On June 1st we posted a blog that generated more comments and questions than most. So much so, that I decided to return to the topic. The post looked at reasons churches don’t grow. There are reasons that churches don’t grow and it’s not just bad luck or bad karma or because of circumstances beyond their control. There are choices that churches make that inhibit growth. (One caveat being when the community around your church is dying…if that is your case, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. You probably will die along with the Post Office and corner 7-11).
Otherwise, chances are you’re not growing for some specific choice you have made, or failed to make. I listed 5 of these in the original post (you can go back and read it now, if you haven’t already). They were
1. No Mission and Vision
2. Internal Focus
3. Wasting Time on Broken Systems
4. Lack of Health
5. Self-serving Leadership
I think that is a good list, but I am thinking it can be expanded. Here goes:
6. No Message
Last week’s post illustrates the point: it was about the man who stopped going to Catholic church and started going to an evangelical church (because, ironically, he felt he wasn’t being fed). He left because the Catholic churches he attended had no message. I’ve heard this comment a thousand times.
I am always surprised by the attitude in Catholic world that “communion is enough,” “communion is all that’s important,” “they come back for communion,” etc. Communion is the Word of God (Christ is the Word of God, Communion is Christ, so Communion is the Word of God). If people are coming to our parishes and not really hearing the Word of God (even though they’re receiving Communion) it can feel like they’re not being fed.
Lots of churches simply have no message, they really don’t have anything to speak into people’s lives. They provide plenty of weekly distractions, just no message. I’ve heard hundreds of homilies that were just words, but said nothing. A church without a message is hurting and inhibiting its growth.
7. Bad Music
Nothing is more important to the environment in your church than music. It will make or break the weekend experience.
Now, I know what the immediate response to that assertion will be. “We don’t have good music because we can’t afford it.” Well, check to see just how far down on your priority list music really is. I would put money into music before I hired a secretary or housekeeper; I would put money into music before redecorating the rectory, printing a weekly bulletin, buying new vestments. It is that important. If you really can’t put any money into music, find the best free talent that is sitting in your pews. Not the people who need to perform and look important, the people who actually have talent. Make a relational investment in them and get them serving.
8. Lack of Kid’s Programs
If you don’t have anything, anywhere, anytime for people’s kids (or grandkids), if coming to your church is just a form of torture for kids, you are inhibiting your growth.
9. Lack of Member Ministers
Members need to get up out of the pew and serve. If they don’t, your church will not grow, or continue to grow. If your church is filled with consumers who expected to be served, or if there are simply more people being served than serving, it will inhibit growth.
Those are some reasons churches don’t grow.
BUT, you want to know the number one reason, far and away, that churches don’t grow?
Because they don’t want to. Really, they don’t.
They’re happy with their size, they want to be small or medium or whatever. They like their club, and they really don’t want to break it up with a lot of new people. And they only change their minds about that when it becomes unsustainable financially.
One of the very first parish council meetings I attended here, I happened to mention (as part of another point I was making) growing the parish. I assumed that was a given. Not so. A huge discussion followed and it got quite emotional. I was accused of stealing “their” parish and giving it away to outsiders. There are still people who accuse me of “stealing their parish.”
It wasn’t “theirs” and it’s not “ours.”
It’s only ours to give away.