Coming Trends in Replanting and Revitalization

By Kyle Bueermann

Over the past several years, I’ve had the privilege to travel all over the country and spend time with pastors and associations of all sizes and in all kinds of contexts.

One of the things we must realize is that the Southern Baptist Convention is a fellowship of primarily smaller-membership churches. According to the 2022 Annual Church Profile, 45% of all SBC churches have fewer than 50 people in attendance on any given Sunday morning. Churches that average less than 250 in worship attendance account for 92% of all SBC churches.

Personally, I believe this is something we should celebrate! God is working mightily through tens of thousands of churches of less than 250 people. Lives are being changed, missionaries are being sent and the gospel is being proclaimed by these congregations!

However, I also see some coming trends in church revitalization for which we must be prepared. Let me make this caveat: These are not based on statistical research but rather on countless conversations the Replant Team has had over the past five years or so. These are simply some observations I’ve made. With that in mind, here is what I think is coming over the next five to 10 years.

1. A dramatic increase in the number of bivocational pastors

I’ve written previously about why I believe this trend is coming. Over the next decade, I believe we’ll see it continue to increase. I believe we’ll see the number of bivocational pastors increase across all cultural and ethnic contexts.

2. An increase in church fostering relationships

David Jackson, a member of the Replant Team, has written a fantastic Replant Fostering Guide. In short, church fostering is “help for a struggling church in a time-bound relationship, seeking to assist it in becoming healthy enough to stand on its own again” (Replant Fostering Guide, p. 58). In this model, a stronger, healthier church or association comes alongside a struggling church and provides leadership and/or resources to bring the struggling church back to a place of health and vitality. However, rather than becoming a campus or merger, the church in foster-care is eventually released as an autonomous congregation once again.

In smaller, rural areas we may see associations or a group of churches partner to foster a dying church. I believe we’ll see more of this model over the next several years.

3. Multiple churches meeting in the same facility

As cost to build and maintain church facilities continues to increase, I believe we’ll see more churches share facilities. At my home church, Highland Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, three churches meet on our campus on Sunday mornings: Highland Baptist Church, a bilingual Spanish-English congregation and a Congolese congregation. I don’t think it will be unusual to see in coming years two, three or more congregations sharing a single space, particularly in urban and suburban contexts.

4. A return to a circuit-rider-pastor model

Over a hundred years ago, a circuit-riding-preacher model was normal, particularly in rural areas. One church I served as a youth pastor was founded in the late 1800s by a pastor who planted three other congregations in neighboring communities. He would be in-person at each church one Sunday per month. Particularly in rural communities that are only a few miles apart, I believe we’ll see an increase in the number of pastors who serve multiple congregations.

I don’t believe we’ll see every one of these trends in every local community or even every local association. However, I do believe over the next decade we’ll see an increase in each of these. Some of these may seem strange or completely foreign to your ministry experience.

Rather than fear what the future brings, I believe we are called to embrace new ways of doing ministry to effectively reach our communities with the gospel.

Published March 1, 2024

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Kyle Bueermann

Kyle Bueermann is a Rural Specialist for the Replant Team. He served as a youth and music minister and as a senior pastor for nine years in New Mexico. He’s married to Michelle and they have two kids: Noah and Hailey. He’s a fan of the Texas Rangers and loves black coffee. Kyle and his family live in Lubbock, TX.