Church Growth Mistakes: How to Guarantee Your Church WON’T Grow

Today’s guest post comes to us from James Emery White, for

There are five simple ways to make sure that your church will not reach its full redemptive potential. Follow one or more, and you can just about guarantee your church will not grow.

First, make your church all about the people it already has. Their care, their comfort, their concerns, their sense of being “fed.” Your mantra should be, “It’s all about them.” This means you spiritualize the idea of discipleship as the ultimate endeavor and then interpret the meaning of discipleship to be a weight-gain program of knowledge. Do not, under any circumstances, interpret the goal of discipleship to be for any sense of sacrificial mission to the least or the lost.

Second, cast a small vision. Or at least an insular one. There is a vast, lost world, but keep that from anyone’s thinking. Make the vision about something much, much smaller. As in…them! Cast a vision for deeper community and fellowship, small groups and men’s/women’s ministries—but be sure to stop there. Don’t go beyond the community of the already convinced.

Third, don’t talk about evangelism. If anything, put down churches that emphasize evangelism as if they are the shallow, undiscipling churches. Yes, you have to say you care about lost people, but keep it in a muted, vanilla way that never captures anyone’s attention. And for goodness sake, don’t make ANYTHING about evangelism seem as if it’s actually urgent, to be prioritized, or that heaven and hell are on the line. Then people might get exercised and want to actually do something.

Fourth, don’t let leaders lead. Do not let the people with the responsibility have any of the authority. Make sure you put decision-making in the hands of those who are removed from the day-in, day-out pursuit of that ministry. Think committees. That way the decisions are made by the least qualified or informed. The one thing to avoid is to let someone who might be closest to a ministry, most informed about a ministry, most passionate about a ministry, make a decision that might actually accelerate the effectiveness of that ministry. Put handcuffs on them as much as possible.

Finally, don’t make the church’s “front door” be open for anyone but the already convinced, meaning Christians who are church hopping and shopping. Focus on helping them make the best consumer decision. Give them everything they want. Which means don’t even think about the person who is unchurched. Who is unconvinced. Who doesn’t even have the memory of the gospel, much less is conversant and familiar with the evangelical subculture. Don’t be sensitive to their questions, concerns or issues. If they come, consider them an anomaly that is not in your wheelhouse, much less mission.

So there you have it: How to not grow your church.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist, working with churches in over 45 denominations. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He first developed the Assimilation System 10 years ago at the Journey Church and has since implemented and improved these strategies with over 3,000 churches across all sizes and denominations. He started coaching pastors in 2006 and has personally coached over 2100+ senior pastors, helping them break common growth barriers like 125, 250, 500, 1000 and beyond, all while maintaining personal life and ministry balance. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has trained more than 50,000 church leaders (3,000+ church planters). He is the author of over 85 church growth resources and 17+ books, including Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches. Nelson is married to Kelley and together they have one son, Alexander.

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