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10 New Church Models

10 New Church Models

Writing in the Christian Century “Tribal Church” blog, Carol Merritt offers up 10 new models for church in the 21st century:

Ten church models for a new generation

What kinds of communities are working well?

In the Christian Century online, by Carol Howard Merritt

I’m in a lot of conversations about why the denominational church isn’t working. In some ways, I think of our churches like a crop of corn that was planted at the same time. That field produced corn for 50 years—so much wonderful corn that many of us were fat and happy. In our abundance, we forgot to diversify and plant new fields. Now the corn is coming to the end of its season, all at the same time.

In my denomination (PCUSA), 90% of our members are white and most of them are over the age of 60. Many of our churches are rural and many of the buildings were constructed in the 1950s. After 60 years of dutiful service, the structures are too large, too inefficient, and require too much maintenance for smaller, aging members to keep up with. We’re ministering in a country where younger generations are much more diverse and many of them move into urban areas. Many congregations plan to cut staff (including the pastor) and hold on to the building until there’s only one person left standing. In fact, right now, half of our churches cannot afford pastors, so it’s not difficult to imagine that we might be closing them in the next 20 years.

1) Large churches plant new communities. Using money from a large congregation and denominational funding, a church is planted. That seems to be what happens the most in our denomination, and it seems to be our trustiest default. The problem? It’s usually conservative, evangelical big-steeples who are in the planting business. If a church-planter does not fit that theological mold, she’s out of luck.

2) Multi-cultural congregations. Often churches realize that they can’t connect with their changing neighborhoods, so they start or welcome another immigrant congregation within their existing church structure. This works best when it’s not seen as a landlord/renter relationship, but a mutual ministry.

3) Neo-monastic communities. You can see a list of communities that are connected with the Simple Way. Missio Dei of Minneapolis is a community that I often here about. I’ve also heard Wayne Meisel of the Bonner Foundation talk about wanting to plant 45 Houses of Hospitality. I don’t know too much about this… I’m trying to set up a meeting with him… so I’ll keep you posted.

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Thank you very much for putting up all these posts with thoughts about how to move forward in the current era. Things are changing now, without a doubt, from what they have ever been before – and its really helpful to have all kinds of information from all kinds of sources.

New ideas come from other ideas, as well as being born of the reality on the ground. It’s really good, and encouraging, to have a bit of a bigger picture in thinking about these things.

Lois Keen

I was just saying this morning, that small church buildings, for 150 people, with two services, low maintenance, would be ideal. Before a third service is needed, build another like building and seed it with people who are willing to go in advance.

I can speak to the multi-cultural congregation needing to not be a landlord-tenant relationship. We have chosen mutual ministry. Of course, we have no money, so while we are doing the right thing, I wonder how it will be funded.

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