You can make many mistakes leading a church. If your pastoral role model is Rev. Timothy Lovejoy of the First Church of Springfield, your church probably isn’t going to see much growth or impact for the Kingdom of God. But apart from huge leadership errors or scandals, there are little things that have nothing to do with faith, morals, and other important issues that can impede church growth.
Here are three surprising ones.
These are not insurmountable obstacles but can have a significant impact on the church.
Mainline protestant denomination churches have been in decline for some time now. In the past, Christians identified with the denomination they grew up in. Those churches were familiar and you basically knew what to expect. But as the US gets more and more post-Christian, many families are exploring church and faith without prior church experiences. For these people they aren’t concerned with what it means to be Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc. When they search for a church and see the word Baptist in the name, they might think, “Well, we're not Baptists so maybe this church isn’t for us.” Some churches choose (or even change) a name without the denomination in it. In my city, one of the largest churches is a part of the EPC denomination. You would never know this unless you searched through their website. I’m not saying you should propose to the elders of your 200 year old church to rename it to “Insert Adjective or Verb” Church but the name could be an impediment for growth.
Parking lots are really expensive. And after paying a small fortune all you have is…..a parking lot. There’s no pretty steeple, functional sanctuary, or an inviting children’s space. All you have is asphalt and some lines.
I served at a church that went through an incredible period of growth. It was wonderful seeing all these new families come to know the Lord. The problem came when the parking lot maxed out before the sanctuary. Families who arrived late (try being on time with toddlers) would circle the parking lot, not find a space, turn and leave. It was heartbreaking to see that the size of the parking lot was hindering people from worshiping God. There are a variety of solutions: construction, church planting, and satellite campuses are some. If you’re a church leader, you know all the things that can hinder people from worshipping. Don’t let parking be one of them. It's important to get ahead of this problem and plan for a solution before it happens.
By location, I mean the GPS coordinates of where your congregation worships as well as the actual building the services are in. Location is not always something you can control but wise leaders will take location into account as they plan for growth.
If you’re church’s target audience doesn’t match the community’s demographics, it’s going to struggle. Is your church is full of young hipsters while the neighborhood is full of families with high school students? Or is the church in the heart of a college town but the membership is primarily over fifty? This isn’t to say a church should move or change the way they do ministry, but demographics is something to consider.
The actual building can impede growth too. Having church at a school or shared facility is a budget saver but it’s difficult to provide children’s ministry (not impossible: difficult) and programs during the week are out of the question. Families with young children and people who enjoy weeknight dinner/Bible Studies may pass on this type of church. This is just one example. There are lots of thriving churches that rent schools and there are lots of churches with great facilities that struggle. The key is to look at what you have and discover how it helps and hurts growth.
Name, parking, and location should not be the first thing you focus on as you lead a church. Theology, doctrines, vision, mission, etc. must lead the way. But if you believe you’ve done the right things and have the right character, you should consider these little logistical issues that can make a significant impact. I’ve listed three but there are plenty of others. The key is to think about church growth in ways beyond just ministry.
If your church is stagnant and needs a fresh set of eyes, I can help with a thorough analysis of your ministries and operations.