21 ways to keep a church from growing

July 28th, 2014

I was once asked to help a church process how to get younger people to attend. After we discussed some change recommendations a man pulled me aside and said, “Son, we don’t need no fancy ideas around here. We like being a small church.”

I soon learned he represented the feelings of the church as a whole. They thought they wanted to reach younger people, but the truth was — when faced with change — they were really satisfied with the church as it had been for many years.

There’s nothing wrong with being a small church. Let me say that again — There is nothing wrong with being a small church. In fact, in some communities, what is considered small is actually large by comparison to churches in larger cities. I’m not opposed to small churches, but I do have a problem with some small church mentalities.

I think there is a difference.

As long as there are lost people nearby, I believe the church has much work to do. And, any organization, Christian or secular, that refuses to accept some changes will stop growing and eventually die.

The fact is that growing a church is hard work. It’s relatively easy to keep things small or stop growth.

In fact, I can come up with lots of ways I’ve seen that keep a church from growing.

Here are 21 of them:

Make the entry to serving in the church lengthy or complicated
Develop followers not leaders
Squelch any dream except the pastor’s own
Refuse new people a voice at the table
Make sure everyone knows who is in charge — and it’s not Jesus
Cast your vision — but only once
Only do “church” inside the building
Demand that it be done the way it’s always been done
Give up when change is resisted
Make excuses when things go wrong
Quit dreaming
Resist any organized system, strategy or plans to grow the church
Stop praying
Insist you have all the answers before you “walk by faith”
Never challenge people
Treat new people as outsiders
Always refer to the past as the good times
Put more energy into structure than serving
Allow gossip to fester
The ministerial staff does everything
Be stingy investing in the next generation

Whenever I do a post like this I get a common — and expected — question. Well, if these are ways not to grow a church, then what are some ways to grow a church? And, that is one of the main topics I write about in other posts. But, for simplicity sake, try doing the opposite of some of these I’ve listed and see how they help the church to grow.

What am I missing? What else will keep a church from growing?

Ron Edmondson blogs at RonEdmondson.com.

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