Over 90% of churches are declining or growing less than the community around them. The national trends are not good. Before church leaders surrender to frustration and church members yield to apathy, our composite research shows there are signs along the way that suggest a church is becoming unhealthy. The following list is not exhaustive, but let’s see some key signals that an individual congregation is beginning to struggle.
We don’t emphasize Bible study anymore. When God’s Word is not the driving force of a church, people are bound to travel down the wrong road. Churches that do not elevate the proclamation and study of God’s Word veer off course. A lack of deep biblical teaching is one of the most glaring signs of a struggling church.
We cut our outreach budget. When we consult with churches and examine their budgets, a key health indicator is how much the church allocates to outwardly focused ministries. Struggling churches give less toward their mission each year—less money, less prayer and fewer people.
Our church doesn’t change with the community. Struggling churches are led by leaders with little to no understanding of their immediate context. As a result, their congregations either do not know about changes in the community’s demographics or they refuse to change with them. Every church leader must minister with the following question at the forefront: “What are the biggest needs in my community?
We don’t take risks. Unfortunately, many church leaders have been beat up or burned. As a result, they focus more on not getting in trouble with their congregation than turning the world upside down for Jesus. They lead churches to play it safe rather than taking risks to reach more people.
We don’t have a clear discipleship plan. A struggling church does not have an answer to the new believer or member who asks, “Now what?” These churches may have an abundance of programs and ministries, but they do not have an intentional plan to help believers become more like Christ. The absence of a discipleship plan leaves the back door wide open.
Would you agree with these signs? Is there anything else you would add?
I would add (and mentioned these on Rainer’s blog) that struggling churches become more interested in protecting their traditions than finding new ways to reach out to their neighbors. And struggling churches see the unsaved in their community as the enemy rather than reaching out to them in love.