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5 Reasons a Church or Organization Stops Growing

I was talking with a church recently that had explosive growth, but things have slowed. They wanted to know why they were not growing any longer.

Honestly, I do t know. There are probably different reasons for every church that stops growing.

But, this church is seeking answers. So, I decided to share Some thoughts to consider. And, I’m sharing them here.

Obviously, God is ultimately in charge of a churches growth. There are times where God is giving a season of rest and preparation for a church for something to come. In some situations, God may have even taken His hand from the church.

God is into church growth, however. I’m convinced He likes it when a church grows.

It’s our mission as believers to produce disciples and our model example of the first century church was a growing church, so outside the God factor, there are usually reasons for stagnation in a church. Because the church is an organization made up of people, these reasons are often similar to those you may find true as to why growth stalls in the life of an organization also.

In my experience, the are some common variables when growth stalls.

Here are 5 suggestions:

You get comfortable

It’s okay to be comfortable, but when you hang out there too long, it can be dangerous, because you stop trying new things to spur growth and excitement.

You quit dreaming

Dreams inspire, challenge, and grow people and organizations. What could the church accomplish to reach its community? You’ll never dream bigger than the dreams God has for you or your church.

You stop taking risks

You can’t succeed at anything without a measure of risk. Playing it safe never grows anything. The call of God always involves risk-taking.

You start maintaining

When you fall into the mode of protecting what you have, you’ll be less likely to encourage growth for fear of losing ground.

You fail to walk by faith.

Especially for the church — we are a faith-based organization. If you aren’t walking by faith in what you are doing it is impossible to please God. (That’s Biblical. Look it up!)

Those are my quick thoughts.

Obviously, there is so much more to this issue and to each one of these answers. These are general responses and there are specific issues with every church or organization. Hopefully thinking through each of these as a paradigm for brainstorming may help trigger thoughts towards actions which can spur future growth.

But, I’ve also learned that activity leads to activity. Maybe just having the discussions will begin to stir new momentum. Pray hard and ask God to stir big.

What would you add?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 26 Comments

  • Dave Shannon says:

    We need to be careful when trying to Keep up with the culture'" that we do not bend into it instead of reaching the culture through our example of following Gods way of growing the church. Growing in numbers without discipleship will yield a group of people to just a social club where we come to listen to someone sing and get our ears tickled. Churches will grow for a while then become stagnate.

  • Righteous Oluseye says:

    In addition, the Pastor may need to examine himself: his word level. He may need a refreshing, upgrading and more encouraging. Looking for Seminars, Conferences and other programmes to attend may not be out of place. Sometimes, taking a short holiday may help.

  • Onesimus says:

    Please elaborate on "You fail to walk by faith." What Biblical references should we be looking at?

    • ronedmondson says:

      Not going to answer in a Bible study kind of way because I'm headed out of town…may later, but my quick reply is to look at the totality of the Bible. The Bible mostly tells the finished stories of men and women walking by faith, but it also tells us the lack of faith there is leading up to those steps of obedience. Gideon, Moses, Abraham, (the list is exhaustive) all struggled with their faith, but it was only when responding by faith that they saw God's working. Without faith it's impossible to please God, so a growing church, which we were called to "go and make disciples", the early church example was a growing church, must be done by faith. Peter when he was told to go to Cornelius refused first (Acts 10). It was not until he obeyed in faith that God moved. Those are quick thoughts. I may come back to this. Are you in disagreement with the comment or just looking for further assistance. Thanks.

      • Onesimus says:

        If a church, being a faith-based organization, were to walk without faith would it be a church at all? I am looking for further assistance in determining what to look for to see if a church is still walking by faith.

  • MWK says:

    When church members fail to welcome and include those "not-like-me" people.

  • David says:

    When things slow down it can somtimes be the fear of change. There are a lot of people who don’t completely understand that the “Church” is not a committee or a group of committees, it is in fact the Christian members/believers. By not stepping out and risking failure they are going against God and what our resposeability is as children of God. Fear of what others think about us will and does stop some from ever sharing the good word.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Yes! Thanks Darryl

  • Darryl says:

    Great points to consider. Lack of vision and inward focus vs focus on lost, unchurched. Neglecting what caused you to grow in the first place. Value those who worked so hard, and inspire new people to join to journey.

  • dckenney says:

    I would also add that people stop listening and observing the culture and the world around them. They keep doing things the way that they always have regardless of if the world around them changes. Nobody needs a VHS repairman anymore.

  • John Harris says:

    Sometimes space is an issue. That also means there are other factors going on (not thinking outside the box) but sometimes that is the case.

  • Perhaps this goes towards the "maintenance" thing but it seems that a reduction in growth equals a greater reliance on the organization performing the mission of the church and less of a focus on the people that ARE the church doing the mission. Focus shifts towards the programs, the ministries, and "Oh, that's the job of program X" and members forget that, if it wasn't for the people, there would be no program X.

    I've quoted her many times, but my mother, in a pique of frustration after a denominational level meeting, came home and vented to my dad, "Don't they know it's not about the programs, it's about the relationships?"

  • ronedmondson says:

    That's good. I agree.

  • alijcampbell says:

    I would add that churches stop growig because they stop growing leaders. The more people, the more small group leaders, home group leaders, pastors and teachers you need . . . senior leadership does not always like this – especially if some on the team are better at doing those things than those at the "top"! Release leadership and responsibility to others, keep doing it . . . . keep growing.

    • MRH says:

      exactly right on. Here is the challenge: Leadership Development vs. Priestcraft.
      Sadly, like the AWOL Democrats from WI,
      Many "pastors and leaders" are not willing and available to carry out their fiduciary responsibilities.
      They religiously return to get paid. Many would not return, if they could continue collecting their salary and remain AWOL. Too many reluctantly attend without any desire, let alone commitment to real leadership development. Case in point, TV preachers that behave like Markist collectivists. They give account to who?
      ok, sorry… To whom do they give an account of their stewardship? anyone, Ben Stein?, anyone?
      When they invest their time, who are they attempting to help? themselves? I think so. If we compare the image of a TV collectivist with the life of the pastors in our local churches, there should be an obvious difference. Leadership development is that difference.

    • That's a great point! Jerry Cook writes about this in his book, "Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness." Uses the analogy of the church as a "force" rather than a "field" (a definable location). As a force, church leadership is designed to empower and equip its body (congregation and leadership team) for "the work of the ministry" (that's a God-quote, not Jerry!). When a church, leadership team, or pastor is afraid of losing ground or jeopardizing their "field" (as Ron mentioned above) they start micromanaging and controlling people rather than releasing them to minister. Faith not fear!

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