We usually equate dying churches with decreasing attendance, and while this is often the case, it’s not always a reliable sign. Churches can sit at the same attendance levels for twenty years and merely be considered stagnant instead of dying.
Instead of looking at attendance alone, here are five other signs that a church is dying.
1) Underfunded Next Generation
Let’s face it. Some churches put more money towards maintaining the cemetery next door than they put towards growing their next generation ministries. Why is it that when the senior adults take a trip the money is there, but when the youth take a trip they are forced to hold a bake sale or stand outside selling “stock” like the peasants in Les Miserables? We have got to understand that children and teens are the future of Christianity and if we want to instill a strong and vibrant faith in them, strong and vibrant youth ministries are sorely needed.
2) A Church Full of Yes Men
This is not just a church issue. When a leader is surrounded by people who only say yes, it’s a kiss of death. If telling the leadership no is akin to questioning their integrity, there is a serious problem.
3) Inwardly Focused
We should be willing to do whatever it takes short of sin to reach people outside of the walls of the church. Far too many Christians are content with their churches the way they are, the size they are, and who attends. This thinking could not be more backwards. Just for fun, invite a non-Christian friend to church with you and see what they think. If nobody greets them, make note of it. If they don’t know where to go, make note of it. If they don’t understand a word of the sermon, make note of it. We sometimes get so caught up in church that we forget what it is like to be outside of it.
4) Unwillingness to Change
Throughout the Bible, Jesus changed his context to fit the group that He was talking to. When talking to fisherman, He used analogies about fish and boats. When talking to tax collectors, He told a story about silver coins. The way we present music and sermons has changed with the times, but the message has stayed the same. Doing something because “that’s just the way it’s always been done” is never a good reason to continue doing it that way and will put you straight on the path to irrelevancy.
5) Lack of a Vision
This is one of the most important roles for a leader because it dictates what an organization is going to act like and inspires people to join in on a cause. Without a vision, there’s no unity towards a common goal. Without a vision, there’s no enthusiasm and drive to pitch in and help. Without a vision, volunteers stagnate, excitement becomes non-existent, and an organization becomes an inclusive social club.