21 Ways to Keep a Church from Growing

by | Apr 8, 2019 | Church Leadership, Church Planting, Church Revitalization

I was once asked to help a church process how to get younger people to attend. After we discussed some change recommendations a man pulled me aside and said, “Son, we don’t need no fancy ideas around here. We like being a small church.

I soon learned he represented the feelings of the church as a whole. They thought they wanted to reach younger people, but the truth was — when faced with change — they were really satisfied with the church as it had been for many years.

There’s nothing wrong with being a small church.

Let me say that again — There is nothing wrong with being a small church.

In fact, in some communities, what is considered small is actually large by comparison to churches in larger cities. We are seeing trends where small churches are actually being preferred by some younger generations.

So, I’m not at all opposed to small churches, but I do have a problem with some small church mentalities.

And I think there is a difference.

As long as there are lost people nearby, I believe the church has much work to do. And any organization, Christian or secular, that refuses to accept some changes will stop growing and eventually die. They will therefore fail to continue achieving our God-given mission to “Go and make disciples”.

The fact is that growing a church is hard work. It’s relatively easy to keep things small or stop growth. We could almost do nothing and achieve it.

In fact, I can come up with lots of ways I’ve seen that keep a church from growing.

Here are 21 ways to keep a church from growing:

  1. Make the entry to serving in the church lengthy or complicated (Serving is often the new front door)
  2. Develop followers not leaders
  3. Squelch any dream except the pastor’s own dreams
  4. Refuse new people a voice at the table (and don’t greet them in the parking lot either)
  5. Make sure everyone knows who is in charge (and, hint, especially when it is not Jesus)
  6. Cast your vision — but only once and get bored with sharing it
  7. Only do “church” inside the building – don’t attempt to reach your community
  8. Demand that “it” be done the way it’s always been done – protect tradition at all costs.
  9. Give up when change is resisted – don’t push through towards doing the right thing
  10. Make excuses when things go wrong – pretend it is never your fault
  11. Quit dreaming – or allowing others to do so
  12. Resist any organized system, strategy or plans to grow the church
  13. Stop praying – pretend you’ve “got this”
  14. Insist you have all answers before you attempt to “walk by faith”
  15. Never challenge people – let them chill on the sidelines
  16. Treat new people like outsiders and let them wonder if they’ll ever fit in
  17. Always refer to the past as the good times and fail to recognize the ideas of the next generation
  18. Put more energy and resources into maintaining structures and programs than into loving and serving others
  19. Let gossip be more attractive than truth
  20. Make sure the ministerial staff does everything and “normal” people are never empowered or given permission to live on mission
  21. Be stingy investing in the next generation favoring those who write the “bigger checks”

Whenever I do a post like this I get a common and expected question.

Well, if these are ways not to grow a church, then what are some ways to grow a church?

And that is one of the main topics I write about in other posts. But for simplicity sake try doing the opposite of some of these I’ve listed and see how they help the church to grow.

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Ron Edmondson

I am CEO of Leadership Network. I was previously 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 love 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. I have more than 35 years of leadership experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and have been in full-time ministry for over 15 years. I have successfully led the restart of one church and the planting of two churches, and now we are seeing God’s hand tremendously in church revitalization. I have a seminary masters and a master’s in organizational leadership. I also once helped lead (as an elected official) a mid-sized city, where I served as Vice Mayor and Finance Chair. The greatest times for me are with my wife Cheryl and our amazing adult sons, Jeremy, his wife Mary, and our youngest son Nate. Over 20 years ago, I founded a non-profit ministry called Mustard Seed Ministry, which provides devotional resources, conducts family, marriage, and parenting, and church leadership seminars. My INTJ personality on the Myers-Briggs indicator means I have big ideas, I love creative and critical thinking and I love to see progress. I am usually around people but crave downtime. For years I was usually training for either a half or full marathon. Running was my most productive thinking time. Knee problems in recent years have caused me to stop running, but I’m committed to finding the time I need to fuel my mind, body, and spirit. I write several times weekly on leadership, church, and family. To sign up for my blog on a reader or by email, click HERE. I do interact with my readers, so feel free to contact me. You can email me at ron.edmondson@gmail.com.I am also on Google+ at http://www.gplus.to/ronedmondson, Twitter at www.twitter.com/ronedmondson and Facebook at www.facebook.com/ronaedmondson. My devotional site is www.mustardseedministry.com