4 Key Attitudes of Leaders Whose Churches Will Thrive in the Future


The topic of COVID-19 or the pandemic often brings feelings of gloom and despair. Indeed, the year 2020 will be, in many ways, a year we will choose to forget. It has been difficult for many people and many organizations.

But during this trying season, I have been devouring news and studies of churches and other organizations that are poised to move positively in the future. These organizations are not succumbing to the inevitability of life getting worse and organizational health deteriorating. They do not have their metaphorical heads in the sand. To the contrary, they are looking up and around to see the new paths and the new possibilities in this new reality.

When I recently synthesized many of the articles and podcasts addressing these challenges positively, I saw a pattern. There were four attitudes among the leaders common to most all of them. I believe these four attitudes are emblematic of successful organizations of the near future:

"God is not done with us yet." To be clear, the leaders of secular organizations were unlikely to articulate this attitude in the same way church leaders were. But all of the healthy organizations had attitudes of hope and possibility. Defeatism was a foreign concept to all of them.

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"We are not waiting for things to return to normal." Any organization waiting for a pre-COVID normal is already in trouble. Any churches expecting patterns of attendance, giving and ministry to be similar to 2019 are really up against a wall. There will not even be a new normal, because normal cannot be defined. These leaders are looking for indicators of a new reality and they are making pivots to these new realities.

"We will be more outwardly focused than ever." Too many churches and other organizations got comfortable prior to 2020. The leaders of future-focused organizations are determined more than ever to reach beyond themselves. The churches and the organizations of the future cannot and must not be navel gazers.

"Major change is inevitable; we will embrace it." The healthy church or organization of the future cannot simply move from change-averse to change-receptive. It must proactively seek and move toward radical change. It cannot wait for change to come to the organization. These organizations must take faith-based risks like many have never known before. If the leaders of these organizations succumb to the whiners who lament, "We've never done it that way before," the organization is doomed. Healthy organizations of the future will embrace change with wisdom and courage.

In many ways, we are indeed living in difficult and heartbreaking times. We cannot deny the reality of sickness, death, depression and economic collapse COVID-19 has brought to our world. But, in other ways, this season is a time of incredible opportunity. Many organizations are paralyzed with fear and think the best strategy is hoping life resumes its normalcy.

That's not going to happen.

Such is the reason the leaders of healthy churches and organizations of the future will take these four attitudes and change the world.

I can't wait to see what it will look like.

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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