7 Steps to Church Failure

It only takes a 30-second internet search to find blog after blog listing the top 10 things your church must do to be successful, transform lives, and generally be a wonderful, fantastic place.  The myriad of blogs on the subject are both helpful and informative.  As I read them, I find myself aspiring to be a better leader.

What seems to be missing are the steps to ensure your church’s failure.  You may be asking, “Why would anyone write that blog?” The success of your church is not only about aiming at the right targets, but also about avoiding the pitfalls that can damage your ministry.  Unless we are careful, we may be sending messages about the value of people that are not what we intend.  These unintended messages can do measurable harm to your ministry and keep people from engaging.

Here are seven unintended messages that can close your doors:

  1. If they signed up for the email list, they want to hear from you.  Contact them as often as you want. I’m sure Mr. Davis is interested in the women’s prayer breakfast.
  2. Don’t sweat it if the bathrooms are dirty or the coffee runs out. This isn’t a coffee shop, and no one really means it when they say ‘it was clean enough to eat off the floor’.
  3. So what if your small groups seem like a clique? There is nothing that makes people want to be on the inside of community like feeling excluded!
  4. We need tithes to run this place.  Ask first, get to know them later. And don’t forget to use guilt frequently.
  5. Relationships are messy and hard. Instead of investing in someone’s life, let’s just plug them in to a program — the more programs the better.
  6. If people want to get connected, they will keep trying. The connections cards we printed are expensive and that’s why we call back almost half of the people who fill it out.
  7. We are in need of some volunteers. Who cares if it’s not their gifting or interest?  We have real needs right now!

While no church leader begins with the attitudes above, without the right systems and processes in place, they can begin to creep into your ministry. It only takes one or two of these attitudes to do long-term damage to your ministry.

Here are a few resources that can help prevent these attitudes from creeping into your ministry:

  1. An effective communications strategy can help you connect, engage, and inform your people. Done poorly, it can simply become noise.  Here are a few communications strategies to help cut through the noise.
  2. The first impression a visitor gets is not a worship song or a sermon. It starts in the parking lot and stretches into the atrium as they find their way into services. Creating space that is welcoming and easy to navigate is important.  Here are a few tips on optimizing your space.
  3. Moving people from casual attenders to engaged members doesn’t happen by accident.  It requires a process and an invitation.  Here is how to move people from the observer to participant.
  4. While the financial needs of the church are very real, the act of tithing is a function of discipleship and obedience to Scripture.  Here are a few ways to cultivate generosity.
  5. Transformation happens in the context of community.  The tendency to limiting engagement to being involved in a program can actually interfere with creating healthy community.  Even though relationships are messy, they’re worth the effort.
  6. Your connection card may be the most important piece of paper in your church. Don’t miss out on the value to connect with visitors.
  7. One of the best ways to retain volunteers is to plug them into roles that are a good fit for their gifts. Leading volunteers doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here are seven ways to boost your volunteer engagement.

How are you preventing these attitudes from affecting your Church?

Read more from Steve here.

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Steve Caton

Steve Caton

Steve Caton is part of the Leadership Team at Church Community Builder. He leverages a unique background in technology, fundraising and church leadership to help local churches decentralize their processes and equip their people to be disciple makers. Steve is a contributing author on a number of websites, including the Vision Room, ChurchTech Today, Innovate for Jesus and the popular Church Community Builder Blog. He also co-wrote the eBook “Getting Disciple Making Right”. While technology is what Steve does on a daily basis, impacting and influencing the local church is what really matters to him……as well as enjoying deep Colorado powder with his wife and two sons!

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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