10 Leadership Responses to Brutal Facts about Church Growth

Jim Collins was correct in his book, Good to Great: stagnant organizations that want to grow must be willing to face the brutal facts. My church consulting experience tells me that many leaders and members of non-growing churches do not recognize the reality of their church’s direction. When our team helps them face reality, the responses are mixed. Look at these descriptions, and see where you are as you face the reality of your congregation.

  1. Denial – Maybe you’ve heard these kinds of comments. “I’m not sure you’re looking at the right numbers.” “We think numbers can be idolatrous, so we don’t pay much attention to stats.” When the leaders refuse to admit decline, turning the ship around becomes almost impossible.
  2. Blame –The community’s changing. A power group is in charge. The people don’t really want to grow. Staff members are not unified. The church down the street is gaining a crowd by loud music and watered-down teaching. And on and on….
  3. Seclusion – Some leaders choose to retreat when the news they hear is negative. Recognition of the reality leads to isolation – and isolation is not the type of leadership needed in a time of decline.
  4. Hopelessness – “What’s the point of trying anymore?” these leaders wonder. If the church has declined under their leadership, why should they believe the church will turn around under their direction?
  5. Resignation – It happens: a consultation leads to reality, and the leader chooses to step down. The work to revitalize the church will take too much energy for a leader who has already lost his hope.
  6. A welcoming spirit –If outsiders can help them strengthen their church, they are open to advice and correction. They listen, reflect, apply, and learn – all without defensiveness or anger.
  7. Self-reflection – These leaders willingly take some responsibility for the church’s condition, even it’s painful to do so. They ask, “What role have I played in this decline, and what can I do to correct it?”
  8. Humble teachability – These leaders admit they don’t know everything, including how best to lead their church. They humbly admit their need for help and intentionally seek it.
  9. Desperate prayer – Often, they pray, “Lord, it’s too big for me. If this church is going to grow, You alone have to make it happen.” Pastors who respond to reality with hope pray this way.
  10. Stretched faith – Faith is believing what we cannot see. It is, in fact, trusting that God has a great future for a church whose history and present might suggest otherwise.

What are the brutal facts about your church? Perhaps more importantly, what is your response to those facts?

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