This time of year brings reflection on the past 12 months and wondering what could have been done differently. Or you may be looking to the future and asking what needs to change and where to start.
Consider this: The vast majority of churches in our country aren’t making an impact in their communities. In fact, 94 percent of churches are losing ground against the population growth of the communities they serve. [ref] Most church leaders got into the ministry because they dreamed of reaching people and seeing them grow closer to God. But while “in the weeds” of ministry, it’s very easy to lose your way as you try to move your ministry forward.
I have the honor and privilege of interacting with hundreds of church leaders every year through unSeminary. Many of these leaders are in churches that are making significant impacts in their communities … they’re seeing people take steps of faith, their ministries are expanding, good things are happening! I also interact with church leaders who aren’t sure what to do next. They’re struggling with a stuck or declining church, and they’re looking for some guidance on what to do next.
Start here! My conviction is that most churches are getting the following eight areas wrong. I don’t write this from a place of criticism but as a fellow laborer attempting to help his friends. Our church needs to work on these areas and I think your church could benefit from considering them as well.
• Worrying about keeping rather than reaching—Do you live in fear of whom you might lose rather than focusing on the people you aren’t reaching yet? We’ve all had those seasons when we fuss about the family at church who grumbles about one thing or another. When this strays from a healthy desire to listen to your community, it drives your church into ineffectiveness and decline. I’ve spent time around churches in their final days as they’re closing their doors, and often I see a “church boss” who is holding onto a bygone era or living in delusion and not seeing what’s in front of him or her. Your church is a lighthouse for the message you proclaim. Get obsessed about reaching people. Pray about it, talk about it, meet about it, do stuff about it. Reaching people is at the core of what God is calling your church to do.
• Under-investing in the next generation—Across a multiplicity of styles, strategies and theological stripes, one of the common traits of churches that are growing and making an impact is that they invest heavily in kids and student ministry. Is your church spending enough in this area? Typically, leaders don’t invest enough in it. A lot of senior leaders in churches don’t have young children anymore, and so they have little active concern about these areas of ministry. But this can’t be the case! These areas need healthy budgets and great leaders. Challenge your best and brightest to join the teams that serve the next generation. Innovation usually springs up from these departments in your church, so look for leaders who will push the boundaries.