I realize this post may be discouraging, but it’s necessary. If we don’t recognize warning signs of a struggling church, we sometimes wait too long to try to fix the problem. Be aware of these signs that your church might be in trouble:
- Decreasing attendance – This one’s not a surprise, I’m sure. It’s especially a sign if the church has a history of increase and is not currently facing a space issue.
- Decreasing giving – Folks speak with their pocketbook. Decreased attendance often leads to decreased dollars, too.
- Plateaued attendance with decreased giving – When attendance remains the same but giving goes down, it’s possible that frustrated people are simply withholding their funds while hoping for some kind of change.
- Long-term workers stepping down – Long-termers are often committed to the tasks at hand. If they begin stepping away from their assignments, something’s probably up.
- Fewer guests attending – This sign occurs when folks who used to invite their friends no longer do so. For some reason, they’ve decided that church is no longer worth inviting others to attend.
- Rumors of division – I don’t typically give much weight to rumors, but some rumors do reveal some truth. If you’re hearing about division, it’s possible that the sides are lining up against each other.
- Decreasing additions – When fewer people are joining the church, asking “why” is the right step. It might be that the church has turned inward to deal with some kind of strife and has lost its outward focus.
- Difficulty recruiting workers – The congregation that refuses to use their gifts and talents is probably looking in the wrong direction – something is keeping them from serving. That “something” might be worries about where the church is headed.
- Nostalgic “talk” around the church – That’s what happens when a church talks more about yesterday (“I remember when . . .”) than about tomorrow. It’s difficult to move a church out of this stage.
- Unhappy staff members – A lot of stuff can create unhappiness in a staff, but any kind of discontent is a sign of something going on.
- Judgment on sister churches – It’s easy to condemn the church down the street when your church is struggling; it briefly takes the attention off your congregation.
- Changing community, but a stagnant church – It happens all the time: the church community no longer reflects the church, and the church makes no changes to reach that community.
Which of these warning signs marks your church? What other signs would you add?