Flashback: 8 Reasons Your Church is Stuck

Tony Morgan | August 22, 2014

Have you ever been stuck? I mean really stuck.

Having grown up in the snow belt of Ohio, I had plenty of opportunities to experience what it means to be stuck. When your car is buried under a couple of feet of snow, it doesn’t matter what the color of the car is or what style of music is playing on the car radio--that’s not going to make a difference. The only thing that’s going to help is grabbing a shovel, clearing a path and throwing down some sand to gain traction.

Churches get stuck too. When that happens, you’d be surprised how many churches end up arguing about the peripheral issues that many times develop around tactics and personal preferences. Instead, churches need to address foundational challenges that are preventing them from gaining traction and making a real impact in people’s lives.

Over the last several years, I’ve had the opportunity to study and work with churches across the country. What follows is a list of those foundational issues that result in churches being stuck.

8 Reasons Your Church is Stuck

  1. You lack a leadership empowerment plan. We have failed as leaders in the church if we do not embrace the unique gift-mix that God designed. And we won’t fully know the power and impact of the local church until people are empowered to be the people God wired them up to be.
  2. You are unclear about your vision and mission. There are lots of churches with vision statements, but I don’t think there are very many churches that really have a vision statement that clarifies who they are as an organization. A clear vision that is properly communicated will both rally and repel people.
  3. You blame outsiders and external factors. Victim-thinking will only lead to bitterness and competition. Leaders who blame outsiders and external factors actually are confessing their own failure to think creatively and inspire their team.
  4. Your structure inhibits growth. One of the attributes of a church in decline is a complex structure. The natural tendency of organizations is to add complexity to their structure and systems. The longer an organization exists, the more complex it typically gets.
  5. You worship your past success. Our past successes can be one of the greatest contributing factors to our future demise. When organizations stick to “the way we do it,” the safe approach of avoiding innovation and change becomes the riskiest approach.
  6. You focus on activities instead of outcomes. While many church leaders are full of vision and passion, they lack an effective strategy to accomplish their mission. That leads to a feeling of disorganization, and ultimately they become stuck.
  7. You fail to equip God's people. For whatever reason, smaller churches I work with have a tendency to rely on the pastors and paid staff to carry the ministry load rather than equipping lay people.
  8. Your ministries ignore people outside the church. When churches become inward-focused and start making decisions about ministry to keep people rather than reach people, they also start to die.

How about your church? Of these eight challenges, where are you most prone to stall? I want to challenge you to dive into the conversations around those topics. Gather people around the table who can own and influence change. Work together to identify a strategy for moving in a new direction, and then develop new systems to support that strategy.

God wants you to have a healthy ministry that helps people experience life change through a relationship with Jesus. There are hurting people in your communities that need what your church can offer. Don't settle for anything short of that.

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