From Cringe To Cool: 11 Old-School Church Trends That Deserve A Second Look

When competence is abundant, but character is rare, the old-school character traits of integrity, kindness, hospitality, and simplicity become cool again.

In my previous article, From Cool To Cringe: 10 Church Trends That Haven’t Aged Well, I wrote about some used-to-be-cool ideas that may be past their expiration date (and a few that never were cool to begin with).

Now, let’s flip the script and take a much more hopeful look at ideas that go in the opposite direction. These behaviors and attitudes may have been considered naïve and passé by those chasing the latest trends, but they’re actually the essence of what we should do and who we should be. As a bonus, they’re also more likely to connect to new generations of unchurched people than the slick ideas that have a short shelf life.

1. Integrity

Nothing is more important than our integrity. Never has been, never will be.

And now, with an erosion of trust in people and institutions at an all-time high, it’s more important to work on our character than our competence.

We need to be people of integrity from end to end.

  • From minor issues to major topics
  • From how we appear in public to who we are in private
  • From how we treat our friends to how we treat our opponents
  • From what we say to what we do

We need to be people of breathtaking honesty in everything. Was integrity ever “cringe”? No, of course not. But there have been seasons when it was taken for granted. Not anymore.

2. Kindness

Being kind is sometimes seen as weakness, even by some of my fellow Christians. But the Bible always sees it as the strength it is.

Kindness is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22), it’s a character trait Christians are told to clothe ourselves with (Colossians 3:12), and it leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4).

No matter how strongly we believe in something, it’s essential to express it kindly, patiently and consistently.

Yes, folks, kindness is cool again.

3. Hospitality

In an online world, face-to-face community and hospitality are exponentially increasing in value.

  • Getting to know the neighbors is on an upswing
  • Making a great first impression at your church is essential
  • Making an even better second impression is gold standard
  • Continuing it with genuine hospitality and friendship is life-changing

4. Unity

A loving church, united around a common purpose is extraordinarily compelling.

Jesus said it best (as he always did) when he told us “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

5. Conversation

People don’t want to be talked to. They want to be heard. And they want to listen.

Certainly, there’s a central place for preaching. The Bible is clear about that. But it can’t be our only focus. Jesus engaged in regular conversations, asking a lot of open-ended questions and responding to them. So should we.

I’m old enough to remember how I cringed when the aging hipster youth pastors encouraged us to sit in a circle on the floor with strangers and “be transparent”. That got a big, cringey “no” from me then and it still does today. But simple table conversation that leads to greater trust? Yes, please.

6. Consistency

Some time ago I was in a church that’s about to celebrate their 200th anniversary. But instead of feeling cringe-inducingly nostalgic, it felt active, vibrant and deeply historic.

That kind of consistency is very appealing now. I’m not a fan of doing things the old way simply because we’re used to it, but there is something very compelling about the feeling of moving forward on a stable foundation.

This is not the time to abandon your church’s connection to tradition, history and liturgy. Just be sure to help the old-timers connect it to what’s happening now, and explain what it all means to the newcomers. As we see in the next point . . .

7. Clarity

If you bring people up to speed with why you do what you do, you might be surprised how well they’ll receive it and appreciate it.

Keep your traditions and liturgy. Be who you are and pay respect to who you have been. Just let them know why. And build on it to an even better future.

8. Serving

It seems like there was a generation or so in which selfishness was cool and serving others was cringey. There will always be selfish people and systems among us, of course, but this generation is proving to be one of the most caring, kind, and generous groups of people we’ve seen in a very long time.

Give them ways to serve. Ask them to help. Find people and causes they can care about. The era of church-as-entertainment is drawing to a close. The era of church-as-worship-and-serving is upon us.

9. Commitment

First to Jesus, then to others. You know, like the Great Commandment tells us.

Could it be that the Great Commandment is cool again?

Of course, we should be committed to the Great Commandment whether it’s cool or not, but it is interesting to note that divesting ourselves of the baggage and stripping things back to the essentials is far more likely to inspire commitment than it has been for a long time.

10. Simplicity

Most churches are trying to do too many things, and as a consequence we seldom do any of it well. Paring everything down to the basics is no longer just about a pursuit of excellence, it’s a matter of survival.

The churches that keep it simple will stay strong. Those that stay complicated will continue to struggle and many of them will be gone soon.

Complicated is out. From decluttering our houses, to clear assignments at work, to a slower-paced schedule at home, simplicity is very, very “in” right now. And it has one added benefit. It works.

11. Discipleship

We’re not called to make converts, we’re called to make disciples.

Many churches have side-stepped this for generations by essentially paying professional ministers to do the ministry that we’re all supposed to do. That era is thankfully drawing to a close.

This generation wants to get their hands dirty. They want to learn, serve, and be discipled by people of integrity in the context of a worshiping, serving, kind, hospitable, united church.

Any Other Ideas?

So, those are 11 of my thoughts. Do you have anything you think should be on the list? Let me know in the comments or on social media. And don’t forget to check out my previous article, From Cool To Cringe: 10 Church Trends That Haven’t Aged Well, for the flip-side of this coin.

(Photo by Joel Mott | Unsplash)

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