Discipleship Evangelization Making Church Matter

5 Myths of Unsuccessful Churches

January 10, 2017

It’s the New Year, and most people make plans for a year more successful than the last. So lets resolve to put to rest some of the old and tired excuses, myths really, that tend to hang around unsuccessful churches and their leaders. Here are five of the most common.

  1. “We don’t need to grow.”

Living things grow. Unless every household in your zip code is already attending church you’ve got work to do. Of course, growth itself is not a sure sign of success. You could be experiencing growth based on new neighborhood development. That’s automatic growth. We’re talking about intentional growth, growth as a choice. Successful churches grow by intentionally going deeper (discipleship) and going wider (outreach and evangelization).


  1. “What works for you won’t work for us.”

We hear this one a lot. It goes something like, “What works in the city/suburbs/south/north, etc. won’t work here.” As a matter of fact, I agree. . . up to a point. People are different, and so there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. But what this argument badly misses is that churches can learn transferable principles for success, they just need to be implemented and adapted for different environments and local cultures.

When Nativity first began learning from places like Saddleback and North Point, people wondered if and how a Catholic Church in Baltimore could learn from Evangelical churches on the West Coast and the Deep South, and everywhere in between. But you know what? With a little work and imagination we discovered lots of great ideas and transferable principles we could use.


  1. “We have an ugly building, we have a bad location.”

Unsuccessful churches love to blame their problems on their circumstances. I certainly did. I use to grown and complain all the time when I first came here about how ugly our church building was, and what a handicap that appeared to be. Until I learned that right here in our community there was an Evangelical church meeting in a warehouse, they were about twice as big as us and growing.

Pretty churches don’t make disciples. Of course, your church needs to be a clean and inviting environment. But it’s a myth that you need a beautiful or state-of-the-art facility to create an environment that will attract people.


  1. “We don’t have enough money.”

This is a tried and true excuse for doing nothing. But it’s a myth. Our partner parish in Haiti doesn’t have any money. They have no paid staff, other than the pastor, they have virtually no budget, they really have no money. And they have a vibrant parish. When it comes to our parish, we are currently on solid footing financially, it’s true. But money didn’t fund our growth, it followed it.


  1. “People don’t like big churches.”

This is a common myth, except that the success of big churches in itself flies in the face of it. If people truly don’t like big churches, there wouldn’t be any… or at least any successful ones.

But there is a truth here that should be considered. People don’t like big churches that feel big and impersonal. Nobody wants to feel unimportant, and an impersonal community is no community at all. But this isn’t really determined by the size of the church but rather the spirit of the church. Big churches are successful when they feel intimate. That’s why a key to most successful churches is investing time and attention in small groups and ministry. Getting people involved and growing will ensure they’re not lost in the crowd.

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