Long-time pastor Geoff Surratt, who is a self-described "church addict" with extended family members who are also pastors, recently completed a book entitled Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing in which he spotlights the most common mistakes well-meaning pastors make that hinder church growth.
Surratt spoke to The Christian Post by phone recently about the book, which is scheduled to be published by Zondervan in May, from Seacoast Church in South Carolina where he is Pastor of Ministries.
CP: In your book you list 10 stupid things that pastors tend to do that keeps their church from growing. What is the most common mistake?
Surratt: Pastors tend to default to do everything themselves rather than looking to people in their congregation. They wind up taking on a lot of different hats and wind up overworked and underproductive because of that.
CP: Among the 10 you listed, is there a mistake that you think is more serious than the others?
Surratt: Probably coming from my own personal experience, having the wrong role for the pastor's family, especially for the pastor's wife who many times is the default person for a lot of different roles in the church. They can wind up feeling overwhelmed and can wind up feeling used really by the ministry.
And I have seen more than what I ever wanted to see that happen to my family. As I kind of shared in the book, I said that my own wife as I got into being a pastor, seeing my church grow, and just piled more things on her without stopping to take time to find out what is her vision for her life.
We had to step back and say, "This isn't going to work," and had to step out of being a pastor for a couple of years and recalibrate our marriage.
That by far is probably the most serious mistake that I think pastors make.
CP: There's a chapter about promoting talent over integrity. Would you recommend pastors to allow seekers or people not fully committed to the faith to lead worship service? Or do you think that compromises the service because they don't fully understand what they're singing?
Surratt: I wouldn't presume to be able to decide specific situations unless I could sit down with the pastor, but I would say that is a challenge that really really has to be looked at closely. I think caution has always been the best move here. What I try to do in my ministry lead seekers into areas where they are not leading any people but they can be a part of what is going on. I would say that no matter how talented someone is, by the time they are actually leading other people in worship or in teaching role they need to be fairly mature in their walk with Christ.
You hit the nail on the head, when you need a talent or person in a certain role you tend to take the shortcut and that's where the mistake comes.
CP: With a great sense of humor and honesty, you admit to copying the preaching style of megachurch pastors Bill Hybels and Rick Warren. You talked about why replicating the church or style of others can be a pitfall. So, how can pastor's find their own preaching style and not just copy?
Surratt: Initially we all copy. I think from singing, to preaching, to writing, all of us copy someone else's style early on. I think it's a great way to learn copy. For me, early own copying a little bit from Bill Hybels a little bit from Rick Warren. I learned a lot about how to construct a message, but where it fell down is when I kind of lost my own voice and was just trying to act on what I heard.
I think it's just kind of a maturity that as a pastor matures they find their voice more and more.
CP: Your book is made with pastors in mind and addresses readers assuming they are pastors. Is there anything a normal Christian can take away from this book?
Surratt: Yea, I think that anyone who is a leader in a church can certainly draw from my experience as a pastor and from my conversation with other pastors from around the country. Really a lot of the chapters can apply to any leader of any organization, especially growing organizations. We talked about not doing it all yourself, we talked about spouse in the wrong role, we talked about not mixing business with ministry.
Most of the things we talked about are definitely applicable to a leader in the church and probably to those in the business world as well.
CP: Why do you think this book is needed?
Surratt: I am a church junkie. Everywhere I go I go to as many church service as I can. When I go to vacation it's an opportunity for me to go to multiple churches because I believe, to quote Bill Hybels, the church is the hope of world. And so many times I walk into great churches, with great leaders but the church is just not growing. It breaks my heart and I think it breaks God's heart and a lot of times it seems that it's a fairly simple thing that the pastor can adjust and change that might bring more people to Christ.
The book is a love for the church and a love for local pastors. I love church leadership books, I read them often, but they seem to be often written by incredibly talented megachurch pastors. I think sometimes it might go over the head and over the talent of some of us who are just ordinary guys who are doing our best.
That was the aim of me for this book, to not be the person with the megachurch but for the guy like me sitting in his office wondering why won't my church grow.