The quickest way to keep a church from growing

Our extensive research shows that inward-focused churches do not grow. If your church has these 10 signs of an inward focus, it’s time to commit to being about “Him” in worship and “them” in ministry. | by Mike Clarensau

For the past several years, I’ve been a part of a team that crisscrosses the nation to work with local churches — hundreds of them. At the same time, I spend a chunk of my summers poring over church attendance and ministry data, identifying metrics to measure health and real effectiveness and looking for clues to what can drive the oft-elusive, but greatly-prioritized, goal of growth.

Long ago, I set aside the idea that health and growth are twin sisters, even though they are seemingly always together (and often dress alike). Ample evidence proves that health and growth aren’t that close. Maybe they’re cousins who see each other a few times a year but can otherwise live two very different lives. There are many growing churches that aren’t healthy, just as the largest humans are not the healthiest.

In all this research, one thing we have learned for certain is that declining churches consistently prove to be inward-focused. In fact, growing churches that are about to plateau often do so because inward focus takes root within.

When we lose track of the “other-focus” of Jesus’ ideal, we give in to our personal consumerism, and soon the unhealthy symptoms begin.

So how do you know if your local church is inward-focused? Watch for these signs:

  1. You attend church each weekend, wondering what you’ll get rather than considering what you’ll give.
  2. You know how to celebrate your faith, but you lack the confidence to share it.
  3. The people of your church guard their preferences and expect new people to adapt to the established ways.
  4. Congregation members aren’t friendly to Sunday guests (“That’s a greeter’s job”).
  5. The pastor spends 90 percent of his or her time caring for and ministering to the existing congregation (and is exhausted).
  6. Your congregation members are more likely to ask, “What about me?” than “What about them?”
  7. Less than 10 percent of your congregation brought a friend to your church last year.
  8. Talk of serving Jesus focuses primarily on serving at church on Sundays rather than ways to serve Him Monday through Saturday in the community.
  9. Your church is active, but your city doesn’t know (or care about) what you’re doing.
  10. Your church’s most powerful day of the week is Sunday (rather than any other day of the week, when your congregation is dispersed into your community).

If any of these (or even several) sound familiar, your church might be on an unhealthy path. Christ designed His church to be about “Him and them.” When we are about “Him” in worship and “them” in ministry, then He takes care of us. And only then can we be the healthy church He longs to establish in our communities. CGM

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