Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is your church in trouble?

We know many churches today are in trouble.  Studies show that 80 percent (or more) of the churches in North America are plateaued or declining.  Depending on who you read anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 churches close their doors every year.  The majority of these are smaller churches, and none of them go to this desperate place overnight.  A church can be in a state of decline for years, and even decades, before its death is inevitable.  Turnarounds are not easy, but they can happen at any time on the decline side of a church's life cycle.  What's better than a turnaround is realizing that a church is in trouble and starting to enter a downward spiral and doing something about it then.

In his excellent book, There's Hope for Your Church: First Steps to Restoring Health and Growth, Gary McIntosh provides us with eight signs that a church may be in trouble.  They are

  1. Low Morale
  2. Downward momentum
  3. Survival mode
  4. Passive attitudes
  5. Consolidated power
  6. Lack of vision
  7. Toleration of known sin
  8. Unproductive ministries
These problems are easy to detect, but too often pastors and church leaders fail to see them or recognize them for the problem they are.  Doing such assessments are often uncomfortable for leaders because they are afraid of what they will find and how it will reflect on their leadership.  In other cases, leaders often don't know what to assess or what questions to ask.

The final chapter in my book The Healthy Small Church: Diagnosis and Treatment for the Big Issues gives the reader a series of questions to ask about various aspects of the church's life to help in evaluating the health of the church.  Many churches have provided copies of the book to all their leadership and used it to assess the health of their church.

One of the responsibilities of church leaders is to ensure the health of their church.  A healthy church will be a growing church that will be able to have a positive impact on its community.  Pastors and lay leaders must not continue to hide their heads in the sand ignoring the signs that their church is in danger.  As uncomfortable as it might be to assess the health of your church, it is necessary to ensure the continued health of your congregation and its continued ministry to your community.

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