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10 Ways Churches Limit Their Growth

10 Ways Churches Limit Their Growth

blogslide_10wayschurcheslimittheirgrowthI believe that healthy congregations grow, if not numerically, at least in compassion, discipleship and in acts of service to their communities. Unfortunately, the potential for growth and vitality is often diminished by the following mindsets and practices:

  1. They make it hard for people to contribute by maintaining complex organizational structures, convoluted reporting systems, confusing roles and responsibilities and fuzzy outcomes. People “give up” rather than give their time, talents and treasures .
  2. They focus on cultivating followers rather than leaders. Subsequently, have few people stepping forward to dream big dreams and launch new initiatives.
  3. They treat new people as outsiders rather than new sources of wisdom, creativity, gifts and energy. Some congregations have the mindset that new people need to spend at least a few years “learning how things are done here” before their input carries any weight.  By that time, those willing to share their wisdom have already left the church.
  4. They spend more time ensuring that the right people are in control rather than unleashing the Spirit in people’s lives and ministries. The controlling coalition can usually tell you who’s in charge and it usually doesn’t include Jesus. These same congregations often spend more time gossiping about their leaders than praying for them.
  5. They focus on doing “church” inside the building rather than viewing the congregation as one of many settings in which to help people worship, grow and serve. “Go” and make disciples seems to be a foreign concept and members at large don’t see themselves as modern day missionaries.
  6. They  give up when change is resisted, forgetting that with change comes conflict and that successful change always includes persistence.  Congregations that seem so peaceful have usually become too comfortable for their own good. Congregations that are comfortable rarely challenge their members.
  7. When things don’t turn out as expected, they make excuses or find scapegoats.  The enemies of excellence include those who fail to learn from their successes and as well as their failures.
  8. After they create a strategic plan, they quit dreaming and quit updating their road map for moving forward.  Strategic plans should be viewed as working documents that are continuously updated based on new information and where God might be leading their faith community.
  9. They look in the rearview mirror more than they look to the future.  Leaders are, by their very nature, forward-thinking and are charged with seeing ministry with fresh eyes.  Thriving congregations leave “trying harder” to Avis. Thriving congregations think smarter and think outside of the box rather than recreate what’s been done in the past.
  10. They discount the importance of systems. They want to grow but fail to create systems for inviting people into community, befriending people in meaningful ways, teaching people ways to follow Jesus, and helping people discover, develop and deploy their gifts in serve to others.  They resist any organized system, strategy or plans to grow the church, saying that it squelches the Spirit.  Systems direct people’s energy towards what matters most and provide conditions that allow the Spirit to blow in and through people’s lives.


Growing congregations work on getting better before getting bigger.  They have a clear and compelling vision and a sense of urgency for living into God’s preferred future.  Like a greenhouse, they create conditions that help people grow in faith. What’s limiting your congregation’s growth?  How might you remove these limitations so that your congregation can maximize its potential to be a transforming influence in your community?

Some Toughts (3)

  1. Eric
    added on 3 Sep, 2014

    I am seeing several of these going on right now at our church. I pray that people will remember why we come to church, it’s not to gossip about others, it is to praise God for everything he has given to us.

  2. Kelly Preboski
    added on 11 Sep, 2014

    Wonderful article. The first sentences grabbed my attention and I shared it with my husband as he is on the call commitee at our parish and we are preparing to call a new senior pastor. Our church has remained stagnant in membership, though we do welcome new members … the same about of people are leaving and there has been no real growth for several years. I like the challenge of forward thinking leaders, encouraging leaders to think about what church should look like in the future and then creating plans to make that happen.

  3. added on 16 Sep, 2014

    Jim, Can I reprint this in our newsletter? Nancy Johnsen, Class of 2013

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