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Leaders Need an Objective Perspective to Determine the True Problem

Our data from the Unstuck Church Assessment (which dates back to May of 2017) reports that around 5 out of every 6 churches who took this assessment say they are declining. 

That’s a staggering number. Well over the majority of church leaders are experiencing the pain points and frustrations of a declining church—we know this burden isn’t light. 

We’ve had a lot of conversations with struggling churches. We’ve learned that what often continues the cycle of decline is that churches do the same things over and over expecting different results, and are sometimes unwilling to address what’s not working, casting blame on trends and the overall decline in influence of the American Church. 

Oftentimes, leaders need an objective perspective to challenge their assumptions and determine the true problem. Below, we’re sharing the four most common reasons we see churches in decline.

Most churches experience decline as a result of…

  • A Front Door Problem.

When churches are facing attendance decline, it’s often because they’re seeing fewer (if any) first-time guests—also known as a front door problem.

To be a growing church, your average attendance is more than the total number of first-time guests you’ve had in the last 12 months.

When we talk with pastors, we often hear, “We don’t have first time guests coming through the doors because our congregation has stopped inviting their friends and others to the church.”

This is something we’re seeing a lot. Not only are people attending church less, but they’re also not inviting their friends. 

Why? 

In a recent podcast episode, Michael Lukaszewski shares some game-changing information with Tony Morgan on this subject and how churches can create a compelling invite strategy. I highly recommend listening to this episode.

  • A Lack of Vision. 

Where are you headed? What is God calling your church to accomplish in the next season of ministry?

At best, declining churches have cliche answers that really don’t connect.

  • An Unclear Perspective of the Mission Field

Who is your mission field? 

When we ask churches this question, we’re often met with the response, “Everyone.” (We particularly hear this from dying churches.)

This might sound counterintuitive, but this is a really ineffective strategy. 

Most churches that create their weekend experience trying to please everyone end up pleasing no one. 

One of the first things we do onsite with churches is define the mission field—who are you trying to reach? Without a clear definition of your mission field, you won’t be able to effectively define your ministry strategy. Without a clear ministry strategy, complexity and confusion will take over your ministry. 

Tony Morgan recently wrote an article, and this really stuck out to me—

“You can’t reach the next generation of young adults without being a church for young adults

That includes the way you teach. The music you play. The environments you create. The way that you communicate. The topics you address. The stories you tell. The next steps you offer. The events on your calendar. And whatever else you’re doing as a church.

Or, let me state it another way. You can’t be a church with a separate service for young adults and expect to reach young adults. You can’t just have a Sunday School class for young adults and expect to reach young adults. You can’t just hire a pastor of young adults and expect to reach young adults. Instead, you have to become a church for young adults.”

Before you take any next steps in ministry, define this question: “Who are you trying to reach?

This list represents just a few of the common reasons why churches are in decline, based on what we’ve seen serving more than 400 churches with The Unstuck Process. We help you take an in-depth look at your ministry, determine your growth barriers and how to get you where you want to go. 

Why do you exist? Who are you trying to reach? Where are you going? 

Our process helps you answer questions, but we don’t tell you who to be or what to do. Our goal is to lead the conversation in the right direction to help you arrive at the next steps your church needs to take to reverse decline and find sustained health and growth.

We really believe in what we do, and we’d love to partner with you as you’re navigating what’s next for your church.

You can check out what some other pastors said about working with our team.

Want to start a conversation with one of our team members to learn more? Let’s talk.

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