There are volumes of material out there analyzing what’s limiting church growth (and hastening church decline). It seems everyone has their theories: theologians, sociologists, the media. However, sometimes we focus too much outwardly, when the problem is much closer to home than maybe we’d like to admit. Here are just a few of the problems that we as church leaders can often find in ourselves when it comes to church health and growth. Ask yourself the following questions:
1: Is My Church Out of Step?
It’s 2014, and no amount of nostalgia is going to make the methods of the 1950s work today. We can bemoan how the pastors of yesteryear could stand in the pulpit and shame the congregation into doing whatever they want them to do. But the fact of the matter is, today’s generation won’t follow Church teaching unless it’s being presented to them in a way that contextualizes it and makes it relevant to their lives. We don’t have to love the sinful parts of today’s culture nor should we ignore it all, but neither can we shut our eyes and pretend to live in a vacuum in which present culture doesn’t exist. We have to acknowledge modernity and craft a message that works with it rather than against it.
2: Would I Want to Join My Church?
Consider the experience of the unchurched or dechurched visitor. Too often we as churchpeople can be ignorant, judgmental, unwelcoming, and oblivious to the needs of those outside our ranks. Jesus approached the marginalized and outsiders with humility and kindness. He reserved his harshest words for the churchpeople who made the faith an undesirable destination for the lost. We need to strive to always be conscious of how we present ourselves to those outside our church.
3: Can I Get Over Myself?
Sometimes conflict inside our church is a necessary evil. It isn’t pleasant, but sometimes it is going to help us get to the next place. However, too often churchpeople let their egos and personal opinions and their interpretation of church rules and laws allow us to nurse the sorts of grudges and gossip that fracture our Church community. When handling conflict, do it directly without gossip. Do it humbly, and above all, move on once it’s over.
4: Do I hesitate?
Sometimes the wrong decision can be better than no decision. If it’s a movement, it needs to move. Hesitation, procrastination, and fear only serve to keep us stagnant and grounded in our ways. Be prudent, but don’t be afraid to risk the status quo for what we want to accomplish.
5: Is My Parish God-centric in Its Growth?
Your parish is growing: great! It’s an envious position to be in, but too often we short-sell God to get there. Bodies in pews are nice, but they aren’t our final destination. Growing disciples is our goal. There are tough messages that the congregation sometimes needs to hear. If we avoid them to grow, we create very shallow disciples who won’t continue to come back. The Word of God isn’t always easily palatable, but it is nourishing. Make sure as you grow that you give them God’s entire message.