of the Church


Developing Focus

OCTOBER 22-24, 2014
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Be a Catalyst for Changing the Future of the Church in Your Community


Super Early Price: $229.00 (ends August 1st) | Early Price: $279.00 (ends September 10th)
Regular Price: $329.00 (after September 10th)

Come a day ahead to enjoy a workshop based on the best selling book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore,
and hosted by authors Thom & Joani Schultz. Learn More

2013 Findings

5 Forces That Will Reform the Church

The American church is entering a time of unprecedented upheaval. In 20 years, what we call the church will look very different from today.

Thinkers at this year’s national Future of the Church summit, sponsored by Group Publishing, envisioned a new–and quite hopeful–picture for the church of tomorrow. This group of church leaders, authors, media writers, academics and students grappled with a flurry of present trends to frame their futuristic perspectives.

They reviewed the American population’s declining participation in church activities. Less than 20 percent of the population attends a church service in a typical week. Four out of five churches say they’re stuck or in decline. Practically every American denomination is losing members year after year. Younger generations are fleeing the church in record numbers.

After hearing from experts, practitioners, the churched and the unchurched, the old and the young, the summit participants were asked to choose likely scenarios for several church crossroads directions. Here’s where they landed.


An upward trend. Though things are likely to get worse before they get better, the church will grow again in America. It’s not likely to mimic the spiritual evaporation that Europe has seen. Rather, the trends may begin to look more like those found in China, where the church is flourishing organically despite the lack of a faith-friendly government.

Denominational dissipation. As the culture’s suspicion of institutions deepens, the cachet of a congregation’s affiliation to a denomination will continue to fade. The value–and cost–may become very difficult to justify. Denominations may be overshadowed by networks of like-minded congregations–not based on rules but on shared resources.

Values over personalities. Summit participants acknowledged that celebrity pastors–national and local–will continue to draw crowds on the strength of their personalities. But ultimately the churches of the future will be known more for their values than their human purveyors.

Outward focus. The majority of today’s churches direct almost all their attention, programs, personnel, facilities and budget toward the insiders, the members. But the thriving churches of tomorrow will balance their ministry with a deliberate focus toward those on the outside, many of whom will never become Sunday pew sitters.

Millennial reshape. After hearing data and personal accounts about the unique traits of the Millennial generation, summit participants concluded these young people (ages 18-29) are game-changers for the church. Unlike previous generations, Millennials will not succumb to the church’s longstanding traditions and ways of defining and doing church. They will not merely return to church-as-we-know-it once they start having children, as other generations have done. They will significantly reshape the church’s practices and attitudes according to their values.

What are some of these values? Gordon College president Michael Lindsay told participants that Millennials are uniquely driven to start new things. They’re drawn to authenticity, and they’re repulsed by anything that seems slick. “It’s about being vulnerable,” he said.

Gordon College student David Hicks said, “We don’t want adults who are trying to be edgy.” He told how he was turned off when his former church’s praise band used musical tactics to manipulate people into a false crescendo of worship. “I became cynical.” After leaving the church entirely, he now attends a more traditional church. “There are no ‘cool’ churches. I’m hungry for transcendence,” he said.

Barna Group vice president Roxy Wieman, herself a Millennial, also spoke about the hunger for transcendence–and community. But current church communities seem inauthentic, in part because Millennials have not had a hand in developing them.

Several speakers mentioned the Millennials’ innate desire to be involved, to participate. They’re not interested in being passive consumers or spectators at church. Leadership Journal managing editor Drew Dyck said Millennials “want to be heard from day one.”

Social entrepreneur Justin Mayo said Millennials want to reach out to and accept those the church often rejects. “You’re never going to reach someone you choose to isolate,” he said. “How do we create dialogue? Not by criticizing them at the front door. Do we even have the kind of relationship that allows us to say a hard thing to someone?”

David Hicks said, “We’re willing to go where they (people outside the church) are. We’re not asking them to come to our thing and clean themselves up first. We’re willing to enter their world and be ourselves.”

A glimpse into the future of the church.


A “think-outside-the-box” opportunity to discuss, learn, and help shape what the future of the church may look like. Participate with thought-leaders including pastors, cultural influencers, researchers, and denominational executives as we brainstorm and grapple with present trends to frame futuristic solutions. This year’s panel of speakers features Leonard Sweet, best-selling author and scholar of American culture, and Josh Packard, professor at the University of Northern Colorado and researcher on the de-churched.

Course Benefits

Participants will gain insights into trends that shape tomorrow’s church. Be part of an organic process that will help you shape the future of your ministry.

You’ll learn:

  • Current trends in faith and religion in America
  • Why church attendance is declining and what can be done to reverse the trend
  • Different models for being the church
  • New approaches to ministry to reach the people not attending your church

View Course Dates

Who Should Attend

  • Pastors
  • Denominational leaders
  • Paid and unpaid ministry leaders
  • Church staff teams
  • Seminary staff
  • Media influencers

Pricing and Details

Early Bird Pricing:

$229 for a single registration, or $206 each for groups of 3 or more. The early bird deadline for the October event is August 1, 2014.

Receive 10% off the current registration rate when three or more people from your organization attend Future of the Church Summit 2014! To take advantage of the team discount, please register all participants coming from the same organization under the same account.

This discount will be automatically applied when you register three or more at a time. If you already registered some members of your team and are adding one or two people, please give us a call—we'll give you instructions to redeem the 10% discount. We can be reached at 1-800-635-0404 x4530.

Speaker Bios

Tom SchultzThom Schultz
is the president and founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. He’s the author of many books including Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore and The 1 Thing, and he’s the director of the documentary film When God Left the Building. Thom is the founder of Group Cares, a non-profit organization that provides mission trips for thousands of volunteers each year. Thom’s blog, HolySoup.com, challenges the status quo.

Joani SchultzJoani Schultz
is Group’s Chief Creative Officer. She oversees the creation of Group’s resources, training, and services for children’s ministry, youth ministry, adult ministry, and church leadership. She’s the author of numerous books including Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, and The 1 Thing. She leads the teams that create Group’s Bible curriculum, vacation Bible school programs, books, magazines, conferences, music, and trainings.

JoshpackardJosh Packard
is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of The Emerging Church: Religion at the Margins and has authored numerous scholarly articles and presentations in the field of sociology of religion. His current research, entitled The Dechurching of America: How the Church Drives People Away from Religion but Not from God, empirically examines the dechurched phenomenon in the United States with original sourced data.

LeonardsweetLeonard Sweet
is a scholar of American culture; a semiotician who "sees things the rest of us do not see, and dreams possibilities that are beyond most of our imagining;" and a preacher and best-selling author who communicates the gospel with a signature bridging of the worlds of faith, academe, and popular culture. In 2006 and 2007, Len was voted by his peers “One of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America” by ChurchReport Magazine, and in 2010, he was selected by the top non-English Christian website as one of the “Top 10 Influential Christians of 2010.” His popular podcast, “Napkin Scribbles,” is widely quoted, and his weekly sermon contributions to sermons.com have made that site the top preaching resource for pastors in North America. For nine years, he and his wife wrote the entire content for the weekly preaching resource Homiletics. In 2005 Len introduced the first open-source preaching resource on the Web, wikiletics.com. Len’s micro blogs on twitter and facebook rank as two of the most influential social media sites in the world. You can find some of Len’s talks on his YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/lenssweetspots. Len is the Founder and President of SpiritVenture Ministries (SVM). Author of more than 200 hundred articles, 1300+ published sermons, and more than fifty books, Leonard Sweet’s publications include the best sellers Soul Tsunami, Aqua Church, Jesus Manifesto (with Frank Viola), and Jesus: A Theography (with Frank Viola), as well as many other volumes that are revolutionizing the church’s mission.

DrewDyckDrew Dyck
is the managing editor of Leadership Journal and the author of Yawning at Tigers and Generation Ex-Christian. His work has appeared in USA Today, The Huffington Post, and CNN.com.



Wednesday, October 22

8:30-11:30 am Why Nobody Wants to go to Church Anymore Workshop
12:30-1:30 pm Check-in
1:30-3:30 pm Session
3:30-4:00 pm Break
4:00-6:00 pm Session: When God Left the Building
6:30–8:00 pm Reception at Thom & Joani’s home
Light Appetizers, Desserts and Beverages

Thursday, October 23

8:30–10:00 am Session
10:00–10:15 am Break
10:15–11:45 am Session
12:00–1:30 pm *Lunch Options - Lifetree Café or Group Snoop
1:30—3:00 pm Session
3:00–3:30 pm Break
3:30–5:00 pm Session
5:15 pm *Dinner at Group
7:00 pm Evening Option - Lifetree Café

Friday, October 24

8:30–10:00 am Session
10:00–10:30 am Break
10:30–11:45 am Session
11:45 - 12 pm Closing
*Meal provided as a part of your registration fee


Doug Pollock - Author/Speaker/Reflective Practitioner

It's been said that our future reality is often dictated by our present thinking. If so, I can't think of a more hopeful place to talk and think about a preferred picture of the church’s future than Group's Future of the Church Summit. It's a "shot of espresso" guaranteed to stimulate wholesome thinking about the bride of Christ.
Doug Pollock

Justin Mayo - Founder and President, Redeye Ministries

Too often people have viewed "the church," "synagogue," and "religion" in a very narrow and negative mindset.
This gathering of individuals looks beyond traditional stereotypes and into the reality of what is and the
possibilities of what could be.
Justin Mayo

Lynda Fickling - Director of Servant Ministry/Spiritual Director
St. Luke United Methodist Church, Highlands Ranch, CO

To be included with the level of leadership that was in the room was truly a blessing. Thom and Joani opened the space so that we felt comfortable in sharing our true thoughts and feelings regarding the future of the church. We didn't all agree. We didn't all see the church in the same way, BUT we were able to come to agree on many common areas that we could address and support together. I look forward to continued active listening and returning back to my ministry even more excited than I am right now about the future of the church.
Lynda Fickling

Barbara Huisman - Cana Ministries

Being at the Summit last year affirmed that church is conversation that leads to action—centered on the good news of life lived out in the world. I was able to return refreshed and challenged to continue to journey, knowing that we are all on the road less traveled! Can't wait to see what happens this year!
Barbara Huisman
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