As I have noted in other posts, the number one reason for declines and plateaus in churches is declining frequency of attendance of church members. Though there are many possible explanations for this reality, some of the reasons are in the category of organizational issues. Let me note five of them.
In my earlier post, I dealt with the traits of church bullies. I now move from descriptive to prescriptive. How do we deal with church bullies? What can we do to prevent such bullying? Here are nine of my suggestions:
Nine out of ten churches in America have an average worship attendance of less than 350. And that percentage has not changed significantly for many years. Yet the unchurched pool of persons is increasing in most communities. There are people yet to be reached. But most churches will never exceed 350 in attendance. Why?
I received two emails this week from church members who made that very statement. The members are from two different churches in two different states. One of the churches belongs to a denomination; the other is non-denominational. In both cases the church members made the decision to drop out of local church life altogether.
Church bullies are common in many churches. They wreak havoc and create dissension. They typically must have an "enemy" in the church, because they aren't happy unless they are fighting a battle. They tend to maneuver to get an official leadership position in the church, such as chairman of the elders or deacons or treasurer. But they may have bully power without any official position.
Determining the effectiveness of a pastor is a highly subjective exercise. While certain metrics may prove helpful, they do not tell the whole story. In that context, I reviewed my 40 years of serving churches in a variety of capacities and noted several very effective pastors I knew well. My list was lengthy: nearly 30 pastors total.
Every day, pastors and other church staff make intentional decisions about what is important in their lives and ministries. Often, the decisions they must make are between competing demands. These decision points are tensions in the lives of pastors and church staff. The directions they choose shape their ministries.
For over thirty years I have been professionally and personally connected to the local church. I have served as a pastor, church consultant, author, seminary dean, and church resource provider. The most painful moments of my tenure have been those occasions where church dissension is great, and where church splits take place.
I recently embarked on a major research project for a new resource I will soon be offering. Part of my research included a long review of thousands of comments made on this site over the past few years. Though my research had another purpose, I became intrigued by the comments related to church traditions.
Many churches have them. They can be found in varying degrees of emphasis from one church to another. They are church memorials, areas of a church designated in memory of someone who was a member of the congregation.
The story is too common, but I hear such stories repeatedly. My most recent conversation was with a church leader where an affluent church member offered to make a large contribution to the renovation of the worship center. He had one stipulation: the worship center had to be named in memory of his late mother. The leader politely declined. The affluent member did not make the donation. To the contrary, he began withholding all of his gifts to the church.
The opinions about the "right" sermon length are varied, but they are typically intense. Several months ago, I conducted a social media poll to find out the preferred sermon length of preachers. Since that time, I have been observing pastors' preaching on podcasts and in person. I have also been asking them directly about their sermon length.
For most pastors, preaching is one of the most important facets of their ministries. It is that time when they get to expound on God's Word. Much of their training has focused on preaching, and they often spend 15 to 20 hours preparing each sermon.
This post may cause some of you to feel uneasy. I have to admit I've had some of those same feelings writing it. I prefer to think of pastoral ministry as a calling more than a job. And I sometimes cringe when I write about seemingly secular solutions to Christian work.
These final eight trends are those I consider to be of greatest magnitude for their potential impact on churches: The beginnings of prayer movement in our churches. The tipping point for small groups.
Some of my trends are called "tipping points." In simple terms, a tipping point here means that something has changed in our churches to the point that it appears to be permanent. With that in mind, I present to you my 15 trends for 2015: The tipping point of churches eliminating Sunday evening worship services. Continued flow of people from smaller churches to larger churches.
It is an old joke, one that is still told too often. You go up to your pastor and say, "I wish I had your job; you only have to work one hour each week." It is likely your pastor will laugh or smile at your comment. In reality your pastor is likely hurt by your statement.
I have written rather extensively on this blog regarding the short tenure of pastors in churches. Of course, many pastors leave churches for very positive reasons. They sense a call to another ministry opportunity. Or they retire from a church with a new phase of ministry in mind.
There has been considerable interest on my previous posts dealing with pastors' salaries. One of the most common questions that I am asked is: "How do churches determine the salary of a pastor?"
Not all Millennials are averse to serving in leadership roles in established churches. But many of them are. And our churches are approaching a tipping point where many are unable to attract Millennial members or leaders. It will likely soon be a crisis.
Several years ago, when I was involved in active church consultations, I assembled data on what I called GFCs, genuinely friendly churches. I set certain parameters for GFCs; then I attempted to measure those churches guest return rates. A guest return rate is simply the percentage of guests who will return to the church for at least a second visit.
I have heard that statement thousands of times. I promise. In over 500 church consultations and thousands of church member interviews, I heard it. Most church members really do think their church is very friendly. But, more times than not, they are wrong. Guests who visit the churches usually have a much different perspective. Here are six things to consider if you really think your church is friendly.
The surprise factor was the number one issue. Many first-time guests really don't like the time of stand and greet one another that some churches have. According to the Twitter responses and comments on the post, many guests really don't like it, so much so that they will not return.
If you attend a church regularly, you've probably noticed the phenomenon. A guest shows up for a worship service, but he or she never returns. It is, unfortunately, a common issue in many churches.
The naysayers are at full throttle. "Local churches are dying!" "Churches are no longer relevant." "The church is full of hypocrites." "I don't need the institutional church." The naysayer nabobs of negativity are in full force. It's easy to give up. It sadly can be easy to believe God has given up on our churches. But He has not. I am convinced He has not.