Four key steps for getting unstuck and on a path to sustained health and growth.
No ministry slips into maintenance on purpose, but every church ends up here if intentional steps aren’t taken to avoid it.
Maintenance phase can be confusing because, on the surface, everything still looks good. Growth is likely still happening, but at a slower pace than before. And the church may be financially healthier than it has ever been. That said, there will be some red flags.
We’ve partnered with more than 600 churches over the last ten years. Here’s what we usually see in Maintenance phase churches:
So what do you do next? We recommend these key steps to get unstuck and on a path to sustained health and growth:
Renew the Vision:
Embrace the Change Before the Emergency Forces the Change
The mission explains why an organization exists; the vision clarifies where the organization is going in the future. For a church that has plateaued, this is a critical first step to return to health.
The church’s financial position can compound the challenge. We call this “the giving lag.” Churches often still feel safe because money hasn’t stopped coming in, even if other momentum has slowed. In fact, per-capita giving can actually be the highest when a church is in decline—but that’s likely because the church is no longer connecting with new people. Because of this false sense of financial security, it’s not unusual for churches to be in denial.
Choose to change before the emergency kicks in. This starts with renewing the vision.Churches that are moving toward sustained health focus on reaching people outside the faith and outside the church. On the other hand, churches that are plateauing or declining start to turn inward. Click To Tweet
Prioritize Reaching New People:
Who Are You Trying to Reach Outside the Church?
Churches that are moving toward sustained health focus on reaching people outside the faith and outside the church. On the other hand, churches that are plateauing or declining start to turn inward.
When everything you do is focused on people already connected to your church, you create barriers for engaging new people. And that’s how your church starts to die. To return to healthy growth, you must address this key question: What are we willing to do to reach people outside the church and outside the faith?What are we willing to do to reach people outside the church and outside the faith? Click To Tweet
Curtail the Complexity Creep:
Shift from Adding Programs to Clarifying a Path
The most common form of complexity we see is churches that are over-programmed and trying to do too much. (For the record, the research is clear that more church activity does not produce spiritual growth.)
It’s much easier to add a program than it is to redefine a strategy. But a unified ministry strategy actually helps you determine how to use space, invest money, leverage leaders, and engage volunteers in ways that fulfill the mission your church is called to. From there, you can decide which programs and events are most needed and create a simple path of discipleship.
A simplified path gives new followers of Jesus a clear way to build important relationships at the right times in their journey. (And no, you can’t have a clear discipleship path without pruning some programs. If you don’t cut back, your discipleship path will just be one more thing lost in the noise.)
Get a Fresh Perspective:
Invest in Outside Help to Disrupt the Inside Voices
Consider a few things when it comes to perspective:
- There are times when we are too close to the problem to see it clearly.
- Our preconceived ideas can make it difficult for us to see the truth.
- Experience counts, and we can learn a lot from those who have been in our position before.
We help pastors clarify where God's called the church to go in the future, and how you'll get there—and then we coach you as you lead change.