Thom Rainer on shrinking sanctuaries.
A seismic shift is taking place in American church facilities, a shift that will become even more noticeable in the years to come. Church worship centers or sanctuaries will become smaller than they were the past 40 years. As church leaders decide to build, a large number of them will decide to build smaller than most of their predecessors have in previous years.
The trend for the past four decades has been to build increasingly larger worship centers. And while the large worship center will not disappear, you will notice more intentionality to build or buy smaller. Why? As I look at the church landscape in America, I see seven reasons, and only two of them are related to declining attendance. I will note those two first.
Decreasing frequency of attendance among church members. I noted this trend in a previous article. The informal definition of an “active” church member a decade ago was a member who attended worship services an average of three to four times a month. Now a member can be present only two times a month and be considered active. That trend is definitely adversely affecting attendance.
The growth of the “nones.” I have written or spoken about this issue on a number of occasions. Pew Research found that the number of Americans who say that have no religious affiliation increased from 15 percent of the population to 20 percent from 2007 to 2012. This shift is huge. One out of five persons will likely never be in your church services, and they no longer feel a cultural compulsion to do so.
The growth of the multi-site and multi-venue church. This movement is large and growing. Church leaders are strategically starting different sites and venues to bring the church to the population rather than expect the people to come to one worship center. Churches are more likely to have a few small worship centers or use one worship center on multiple days than to have one large worship center.