When Your Church Is In Decline
Thankfully, we're hearing of many example of churches growing and expanding across the world - but what happens when you find yourself leading a church going through a difficult season, where the congregation is in decline? One thing you can't afford to do is 'stick your head in the sand' and hope for the wind to change. Leaders must take charge of the situation and be honest enough to face the tough questions.
Assuming you're doing all you know how to do, you desire growth, you're praying and there are no obvious blockages or distractions you're aware of that could be hindering the growth of the church, here are 5 things to consider when your church in in decline:
1. Seek Accountability
Sadly, in my experience, this is the most important ingredient that is missing in the church world. Accountability gives us a sense of 'togetherness' and enables us to set realistic goals. Without accountability, churches can drift, stagnate or even worse head into free-fall. Accountability is like an early warning system alerting us when we're getting off course and can prevent us going too long in the wrong direction. A word on accountability though - it requires clear goal setting and regular, honest feedback combined with an acceptance of what happens when things aren't working out.
2. Ask For Help
Sometimes we simply need to ask for help. Not from just anyone of course, but those who have been where we want to go, leaders who are breaking growth barriers themselves. It is easy to fall into the 'pride' trap and keep going alone, getting more and more off the growth track. Choose where you ask for help carefully - be strategic. Resist the temptation to fill your time chasing from one 'feel good' conference to another - they have a bad habit of mask reality. Finally, be brave and step outside of your comfort zone, often friends that are too close won't tell you what you really near too hear.
3. Consider A Healthy Merger
The unthinkable for many church leaders is to merge with another church. Whilst never straight forward, a healthy merger can have many benefits, some obvious, others less so. There is a growing trend of healthy mergers happening. In their book "Better Together', Tomberlin and Bird say 2% of US Protestant churches merge annually - that's 6000 congregations. More significantly, another 5% say they have already talked about merging in the future - that's 15,000 more. Healthy mergers can be a way for churches pool their strengths and see multiplication.
4. Utilise Denomination Support
Many churches are part of a denomination or church network which could provide the help they need to reverse their shrinking church numbers or stagnation and get it going in the right direction. Denominations can often offer financial help, resources, provide speakers and deliver good leadership training. Don't be afraid to utilise any help your denomination or network can offer.
5. Accept Your Limitations
Sometimes church growth is capped by the limitations of it's senior leader - ouch! Whilst this can seem a harsh reality and even almost impossible to address without hurting feelings, I believe it is a conversation that needs to take place when a church is in decline. If you find yourself out of your depth and drowning in the current role of leading the church, it's time to seek help and be strong enough to accept your limitations. This may result in more leadership training being required or in some cases a role change and new senior leader.
If you are facing any of the challenges mentioned above and are unsure of what to do next, don't wait another 12 months before you take action - get in touch and let's get your church growing again.