Written by Bill Whitt
December 26, 2023

The Biggest “Fresh Ideas” From 2023

Ten "Fresh Ideas" articles from this year that we believe represent major themes which will continue to be important in 2024 and beyond.

As 2023 comes to a close, it is helpful to look back and thank the Lord for all he has done. I’m truly grateful for the privilege of connecting with you each week in this newsletter and for the ways God has used this ministry to equip us all for the ministry of church renewal.

  • Below are ten “Fresh Ideas” articles from this year we think are particularly worth highlighting and revisiting. We believe they represent major themes from the year that will continue to be important in 2024 and beyond.
Ten “Fresh Ideas” From 2023 Worth Our Attention

Idea 1: How to Deal With The Crisis of Trust

  • An emerging trend is a rapid decline in people’s trust in the Church and its leaders. A new survey shows only 32 percent of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the Church and religious institutions.
  • At the 2023 Global Leadership Summit, Craig Groeschel devoted his opening talk to the topic of trust. Our article presents five key takeaways from his message, along with practical applications for our work in church renewal.

Idea 2: Church Renewal During the “Great Dechurching” of America

  • We are living through a massive shift in religion some call the “Great Dechurching.” Almost 40 million American adults stopped attending church over the last 25 years, meaning that more than 1 in 7 adults who used to attend church no longer do so.
  • Our article highlights the reasons why so many people have given up on church and the implications for our work in church renewal.

Idea 3: Why Believing Before Belonging is Almost Impossible

  • People’s minds are notoriously hard to change. Science offers a reason why: When faced with the choice between believing and belonging, the brain’s decision is easy. There’s nothing worse than losing your tribe.
  • In our article, we explain why it is so important to help people experience belonging before expecting them to believe or behave differently.

Ideal 4: Third Rail Conversations in Renewal Congregations

  • Every church has any number of “third rail” issues that can be deadly if handled incorrectly. These may include women’s leadership, climate change, same sex attraction, the plight of migrants, guns, unwanted pregnancies, Christian nationalism, conspiracy theories, remarriage, singles and sex, pornography, etc.
  • Our article helps churches navigate these tricky issues by offering practical advice.

Idea 5: Overcoming Resistance to Change During Church Renewal

  • Growth requires change, but human nature often opposes it by default. The peculiarities of church politics don’t make it any easier.
  • No matter what your church’s situation, it is possible to overcome resistance and to work toward positive change. Our article gives best practices to help you build trust and lead change.

Idea 6: Understanding the Cycle of Change in Church Renewal

  • In an ideal world, when we graph attendance, giving, and engagement, it would create a straight line that goes up and to the right. However, we rarely see results like that in the real world. More often, we see predictable seasons of peaks and valleys as we navigate change — a “J-Curve.”
  • Our article details the way church leaders can become skilled at navigating this predictable path and help others through those stages as well.

Idea 7: Growing Leaders Like the Future of the Church Depends On It

  • About a quarter of pastors are planning to retire before 2030, and 75 percent of pastors say it is becoming harder to find mature young Christians who want to become pastors.
  • These two statistics combine to tell us that we are on the verge of a major crisis in pastoral leadership. Our article highlights the need for each of us to start developing future leaders with a sense of urgency and gives simple ideas that can work in any church.

Idea 8: Gospel-Centered Preaching for Renewal

  • Mission drift is a silent killer. Long before most churches closed their doors, they had been subtly, slowly, and almost imperceptibly drifting away from their purpose.
  • Our article says that one keyway to keep your church centered on the gospel is to keep your sermons centered on the gospel.

Idea 9: Where Did All The Volunteers Go?

  • Healthy churches are filled with excited, thriving teams of volunteer leaders. Before the pandemic, 45 to 50 percent of adults and students served at least monthly. This year, that number is only 34 percent.
  • In this article, we offer a path forward to reverse this trend, including a focus on discipleship. When we move away from using people as free labor and toward developing them as disciples who fulfill their calling, we’re on the right track!

Idea 10: How To Be Personal Without Taking Things Personally

  • Leaders often find themselves in the crosshairs of criticism. The challenge all leaders face is staying personal without taking things personally.
  • When the darts of criticism start to feel like personal attacks, leaders face a fork in the road. One path leads toward empathy and pastoral ministry, while the other path leads to defensiveness and division. Our article gives leaders the tools they need to deal with criticism in a healthy way.

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