7 Reasons Churches Get ‘Stuck’

When you are a person of vision and wanting to see things move forward it can be the most frustrating thing in the world to feel stuck. This is true in every field of work and life. Helping to identify why you are stuck is a huge help. Here are 7 reasons why churches get stuck.

1. They are governed by large siced leadership teams and many committees.

Sometimes the  structure for decision-making can be so complex that It feels like we need a committee to finding people to serve on committees. Ideadly one leadership team with 7-9 people is best (follow the pizza rule. A decision making meeting is ideal when everyone can be served by having no more than 2 full-size pizzas that are shared) The goal is to get everyone else serving on a ministry team rather than participating in committee meetings.


2. They don’t empower volunteers.

The first goal is to get staff or key volunteers leading ministry teams rather than reporting to committees (see above). Once that shift happens, the next goal is get staff and key volunteer to start building volunteer teams to do the ministry. It’s not unusual, though, for staff to hold on to doing all the ministry in mid-size churches. Think children’s ministry. Think pastoral care. Staff need to begin equipping God’s people to do the work of the ministry. Pastors need a mind shift here. So many that I meet think I need a staff person to do this or that we need to re-look at Ephesians 4:11-12.

3. They’re unwilling to address facility constraints.

Sometimes those constraints happen because of limited seating for adults. More oftentimes, though, the constraints aren’t as visible because they impact guests more than they do people who are already connected to the church. Those hidden constraints may include lack of parking, welcoming and obvious entrances, children’s ministry space, adequate lobby space, clear directional signage and so on. The key question is to consider how is the guest experience impacted by our facility? Also remember when a space is at 70-80% capacity it is full. It’s time to add another service or increase the space.

4. Children’s ministry doesn’t become a priority.

Ironically, churches tend to hire a youth pastor before they hire a children’s ministry pastor. Part of the reason why is that they’re really only focused on babysitting kids. The better space and the stronger leaders are focused on adults and students. The challenge is that unless churches give their best to children’s ministry, they’ll never reach their parents. That’s one of the reasons why some churches have a chasm of missing 25 to 35-year-old adults.

5. They haven’t identified their primary purpose and distinctives.

Here’s the challenge. Once you start reaching more people, it’s very easy to continue adding programming. Before you know it, things become very complex with multiple ministries competing for volunteers, leaders, money, space, promotions, etc. Mid-size churches need to define their mission, vision and strategy. By doing this, they’ll be in a better position to begin focusing resources on the areas of ministry that define who they are as a church. It will create a filter for leaders to begin saying no more often. That focus will increase ministry effectiveness and leverage resources for greater impact.

6. The quality of weekend environments doesn’t reflect the size of the church.

For good or bad, as the size of the environment grows, so do quality expectations. Of course, the primary place this will be felt is with the worship service environment for adults, but the same principle will apply in every environment including children’s ministry, students, guest experiences, courselves and so on. With worship, though, there needs to be more intentionality around planning, preparation and execution. That includes not only the teaching but everything else that happens during the service.

7. They don’t raise their own leaders.

I alluded to this earlier, but many times churches don’t empower proactively. At this stage, it becomes more and more important that churches begin to appoint leaders rather than doers. You’ll need to focus on staff/key volunteers who can grow ministries and reach more people. That means support roles (assistants, bookkeepers, associate pastors, etc.) may have to wait. These become great opportunities for volunteer engagement or outsourcing. The priority needs to be finding staff/volunteer leaders who can build volunteer teams, build healthy ministries and build a strategy to reach new people.