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. “That can express itself in a host of pragmatic and creative ways.” Ideas for renewal As churches focus on making disciples and nurturing their growth, the library can serve as a support center for all ministries, Maynard says. “Disciple making is a major component of the heritage of church libraries.” An important question to ask is, “What needs do leaders and members in our church have that the library could meet?” Could you clear a space to display curriculum materials so small group leaders could browse before buying? Can you visualize a round rug with a magazine rack in the center displaying magazines like HomeLife, Open Windows, On Mission, and others? Could this be the place members of all ages pick up their devotional materials? Perhaps you can envision a box for people to contribute to the cost of these resources. Can you imagine children sitting on another colorful rug perusing Christian books for kids? What other centers can you envision for your disciple-making center? Here are a few ideas: • Family resources • Missions opportunities • Ideas for serving • Tracts for sharing • A browsing table of Christian best-sellers (it doesn’t have to be about “checking out” anymore) • A coffee bar with proceeds to a hunger effort • A photo station for new members or passport pics • Maybe one or two carefully culled shelves of traditional book “stacks” FALL 2017
Practical ministry ideas for your church
”The Sending Center” at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.
(just because somebody dropped off a box of books doesn’t mean you have to keep them) • A shelf of books to trade (leave what you’ve read; take what you haven’t) Beginning a journey In a church I served before joining LifeWay, membership actually began in the church library. It was quiet and close to the worship center, so it offered the perfect place for talking with people responding to the message. The invitation after the sermon gave two options: walk down front or make your way to the church library. No matter where they started, everyone eventually ended up in the church library.
Today, I might call it a disciple-making center. It’s where everyone in our church began the journey of discipleship and where many continued to grow in Christ. What if your church library was so compelling that people returned often for help in taking the next step on their journey? That place, whatever you call it, could be an essential part in equipping Christians to do the ministry of the church. That should be the goal of every church library. DAVID FRANCIS (@1DavidFrancis) is director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is the author of 15 books, most available free at LifeWay.com/davidfrancis.
DIG DEEPER •L earn more about disciple-making centers at the Church Librarians Network website, http://churchlibrarians.ning.com/
•B uilding Blocks for Church Library Ministry Conference November 4, 2017, Central Baptist Church, Decatur, Alabama Featuring: • Pastors: The Disciple-Making Process, led by David Francis • Disciple-Making Center Opportunities, led by Morlee Maynard To register (no fee): • Church phone: (256) 353-5912 • Email: email@example.com Facts & Trends • 45
THE REFORMATION still reverberates By Ray Van Neste and J. Michael Garrett
Martin Luther’s dramatic challenge to the Catholic Church in 1517 was a watershed event that brought rapid change to the German church. It reached crescendo through the labors of Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and a cast of thousands. The force of this Word-centric revival of the gospel continues to ripple into our day. 1. Church structure: The changes to the structure of the Christian church were dramatic. As both Protestants and Catholics realized institutional reunion would be impossible, the church divided. Out of these new European churches, the various denominations would arise. 2. Recovering justification: Through his study of the Greek New Testament, Luther discovered “the righteousness of God” in Romans meant not the purity of God by which He will judge us but rather a righteousness which He will impart to all those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ. The embrace of this precious and all-encompassing insight has resulted in the modern missionary movement and a passion for personal evangelism. 3. Elevation of the sermon: People needed to know how they could be made right with God by faith alone. To communicate this truth and, indeed, all of Scripture, the reformers elevated the sermon in the church’s gathered worship. Preaching in the medieval church was not central to worship, and the sermons were often written by church authorities and read by the local clergy. The reformers, especially Calvin, gave birth to the expository sermon.
Martin Luther was called to Worms, Germany, to appear before the Diet (assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire and answer charges of heresy. Refusing to recant or rescind his positions, Luther was declared an outlaw and a heretic.
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4. Priesthood of all believers: The Reformation renewed awareness of the privileged possession of every Christian—direct communion with God, without the mediation of a human priest. The reformers did not devalue the role of pastors or the church. But they did re-emphasize the New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, priests to one another and before God. FALL 2017
5. Ending the sacred/secular world was its radical focus divide: Before the Reformation, upon the Word of God. The there was a chasm between Gutenberg press was certainly the sacred and the secular. a contributor, but the great Reformers, on the other hand, power exhibited in this revival encouraged workers to recogemanated from its Spirit-filled, nize their labor, no matter how Word-centric leaders. seemingly humble, mattered The European Renaissance to God and contributed to His renewed interest in ancient texts. kingdom. This view transformed As scholars discovered seminal Gutenberg Bible. Volume 1. Old Testament. Iosua [Joshua], Iudicum [Judges]. all work into a “dignified and texts in literature, philosophy, Photo courtesy Harry Ransom Center. glorious means of praising and history, and science, they were affirming God in and through passionate to learn their original systems of schools owe their existence his creation, while adding further to its languages, especially Greek. to the Reformation. well-being,” writes theologian Alister This led to fresh and direct interacMcGrath in Spirituality in an Age of 8. Literacy boom: The reformers tion with Scripture and revived the Change. encouraged all Christians to become notion of Scripture’s primacy. The William Tyndale said that while literate, so that the plowman and the reformers did not jettison tradition, but preaching and washing dishes were milkmaid would be able to read the they taught that the final arbiter of all different tasks, there was no difference Bible for themselves. church matters must be Scripture alone. between them in terms of pleasing Though the reformers did not live The Word of God shaped the preachGod. Calvin praised mothers as they to see the full fruition of their vision, ing, the singing, and indeed the very faithfully cared for their children. we see it today in international Bible lives of its listeners. We can see the societies, missionaries, and everyday 16th-century church as it was reformed 6. Worship services: The music in Christians helping others learn to read. by the providential re-emergence of the churches shifted from professional High levels of literacy in the modern Bible and its authority. May it continue musicians (cathedral choirs and court world can be traced to this desire to to be so today. musicians) to congregational singing. bring God’s Word into every life. Songs were translated into the local RAY VAN NESTE is professor of biblical studies and director of the Ryan Center for language so all could sing and under9. Scientific growth: The new thought Biblical Studies at Union University in Jackson, stand. Psalms were sung, and hymns structures brought about by the ReforTennessee. were written. The spoken liturgy was mation were crucial to the development also translated into the vernacular. of modern science. The reformers’ J. MICHAEL GARRETT is the assistant director of Simplicity ruled church interiors, as emphasis on returning to the Scriptures the Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University. images and paintings were eliminated. encouraged those studying nature to move beyond the ancient authorities 7. Educational developments: General and study nature directly. Further, the education was encouraged by all of reformers’ emphasis on all vocations the reformers, and Luther’s co-worker being a calling of God justified experiPhilip Melanchthon developed systems DIG DEEPER mentation in the study of nature. for educational change. The school England, Holland, and Protestant • Reformation 500: How system of Germany was thoroughly pockets of France were the leaders in the Greatest reshaped. the scientific revolution. These areas, Revival Since This attention to the lower levels of those most deeply influenced by the Pentecost Continues to education brought heightened attention Reformation, were the perfect medium Shape the World Today to the universities and their scholars. for the growth of scientific thought. Though their founding preceded the Available at Reformation, universities flourished 10. Supremacy of Scripture: UnmisLifeWay Stores and under Protestant oversight. Many takably, the greatest contribution the LifeWay.com of today’s universities and even our Reformation has made to our modern FACTSANDTRENDS.NET
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ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church
Books & Bible Studies
No Silver Bullets
Mi Casa Uptown
BY DANIEL IM (B&H BOOKS)
BY JONATHAN LEEMAN (MOODY)
BY RICH PEREZ (B&H BOOKS)
ost people prefer quick fixes and bandage solutions to the long, hard, slow work that produces real change. So the moment we learn about a new ministry or strategy and see its effect in another church, we run to implement it in our own. But what if the solution isn’t a new model or a complicated strategy, but a shift in perspective? What if you could keep your church’s current vision, values, and model, and simply make a few micro-shifts that lead to macro-changes? No Silver Bullets explores five small shifts that have the potential to produce significant changes in your church. As you read, you will discover how to integrate these micro-shifts into the life of your church, starting with the way you disciple. You will finish by developing a plan to structure, communicate, and evaluate these changes to insure that they take root and pave the way for lasting change and kingdom impact.
hat is the one thing we need to create and grow a church? What is absolutely necessary? God’s Word working through God’s Spirit. Jonathan Leeman says God’s Word is the most powerful force in the universe, and one of his main goals with this book is to help readers see how uniquely essential it is to the life of God’s church. He addresses the loss of confidence in God’s Word among churches and encourages Christians to fight for faith in His Word. He devotes a significant portion of the book to sermons. But he maintains that while the ministry of the Word begins in the pulpit, it must continue through the life of the church. So Leeman gives practical suggestions to help pastors understand how to make the Word central in the preaching, reading, singing and praying of the church, but he also challenges readers to allow God’s Word to echo into every portion of their lives.
n 2011 Rich Perez and a group of friends launched Christ Crucified Fellowship in New York City to reach the Washington Heights and Inwood communities—where Perez grew up—with the gospel. In Mi Casa Uptown, pastor and storyteller Perez casts vision for what it might look like to pursue love—love expressed with eyes wide open—in the context of the real world. Because love is not primarily a feeling, an emotion, or a sentiment, Perez challenges readers through a combination of memoir and teaching to take a different path than the momentum that carries the culture in which we live. With the flavor of Washington Heights, New York, readers will be transported into Perez’s neighborhood on a journey to learn how to love again.
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These and other resources are available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com.
Recapturing the Wonder
Speak the Truth
The Power of Purpose
BY MIKE COSPER (IVP)
BY CARMEN LABERGE (REGNERY FAITH)
BY MICHAEL CATT (B&H BOOKS)
hen we’re young, it’s often easy to believe in the supernatural, the mysterious, the enchanted. But as we grow older, we learn to live as if miracles and magic have been drained from the world— even as Christians who believe in the resurrection. This practical absence of wonder in our everyday lives makes spiritual formation difficult. We have been shaped by our culture to doubt the divine and resist belief. In this book, Mike Cosper challenges the reader to embrace spiritual disciplines and habits as a way to reorient us to another way of seeing and experiencing the world. Cosper says he wrote Recapturing the Wonder for those who, like him, often feel a disconnect between the “Christian life” and the rest of life. Why does this gap exist and what can we do about it? Recapturing the Wonder is an attempt to sketch out a spiritual landscape for believers in the “secular age.”
he Christian viewpoint is desperately needed in the cultural conversations of our day, but Christians have been muted because they often are not equipped to engage those who actively seek to silence all viewpoints but their own. In Speak the Truth, Carmen LaBerge aims to get Christians off the sidelines and back in the conversation. Packed with biblical truth, practical wisdom, and winsome writing, LaBerge’s debut book is designed for personal or group study with reflection and discussion questions at the end of each chapter. When was the last time God was an active participant in one of your conversations? As ambassadors of Christ’s Kingdom, it is each Christian’s responsibility to speak the mind of Christ in the context of every cultural conversation, no matter how contentious. If Christians are silent, then God is effectively sidelined.
n an age when formerly great churches struggle to survive, baptismal pools are dry and altars empty, and the church is aging, seemingly indifferent to the next generation, we are tempted to believe we have no purpose. We are tempted to give up on living the meaningful, countercultural lives to which Christ has called us, and to give in to a world that encourages us to go with the flow. How will we respond? In his letter to the Philippians, Paul gives advice that is invaluable to the 21st-century church. The Philippians were assembled in the middle of a corrupt, sensual society, fighting against the norms of the world around them. In The Power of Purpose, Michael Catt walks through this letter to the Philippians, exploring how God is still calling His church, even today, to be his representatives.
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ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church
Books & Bible Studies
The Economics of Neighborly Love
Pray Like This
The Forgotten Jesus
BY TOM NELSON (IVP)
EDITED BY STEVE GAINES (LIFEWAY)
BY ROBBY GALLATY (LIFEWAY)
aised by a single mother, Tom Nelson knows what it means to struggle financially. With an undergraduate degree in business, he’s seen all the economic models have to offer. In the midst of it all, he has constantly wrestled with what seemed to be a disconnect between the Christian faith and the economic world in which we all live, work, and play. Too often, Christian teaching and ministry have focused only on the gospel’s spiritual significance and ignored its physical, real-world ramifications. In The Economics of Neighborly Love, Nelson sets out to address this problem. Marrying biblical study to economic theory and practical advice, he presents a vision for church ministry that works toward the flourishing of the local community, beginning with its poorest and most marginalized members. He encourages readers to grow in both compassion and capacity.
rayer is the most dynamic discipline in the life of a believer. Yet it may be the most misunderstood and the least taught. This six-session Bible study explores the text, theology, and application of the Lord’s Prayer. It includes video sessions with Christian leaders such as J. D. Greear, Ronnie Floyd, Ken Hemphill, Kie Bowman, and Robby Gallaty. As you take a fresh look at the way Jesus taught His followers to pray, you’ll develop a more vibrant prayer life that leads to worship, spiritual maturity, great dependence on God, and a knowledge of His will.
ost Christians would say they know Jesus, but do they really? Many have forgotten that Jesus was a Jewish man living in a Jewish land, observing Jewish customs, and investing His life in Jewish men and women. This Bible study takes believers on a journey back to biblical times to rediscover who Jesus really was by seeing Him in the cultural and religious context in which He ministered. Viewing Jesus as a first-century rabbi, you will discover new reasons to fall in love with Him all over again.
As of August 1, LifeWay Christian Stores’ ministers’ discount is now a church staff and family discount. Those on a church staff and their immediate family can receive 15 percent off their purchases at LifeWay Christian Stores. Exclusions do apply. Check with your local store for details.
50 • Facts & Trends
These and other resources are available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com.
This Is Our Time gives the case for hope in the church today By Aaron Earls
any Christians feel overwhelmed by modern American culture. Rapid changes to society’s morality and values have led some Christians to shrink back in fear or lash out in anger. Trevin Wax’s This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel charts a different way. While the book does expose the lies inherent to the most pervasive myths of our day, it also points out how those misunderstandings illustrate longings that can point people to the gospel. Facts & Trends spoke with Wax about the book and how vital the local church is to remaining a faithful Christian today. F&T: Why did you title this book This Is Our Time? Trevin: The title has something of a double meaning. First, the book is literally about this time. I’m giving snapshots of 21st-century life in North American and Western context. But I’m also focusing on this is our time. So many people today want to shrink back from the task of being faithful in this generation and would love to have lived in a different time. They may resent some of the challenges we face today, like the sexual revolution, the rise of secularism, and the decline of cultural Christianity. Many aspects of our time seem difficult and may cause some Christians to become nostalgic for another era we think would have been better for us. But when we do that, we’re actually questioning the wisdom of God in putting us on earth in this very moment. We’re questioning the right of the Author of this play to put us in this scene on the platform with the curtain up at this moment.
F&T: You challenge the idea of “be true to yourself” by asserting an individual needs the church to tell his or her life story. Why do you believe this is the case? Trevin: First, God did not create us to be loners, to be on our own. He created us in community from the beginning. And when He redeems us, He doesn’t just redeem us as individuals—He incorporates us into His family. The reason you need the church is the same reason you need to keep people close to you—so you can get an accurate assessment of who you are and what you’re becoming. Your own vision of yourself will naturally be skewed. Second, we need the church to tell us our life story because the world never challenges us. If you don’t have others around you to affirm a biblical perspective, the world will simply affirm whatever you think you want. And you’re left with the faulty map of being true to yourself. You need a church community to give a counterpoint to mapping out the trajectory of your life.
develop a huddle mentality, merely looking to “ride out the storm.” We are to be moving forward in mission, no matter the cultural weather. If you really look at all those generations before us, they all have their issues. There is no “golden age.” While church history is a treasure box where you can find things that will help you be faithful in your day, it is not a treasure map of exactly what to do. AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.
F&T: Of the twin myths you present—progress and decline—which do you think tempts the American evangelical church more today? Trevin: I think decline is more challenging to evangelicals. Every generation of Christians tends to think their generation is facing things and is on a path of moral decay that previous generations have never faced. When we think everything is going bad around us, we take an overly defensive posture and make bad decisions. We settle for maintenance in our churches rather than mission. We
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Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors, church staff, and denominational leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by...
Published on Sep 25, 2017
Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors, church staff, and denominational leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by...