Once congregations reach the end of their first generation, what are the hidden factors undermining their health?
As an overarching issue, let’s acknowledge that the lack of an empowering, God-inspired vision for future ministry that guides the journey of the congregation is the key foundational factor. Yet the vast majority of active people in a congregation can feel the lack of vision, so it is not totally hidden. They may not be able to identify that the factor lacking is vision, but they feel that something is missing.
Captivating vision is, however, the most important factor—hidden or visible.
Here are hidden factors I have observed over more than four decades of working with congregations in the second, third, fourth and following generations of their journeys. I offer 20 hidden factors here. What ones would you add?
20 Hidden Factors in Your Ministry
Many congregations are in denial of the fact that they are no longer driven or fueled by a clear sense of vision. They believe the majority of things are doing well in the congregation. It is generally meeting their expectations. Nothing is wrong that needs to be addressed.
The longer congregations are in existence, the more they are comfortable with the way things happen in their congregation. They have lost the prophetic, cutting-edge nature of the vision they are seeking to fulfill. Good enough has become good enough. A subtle mediocrity has set in.
The patterns and culture begin to harden like concrete once congregations have been in existence for a generation or more. Tradition is worshiped as beloved heritage. This is where the seven last words of the church come in: “We’ve never done it that way before.”
During the first generation, mission is often truly missional in nature and is about what God is up to in and through the congregation. By the second generation and following, without intentional effort otherwise, mission can often become about the existing congregations and what they are doing.
In years past, denominations sold congregations on the idea that successful, growing programs always meant successful, growing churches. This was a partial truth. Too many congregations believe a focus on the right programs is the best future for them. Also a partial truth.