In 1999 I bought my first motorcycle, a Honda Shadow Ace Tourer. It was 1100 cc and a great road bike. However, I had a problem as I was learning to ride it. If I looked off the road at something I tended to go in that direction. I nearly ran off the road a few times until I realized I needed to stay focused on the road ahead. Eventually, I was able to look around without going in the direction I was looking, but it took me a couple of months.
Of course, this is true in much of our lives. We go in the direction of our focus. People who are focused on their own needs often have problems in their marriages and other relationships. Those who are too focused on one aspect of life, such as making money, will usually suffer in other areas of their lives.
The same is true in churches. Our churches function according to their focus. Growing churches are typically focused on doing ministry in the community and reaching new people. Plateaued and declining churches are likely to be focused on maintaining what they have. Your church is today what it decided 5, 10, and even 20 years ago what it was going to be. When it determined what it would focus on it set itself on a path that has resulted in its present state.
As I tell church leaders in one of my seminars, if you like what your church is today, congratulations! Your church has made good decisions that has brought it to this place. But, if you are not satisfied with the current situation in your church you must change something if you want the church to change. Your church must change its focus.
That is why I wrote the book Intentional Ministry in a Not-So-Mega Church: Becoming a Missional Community. The majority of small churches are focused on themselves, their survival, and maintaining what they currently have. That is a recipe for growing smaller and eventually dying. However, these churches can transform themselves from that maintenance mentality to one that is more missional. This book provides churches and their leaders with the necessary steps to make this transition possible.
In the book I point out the importance for a church to understand the culture it is trying to impact. Today's culture is much different than the one many of us in smaller churches grew up in. If we don't understand some of those differences we will be seen as irrelevant.
I address the importance of vision. Having a clear God-given vision is essential for a church to have the right focus. When we focus on the right vision we are less likely to be led away to doing lesser things. It keeps us from running off the road.
Smaller churches are often quite resistant to change. In the book I explain how to introduce change to our congregations and what is needed for change to occur. I also address how to best respond to those who oppose change.
The focus of your church is extremely important. It will determine the direction of your church. Is your church focused on maintenance? If so, expect a steady decline until your church eventually closes its doors. Is your church focused on the vision God has for it? If this is the case, both the church and the community it serves will be blessed.