It is not the newest book concerning church growth and health, but Barna’s book, Turn-Around Churches, still has lots of insightful material to help churches get back on track. In particular, his Eight Symptoms of declining churches is still relevant in any situation. We will look at the first four in part one. I have added some brief comment after each symptom. See what you think…
1. Demographic Changes
We cannot overlook the impact of rapidly changing communities. Churches must be in constant touch with the fields around them.
(I would add that churches must also be aware of culture shifts and changes. The church must understand the culture in order to engage it effectively with the Gospel. Jesus taught his disciples on how to engage people in conversation about the Gospel. We must do the same.)
2. Inadequate Leadership
Strong, visionary leadership in a church is of extreme importance. In researching declining churches he says, “More often than not, the churches that declined found themselves with a pastor who failed to provide effective leadership.” (p.34)
(Ed Stetzer found the same factor with his research in Comeback Churches. The other side of this would be that the pastor provided the leadership but the people chose not follow! Church leaders and pastors must be on the same page to move a church forward.)
3. Poor Management
“A clear- and vitally important- distinction can be made between leadership and management. It is true that a church cannot function effectively without strong leadership. But our research also indicated that many churches floundered because they had ineffective organization and operational management.” (p.35)
(Have you ever been in a church where the process of making a decision or a change was so difficult that nothing could ever get done? By the time you made a decision, you had already missed the opportunity the change warranted! What is your process for making changes in your church?)
4. Old Blood
When a church relies exclusively upon the “old guard” to carry out ministry without integrating newcomers into leadership it is doom to failure. The consequences of not growing new leaders is serious in any organization. (Churches must continue to discover and train new leaders for the various positions of service or it will stagnate and decline. New leaders bring new excitement and energy for new ministries.
A discipleship plan in a local church grows spiritual leaders who will assume new roles in your church that will reach new people.
Do you have a plan in place that is growing your congregation spiritually? It is a key ingredient if you desire to Turnaround Your Church!