There is a wide swath of “tsunamis” which have hit or will hit ministries in the USA. Churches, schools, and other non-profits are in the “eye of the storm”…at least this is what I contend in 10 Tsunamis Impacting Ministries: How do we survive what’s coming?
It’s hard to believe that I’ve finally finished this book! I’ve been working on it for a long time, but recent local, national, and worldwide events have had a big role in its development. Last week I sent the final transcript to the publishers and now am just awaiting pagination and images for the spine and back of the book. Though I hope that you get a copy once it is released, in the interim I’m going to be reviewing some of the main themes and offering some additional thoughts.
My goal is to trigger discussion in our churches, schools, and other Christian non-profits regarding the future of their ministries, particularly in reference to their financial sustainability. Many of these ideas will be new and that alone will keep many ministries from making a change. My challenge for you is that you would prayerfully consider these ideas and make decisions together with your board, elders, team of leaders, or congregation about what the future is going to be like…before it is too late.
While some ministries will survive the imminent storm, it is my opinion that the vast majority will be detrimentally impacted and the waves will forever change the evangelical movement in the United States. There is still an evacuation route, and solutions are discussed in detail in the fourth section of this book. But in order to create an appropriate game plan, I’d like to start by introducing you to the tsunamis themselves (though I bet at least some of them will seem very familiar to you).
The first tsunami we’ll discuss is The Tsunami of Generational Transition. In 2012 the baby boomers represented close to 70% of all of the income in the United States and supported churches to the tune of 90% or more in their giving. In 2018, from a pure demographic perspective, this group will be mid way through its retirement and will command no more than 20% of the total income in the United States. Meanwhile, the income of millennials will increase to well over 50%. Some 60 trillion dollars will be transferred from one generation to another in the next 30 years. As it falls into the hands of the millennial generation, it will be redirected in accordance with their values. How are you preparing for this?
The Tsunami of the Millennial Generation is next. The millennial generation (the analysis within this book assumes this to be those born from 1972 – 1998) is poised to assume leadership roles in society, business, and government. These predominantly “right-brain” thinkers will bring with them their ideas, values, and perspectives and will redefine commerce, organizations, and politics for the first half of this century. This is the same group that is leaving the church in record numbers – some estimates show as few as 15% remain with 3 – 5% attending on any one Sunday. This group represents nearly 1 in 3 persons in the United States, how are you sharing the Gospel with them?
Some of the greatest losses in the last decade have come in the area of private education. The Tsunami of Decline in Christian Education discusses this and what is to come. Tuition dependence, millennial parents not agreeing with Christian education, and reduced family income have resulted in catastrophic drops in enrollment and double-digit losses causing private school closures. Many of the value based educational alternatives once available in communities are being lost at every level (elementary, secondary, and baccalaureate). What are you children and grandchildren learning and how? What is your role in this?
The Tsunami of Chronic Anxiety is the newest addition to our list of tsunamis and possibly the most widespread. However, it is also incredibly dangerous. Anxiety is paralyzing each of our ministries, today perhaps more than ever. Whether we are stuck in trying to figure out how to react to the recent Supreme Court ruling on homosexual marriage or simply stuck in old ways of being, ministries today are hesitant, fearful, and more focused on their “what has been” rather than “what could be.” I believe we need to get out of our own heads, so that we can remember our calling to serve others and the One who calls us. Ministries today are stuck playing defense – how can you get back to the basics of your offensive plan?
Social needs have spawned a significant increase in the number of registered non-profits and increased competitiveness of the charitable dollar. This phenomenon combined with the overall reduction in per capita giving spells danger for organizations dependent on contributions to maintain operational viability. This brings us to The Tsunami of Non-Profit Competition. Churches have gone from 80% of all 501(c)3 organizations to less than 6% in less than 30 years! How are you lining up in comparison? Are you proving yourself to be a worthy cause or are you considered irrelevant by your community? What would they notice if you weren’t there?
The Tsunami of Economy and Tax Reform is another big one. After a long period of minimal inflation, an unusually long recession, and even slower recovery, inflation will eventually be essential to build vibrancy into a stagnant economy. Increased costs will add an increased financial burden to individuals and organizations who are seeking to add stability and predictability to cash flow. Meanwhile, the massive debt incurred by governments creates inevitable increases in federal, state, and local taxes further reducing the expendable income generally devoted for giving, investment, and purchasing. Expect a long recovery from the worst financial crisis in 70 years. Ministries may have less money, donors will be less willing or able to give, tax breaks and 501(c)3’s will slowly but steadily disappear, and everything may cost significantly more. How are you getting ready for this? How are you thinking ahead?
This book is written just for you…or was it? The Tsunami of Narcissism. Wow that was uncomfortable. The underlying narcissistic culture has made it practically impossible for many individuals and organizations to see beyond their own needs in order to join together in community to resolve some of society’s greatest challenges and the ongoing attack on Christianity. This book was written for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My hope is that it helps ministries get out of God’s way so that God can carry out His purposes in the world. Are you in the way or doing things God’s way?
The Tsunami of Segregation should be no surprise. Long ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is “the most segregated hour in America.” While there are obviously still many racial divides in our nation, there is now a growing division between those of different ages. With less involvement of the younger generation in ministries across the country, our churches are finding new ways to experience and tolerate segregation. This is not the ingenuity one hopes for in a church. Continuing this direction will certainly lead to less involvement of the younger generation in these ministries. What does your ministry look like? Is it catering to different groups at different times and thus keeping them separate? If you try to change this and some people throw a fit, you might want to recommend the chapter on narcissism. How are you brining different people together?
The “nones” (people who have no religious affiliation) are the largest growth sector in our society today (studies show that one in five Americans reports no religious affiliation). The world is clearly impacting these people far more than our ministries. This is where The Tsunami of Following the World comes in. If we continue to lose more of our young people, the impact on the world will be far more reaching than the potential Kingdom impact on their lives. Are you offering them a faithful alternative to the world that they can see and hear?
The Tsunami of A Declining America is our last tsunami…for now. The underlying attitude emerging out of the worldwide economic crisis is uncertainty. The fear that there is more bad news to come has created apprehension that has provoked a new financial conservatism that will result in businesses being slow to invest and donors being reluctant to give. How do you talk about money in your ministry? Are you offering solid opportunities for good investments? Are you just expecting people to give or are you begging on your knees, pointing to your historical lack of success and hoping people will feel bad enough to give?
The first wave of tsunamis has hit the United States. It’s your move. What is God calling you to do? Check back next week (or subscribe) to learn more about one of these tsunamis.