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Savvy Leaders Will Keep an Eye on These Trends That Could Radically Affect How Churches Engage Congregations and the Culture

Every year, the in-the-knowers make predictions about changes we’ll see in the coming months across a myriad of industries, interests and niche topics.

Predictions are funny things. They can make you look brilliant or ridiculous, but there’s not much of a middle ground.

I bring them up in this article because I think the value of reviewing predictions is in turning our eyes forward and considering what change could reach us in the coming year. Leaders have to be forward-thinking.

Now, probably more than ever, technology and culture replace themselves with the next iteration faster than most of us can keep up. So, what changes should we anticipate? Here are five predictions for 2019 that I think church leaders should be thinking about:

2019 Trends

1. People Increasingly Expect Personalized Experiences

“Everyone, yours truly included, has been predicting nearly every year that the opposite of big data, little and very significant data carved out of it that pertains to a certain user, in particular, will transform the way every digital consumer does their finances and commerce. This would de facto mean, that companies that collect and hold data, from banks to Facebook, will put it to good use with -hopefully- the well being of the consumer in mind and use it to hyper-personalize their experience.”  via Forbes

Personalized  communication is the new norm. Whether you get creeped out by that or not, we’re now used to seeing ads for things we like and search results from the news outlets we already read. We don’t like when our email inboxes get filled up with things we weren’t looking for—we call it spam.

If we’re going to get more effective at communicating our message, we need to accept this fact, and lean into it. We need to start thinking about how to personalize the way we communicate to the different segments of the audience we’re trying to engage.

If you want more, I touched on this in a podcast interview with Tony Morgan and Amy Anderson for The Unstuck Church Podcast, Why Church Communications Is Stuck in 2004 – Episode 61.

2. “Group Chat” Apps Get More Love

“Messaging groups with a handful of people will be the ideal communication whether that’s through telegram, Instagram or Snapchat.” via The Verge

Did you start getting invited to “Groups” on Facebook again over the course of this last year? If you weren’t on the social network in the early days, you won’t remember the rise and fall of the Groups feature. I’m now actively involved in about five, after having not been involved in any since 2012. In early 2018, Facebook started prioritizing posts by friends, family and Groups in your News Feed.

Facebook is just one example, but using Groups there is a good way to maximize the opportunity to engage with people while “brand pages” get less and less love from Facebook without an ad budget. Also consider what role other group messaging apps could play in your ministry.

3. YouTube Grows Up as a Long-Form Content Destination

“Former Facebooker Ben Cunningham predicts more serialized longform content on YouTube. Could we see ‘Serial,’ but for video? What about ‘S-Town,’ or ‘Slow Burn,’ or ‘Caliphate’?” via The Verge

Churches have so much potential to put out creative content that helps spread the message of the Gospel and helps people take their next steps in discipleship. Like podcasts, YouTube is an excellent medium for thinking outside the box, telling a longer story, and engaging people on-demand.

Take replaying your Sunday morning message out of the equation for a moment:

What could you do with a podcast and/or YouTube channel to accomplish your church’s vision?

What could you do with a podcast and/or YouTube channel to accomplish your church’s vision? Click To Tweet

4. How & Where Teams Work Keeps Evolving

“The rise of A.I. and automation software means humans are moving away from repetitive tasks and are increasingly focused on tasks only humans can do: think creatively and interact with other humans. For workspaces, this means people spend less time sitting at their desks and more time in a diversity of settings…. Employees will increasingly expect the same level of choice and diversity from their workspace.” via Inc.

I’d love to see more church staff teams working outside the office. Not just de-briefing the Sunday service in the corner of Starbucks on Monday morning—really, intentionally working in the community.

I’d love to see more church staff teams working outside the office. Not just de-briefing the Sunday service in the corner of Starbucks on Monday morning—really, intentionally working in the community. Click To Tweet

What if your staff worked at a co-working space from part of the time? Could you get better acquainted with the people in your mission field?

5. People Recognize Their Need for Collective Experiences

“The second decade of the millennium has seen the growing success of mobile-centric experiences across social, music, video, games and more. The continued success of live music alongside the rise of esports, pop-up events and meetups hints at the emotional vacuum that digital experiences can create. Expect 2019 to see the rise of both offline and digital events (e.g. live streaming) that explicitly look to connect people in shared experiences, and to give them the validation of the collective experience—the knowledge that what they experienced truly was something special but equally fleeting.” via MidiaResearch

This should be an encouraging prediction for churches! A rise in both offline and digital events is expected. There are special things that happen only when we gather. People inside and outside the church crave emotional connection to others.

Knowing that, how might the ways we gather need to change? Where’s the opportunity to help increasingly isolated people find genuine relationships and connection to something bigger than their individual experiences?

Whether these predictions come to fruition in 2019 or not, I think each of them gives us something to chew on when it comes to our strategies for ministry.

Moving on from predictions… here at The Unstuck Group we also love to understand trends as they actually are today. That’s why we’re currently taking a survey on the state of engagement in our churches. Have you participated yet?

If not, take 5-10 minutes today to answers these questions. Participants will get free access to a white paper analyzing the results in March 2019.

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