Is Your Church Making the Same Mistake Over and Over Again?

It’s one thing to make mistakes in leadership.

It’s another to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Any idea what your frequent mistakes might be?

And if you have mistakes that you make, why do you keep making the same ones over and over again?

One of the reasons many leaders and organizations repeatedly make the same mistakes is because our actions spring from our viewpoint, viewpoints that in fact may be wrong.

Get the viewpoint wrong and the actions follow.

As you’ll see from the list below, the mistakes I see church leaders make repeatedly spring from a view point that can best be described this way:

What we do in the church doesn’t really matter.

The reality is nothing could be further from the truth. What we do in the church matters incredibly, because the church actually is, as Bill Hybels says, the hope of the world.

If the church has the most important mission on earth, behave like it.

But so many churches don’t.

Here are 5 mistakes I see over and over again.

1. Thinking cheap

Too often in church, leaders carry a dollar store mindset. Get as much as you can for as little as you can and you win.

But do you?

What leaders miss is that cheap has a cost. In fact, in the long run, it’s actually more expensive.

First, you end up with inferior products, whether that’s furniture, technology or even ministry (Here, leader…do world class children’s ministry on $140 a year).  Cheap things break earlier and more easily, and you end up replacing them frequently. So often, you don’t even save much money.

Cheap even translates to team.

Paying church staff poorly is not only unbiblical, it’s stupid. When you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Do I think you should pay outrageous salaries to church leaders? Absolutely not. But you should pay people a living wage.

If you want a radically different view on why non-profits shouldn’t be cheap on salaries, Dan Pallotta makes a powerful case for decent pay in the non-profit sector.

Why do some church leaders want to underfund the most important ministry on earth?

2. Starting late

I’ve been to numerous church services and events that regularly start late, after the published start time.


Maybe it’s just me, but that just oozes “Hey, what we’re doing doesn’t matter much…and we don’t really value your time.”

Some people got their kids up early, made breakfast, showered quickly and fought traffic to show up on time. When you start late, you dishonour all their effort.

I know some church leaders think they want to wait until ‘everyone is here.’ Well guess what? No matter what time you begin, people will always wander in late.

We had an ‘everyone shows up ten minutes late’ problem a few years ago. Rather than start late, we actually told people to arrive on time and then put some of the best, most creative elements in the first 5 minutes of the service.

When people showed up late, we told them “Man, it’s too bad you missed it.” That was it. We never apologized.

Guess what happened? We went from 30% of people being present when the service started to about 70% of people being present when the service started.

It’s amazing what happens when you provide great value on time. People show up.

The other 30%? Too bad they missed it….

3. Deciding it’s good enough

Even if you invest some money in ministry, too many church leaders behave as though a moderate effort is good enough.

As Jim Collins has famously pointed out, bad is not the enemy of great (because that’s obvious). Good is the enemy of great.

A ‘good enough’ attitude can create a false sense of satisfaction, leaving a meaningful part of both your mission and potential unfulfilled.

That’s why I love that at Connexus Church, where I serve, one of our stated values is ‘Battle Mediocrity.’

I love that phrase because first of all, ‘mediocrity’ names ‘good enough’ for what it is—massively unsatisfying mediocrity. Second, ‘battle’ is a call to arms. This is a fight, and mediocre has to die. (I teach on battling mediocrity in this talk.)

God didn’t decide his work was good enough, so why should the church? He gave his best. His all. He threw the full force of his majesty not just into creation, but into redemption.

Strangely, many people will give 100% to the marketplace, a hobby or their family, and then give 60% when they serve God. Makes no sense. At all.

4. Choosing easy over effective

Being effective as a leader is difficult. Which is why it’s so easy for leaders to settle when so much more is possible.

Being effective means you dig in when others retreat. It means you ask the 11th question when everyone else stopped at ten. It means you wake up early and sometimes stay up late trying to figure out how to do better.

It means you call out the best in people and ask them to bring their best energy, focus and skill to advancing the mission of the church.

That’s effective.

And it’s not easy. But it’s worth it.

5. Thinking that conversations like these are  unspiritual

Some leaders understand why conversations like these matter to the church. But there are always some who don’t.

In some circles, talking strategy is seen as ‘unspiritual.’ Instead, the goal is to not get too concerned with strategy and just try to keep everybody happy. Or to pray about things and maybe they’ll just get better.

The best prayer is rooted in action. Praying about forgiveness when you’re unwilling to forgive is pointless.

Praying for your church if you’re unwilling to act on it doesn’t make any sense either.

If we believe God is the author of our hearts, minds, souls, strength and gifts, then we should be willing to lend all of the above to further the mission.

I outline 7 other key issues the church needs to tackle in my latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.

In the meantime, I’d love to know some of the mistakes you see churches make again and again.

Read more from Cary.

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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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Recent Comments
I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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