10 Things That Can Happen When Churches Don’t Admit and Adjust to Church Decline

adjust to church decline

There are 10 things that can happen when churched don’t admit and adjust to church decline. I didn’t want to write this post, as my goal in this site is to offer ideas and encouragement for healthy church growth. Nevertheless, I’ve seen far too many churches that were once considerably larger and then went into decline, but without making any necessary adjustments to their change in size.

Here are some of the things that often happen when churches don’t admit or adjust to church decline:

  1. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline live in denial. They live as if the church were still full, and nobody’s talking openly about the downward trend the church is facing. They’re convinced the church is just as strong and significant as it once was.
  2. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline often become overstaffed. Nobody wants to cut positions even as the church declines, so nobody does. Eventually, the church has more staff than they really need to conduct ministry.
  3. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline often have personnel costs dominate the budget. Obviously, this one’s related to #2 above. It’s almost inevitable that personnel costs will eat up the budget if the church doesn’t make personnel adjustments.
  4. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline have a worship space that begins to look too large. You’ve seen those buildings—the size made sense when the congregation averaged 400, but now the space seems cavernous when the church is running 100. Singing becomes almost a bunch of solos rather than corporate praise.
  5. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline allow dying ministries/programs to continue. Ministries/programs often go into decline at the same rate as the church declines. When the program is ingrained in the church’s history, though, nobody wants to make the hard call about whether it still meets a need.
  6. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline turn inwardly. Actually, it’s likely the decline is already the result of the congregation’s turning inwardly. As the church declines more, they cocoon themselves and get increasingly disconnected from their community.
  7. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline have their few remaining workers get more burned out. The church continues to try to do all the things they used to do, but they have many fewer volunteers available. The remaining folks love the church, though, so they simply take on more work than they can easily do.
  8. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline begin to look to the past rather than to the present and the future. They live on nostalgia; that is, they “remember when” the building used to be full, the church was a significant influence in the community, and “Brother _______” was the pastor.
  9. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline develop a negative attitude toward growing churches. Instead of addressing their own situation, they find it easier to tear down any congregation around them that is growing.
  10. Churches that don’t adjust to church decline miss an opportunity to get outside help. Whether that potential help is denominational assistance, other local church support, or a church consultant, they don’t look to anyone who might help them. You don’t need help when you don’t see there’s a problem.

What would you add to this list?

This article about churches needing to adjust to church decline originally appeared here.

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Chuck Lawless
Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.