8 Faulty Assumptions of Non-Growing Churches

Most churches are not growing. Not every non-growing church gives evidence of the following faulty assumptions; nevertheless, many do, and these assumptions help us to understand why the church isn’t growing. See if your church lives by (even unintentionally) any of these assumptions:

  1. “If people attend our church regularly, they’ll automatically develop and learn orthodox theology.” These churches must believe this statement, for they have no other strategy or pathway in place to teach basic theology.
  2. “If we tell people to do spiritual disciplines, they will.” I’ve written about the difference between telling people what to do and teaching them how to do it. Many, if not most churches only tell people what to do—and then get frustrated with them when they don’t do it because they don’t know how.
  3. “Everyone in the congregation has basic Bible knowledge.” Preachers must think this is the case, as they sometimes (a) preach sermons far “over the heads” of their people, (b) make references to Bible stories without really telling the story; or (c) say things like, “I’m sure all of you know this story”—when that may often not be the case.
  4. “If the people are silent, it must mean that they’re supportive.” It may, in fact, be just the opposite. Sometimes silent people don’t speak only because they don’t want to create controversy. In other cases, they’re actually talking—but to other church members rather than to leaders.
  5. “If we preach, everybody will listen.” I wish that were the case, but only the combination of arrogance and naivety takes us to that conclusion. No matter how gifted we might be, all of us must work hard to preach well, know our audience, and always strive to improve.
  6. “We don’t need to work on the nursery until we have bed babies attending.” Here’s what happens when churches think this way: those parents who do bring their babies to the nursery never come back. An unkept nursery will repel guests, not bring them in.
  7. “Nobody really pays attention to the facility; after all, the church is the people.” Given the condition of some parking lots and buildings I’ve seen, I have to think that this is the church’s assumption. It’s hard to get past things that could be easily fixed if someone would prioritize it.
  8. “Lost people know where we are, and they can find us.” Even if the church members would never make this statement, a church with no intentional challenge and process to do outreach is silently stating this assumption. It’s easy to see everything as evangelism and then result in doing no genuine evangelism at all.

What faulty assumptions come to mind for you? Does your church face any of these? 


  • John Carlton says:

    In the very early 1960’s my father-in-law pastored a small church in a rural community of Central FL. He tried to get a visitation program instituted and the head deacon told him, “Preacher, the people here in ________, know where the church is. We don’t need an outreach program here.” He also said about people that were being possible nominees for teachers or leaders, “They might just pick up and leave at anytime.” When asked how long they had lived in the town, he was told, “Between 20 and 30 years, but they’re not from here.”

    He didn’t stay long, but if he had not come to that church, I would not have met my wife.

  • Gary from Southern NH, USA says:


    This is a great post.

    Items 1 and 4 really got me thinking about things at my home church.

    Thanks for preparing this post,

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