What Happens When Your Church Slows?

I was talking with a young pastor recently. He is battling the leadership of the church to make changes he feels he was called to the church to make, but because they have experienced some difficult years recently, they are resisting any efforts he makes. He’s questioning if he should give into them or push forward with more changes.

Of course, the way change is introduced is incredibly important, but after years of decline, change is certainly needed if they expect to see any new growth. As the saying goes, “More of the same will not produce change.”

It reminded me, however, of some common characteristics I have observed in organizations, whether the church or in business, when growth begins to slow or future progress appears to be in question. In uncertain times, probably because both the church and businesses involve people, each has a tendency to react similarly.

During times of difficulty, organizations:

  • Resist taking risks
  • Avoid change
  • Cling to tradition
  • Think inward
  • Control everything
  • Become selfish

Granted, I’ve been in both sides of the equation. I’ve been in the times of fast growth and the times of steady (even rapid) decline. I’ve even contributed to each of these reactions at one time or another. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen them work. They feel needed, even more comfortable for a time, but they fail to produce that for which they were intended.

In my experience, these are the exact opposite reactions that spur growth and progress.

Here is why I’m writing this post:

If you are in a time of decline, perhaps it’s time to think differently than your natural, even understandable emotions would lead you to act.

Perhaps you need to:

  • Take new risks
  • Embrace change
  • Hold tradition loosely
  • Think outward
  • Empower others
  • Become generous

To the church leader, I would say this: Walk by faith. Keep walking by faith. I know it is natural to react in fear and hold on to what you can easily understand when circumstances become difficult…I’ve been there…but if you want to grow again…you’ll have to walk by faith again.

Have you seen an organization react this way in times of decline?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ron Edmondson

Ron Edmondson

As pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church a church leader and the planter of two churches, I am passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. I thrive on assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. My specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to my role as a pastor, as I have time, I consult with church and ministry leaders. (For more information about these services, click HERE.)

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I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
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