The New Church Market: Not Your Grandma’s Church

featured-how-trendsDo you think of the typical church buying audio, video and lighting (AVL) technology as the old church down the street with a few cars parked in front of it on any given Sunday? Or has your firm yet experienced the technology shift that’s happening in the House of Worship market in churches that are renting space in movie theaters, school auditoriums or building new, flexible multi-use spaces to facilitate multi-campus with video?

There’s a gulf between the old, dying church market you may think you know and the growing, dynamic house of worship market that has doubled-down on technology. Statistics show that, overall, church attendance is declining and many older churches are being shuttered; but this belies that burgeoning churches that have been popping up in Everytown, USA. This growth market is the one that is perhaps spending more on technology in the 21st century than all of the churches combined in the 20th century, which is directly related to the current growth trends.

A typical portable church setup in a school gymnasium

Interestingly, more than half of all weekly attendees in the United States go to churches that are larger than 500 weekly worshippers in size. The vast majority of these congregations are growing quite rapidly compared to smaller churches at a median five-year growth rate of 17 percent. According to church researcher Dr. Scott Thumma, there are roughly 30,000 Protestant churches with weekly worship attendances (adults plus kids) of 500-1,799, which account for over 40 percent of all worship attendees. That is in addition to another 3,000 churches (and growing at a double-digit rate) which average over 2,000 in weekly attendance.

The multi-site church, which leverages some level of video playback for scaling reach to multiple campuses and venues is also a force to be reckoned with inside the already growing group of churches. According to research studying the 8,000 multi-site churches in America, 57 percent of them will launch an additional campus in the next 12 months and spend $580,549,500 on technology for those new multi-site venues. (Research from Leadership Network, Generis, Outreach Magazine, Barna Research and Anthony Coppedge) From within this segment, 52 percent of multi-site campuses are renting space and are in a portable set up/tear down venues.

All of this points to the high growth market segment within the House of Worship market as ideal venues for your firms audio, video, and lighting technology. This is the growth era of the connected church, where shared media content and unified AVL systems are required for the demanding performance requirements of a highly coordinated effort amongst professional staff and an army of volunteers. With so many young pastors today, the church market is starkly different than it was even 10 years ago, much less 20 years ago, a time when many AVL manufacturers and systems integrators started to pursue the House of Worship market.

It is an ignorant view to think of the church market from only the lens of overall church decline in attendance here in the United States. From a vendor’s perspective, the opportunity — and sales conversion rate — is greater now than it has ever been. Focus on the church segment that’s growing and adopting technologies including 4K video, automated stage/architectural lighting, and touring quality sound; moreover, those that are pursuing multi-site need this same technology duplicated at each and every venue. As I’ve reported before, there are more than half a billion dollars annually spent towards AVL just the churches doing multi-site.

The ‘typical’ growing church today does not look like your grandma’s church. The variety of styles and venues are key indicators of a young and enthusiastic generation of leaders breaking the mold of how churches used to build and operate to a radically different paradigm that enmeshes technology as a core component in their methodology. We’re long past the days of determining if AVL was going to be in the budget; it’s now a recurring spend that is a known variable for churches wanting to engage a post-modern culture.

As a manufacturer or systems integrator, there are three main reasons for you to understand and capitalize upon when churches either upgrade or add new equipment: one, when entering a new building program; two, when renovating an existing building; three, when expanding into new technology areas such as multi-site or online services. With these three key motivations identified, how can your firm expand your reach and sales into this growing market segment?

The H.O.W. market has changed. Are you taking advantage of these trends?