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Thom Rainer: 6 Symptoms of a Dysfunctional Church

3. The congregation experiences severe conflict.

Any group will eventually have some level of conflict: families, fellow employees, students and churches. But dysfunctional churches take conflicts to a new level, often resulting in emotional outbursts by members and leaders.

4. Hardly anyone in the community knows the church exists.

One of the simple steps I take in many consultations is to visit businesses within about a mile radius of the church. I ask them for directions to the church. If no one has ever heard of the church in that close proximity, I know something is wrong.

5. The church is declining while the community is growing.

An example works better here. Suppose your church has declined in worship attendance by 3 percent the past two years. Now suppose the community in which the church is located has grown by 4 percent the past two years. The contrast between the two growth rates is stark, a symptom of a dysfunctional church.

6. The church is “family owned and family operated.”

One particular family, even if it’s an extended family, makes all the decisions in the church. Nothing gets done without the nod of typically the patriarch or matriarch of the family. The church exists largely to meet the needs of one family.