Your Church is Struggling, But Do You Recognize It?

Often in church leadership we get so busy working “in the church” that it becomes harder to work “on the church”. We’re focused on making weekends happen and caring for people that we lose perspective on whether we’re seeing a difference in our community.

The reality is as church leaders we can be consumed with lots of activity but a lack of focus on pushing us forward.

Sometimes it’s hard to see if we’re making any difference and slipping into irrelevance. Here are a few early warning signs that your church might be struggling to fulfill it’s full redemptive potential.

  • More Memories than Vision // A sure sign that your ministry is slipping into atrophy is when you pine for the “good ole days” or you look back fondly on what happened did years ago. If what has happened seems better than what is going to happen … you may be slipping into irrelevance. Is the view in your rear view mirror bigger than the one in the front window?
  • No Sacrificial Giving to Next Generation // No one is going to pass on the message of Jesus to the next generation than you and your leadership. If you can’t identify the areas where you are preferring the next generation over your generation than you might be creeping towards your demise. Does your senior leadership team actively support and resource ministries with younger generations?
  • Never Say No // A sure sign that a church has lost its way is that it’s lost it’s ability to discern what activities push it towards it’s mission and which don’t. The end result is a church with a lot of activity but no progress. Busyness does not equal effectiveness. Churches with clear vision are defined more by what they avoid doing than what they choose to do. When was the last time your leadership decided against a good idea to pursue the great one?
  • Form Over Function // Organizations that have lost their grip on making a difference become more concerned with the “how” of ministry rather than “why”. Policies, procedures and past practice drive the activity of the church rather than the mission you are called to. This is a delicate balance because systems help churches grow … but if they become the obsession of leaders they will destroy your organization. Are you more concerned with the wineskin than the wine?
  • Lack Faith Based Risks // Churches that make an impact are taking risks … actual risks. They put stuff on the line to accomplish what they believe God is calling them to. They step out in trust asking God to give them clarity for the next steps. When was the last time your pulse quickened because of something you risked as a church?
  • You Don’t Eat Your Own Dog Food // If the staff of the church wouldn’t attend if they weren’t getting paid … it’s a sure sign something is seriously wrong. Why are you taking money from a church that you don’t love? What does that say about you?
  • Narrow Donor Base // On a practical note … if there is a very small donor pool funding the mission of the church it’s a sign of the church’s inability to engage a broader community. Why hasn’t your church been able to connect with more than a handful of donors?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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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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