3 Truths Churches Struggle to Accept

By Trevor Bron

I help churches navigate change. As I work with churches, no matter how diverse their situations, they share one thing in common: they all struggle to admit certain truths. Here are three of them that, once understood, may set your church free:

1. It’s Okay To Say No.

Most churches can do only five things well. These are the “Big 5”: Worship, Teaching, Small Groups, Kid’s Ministry, and Student Ministry. Before I start working with church leaders, they’ll send me a huge list of things the church is doing. As part of the process, we guide them through an exercise called “Ministry Alignment.” This process is designed to evaluate each ministry to see if it fits the church’s core values, mission, and vision. If it does not, we help them either reinvent it so it does align, or we help them do what Peter Drucker called “Planned Abandonment.”

Knowing the church’s main objectives helps to prioritize its budgets, its leaders, and its facilities. The more aligned the church is with its core values and mission, the more productive and efficient it will be. The first church I was on staff with had a difficult time saying no. This was especially true when it came to the Wednesday night prayer meeting. By the time I began my internship at the church, there was only a small group still attending the prayer meetings, and the average age was well over 65.

Even as a young, inexperienced intern I knew the reason the prayer meeting was still going on was that no one had the leadership clarity and ability to say no. This small band of people had such great potential to be engaged in more meaningful ways. Awana also met on Wednesday night, and its leaders were always in need of more volunteers. With a greater clarity of vision for these kids, I believe those prayer meeting folks could have been utilized to a much greater degree and at the same time been re-instilled with a feeling of value and purpose in their service to the church.

2. Its Okay To Have Uninvolved People.

Many churches use the 80/20 rule and think, “We’ve got 20 percent of our people doing 80 percent of the work, and that’s not right!” But this is a fallacy. It doesn’t take 100 percent of your people to do what you do; about 20 percent of the group really can do most of it.
And that’s good, because the mission of the church is much bigger than what happens inside the walls.

In many churches, though, a member who spends most of her time working with Habitat for Humanity doesn’t get counted or rewarded for her service. Instead, she’s seen as part of the 80 percent; she’s too busy to help with the church’s junior-high kids.
Leadership is not about finding more volunteers. It is about mobilizing people for ministry. However, most of the time, we are not focused on empowering people. We are managing people. When we empower people to lead in ministry, it doesn’t matter if they do ministry within the church or the community. Both are equally valuable and important.

3. Its Okay Not To Grow Numerically.

We equate church health with church attendance. But if your church is in a high-turnover community, it might be a smashing success to stay level.

Frontline at McLean Bible Church is located near the heart of Washington, D.C. The ministry attracts thousands of young adults who come to the Capitol to learn, intern, and serve. Frontline tends to lose a large portion of people when they move away. Generally, ministries want people to come in the front door and stay. In reality, ministry to certain groups of people takes place in front of the church and the people are on a moving sidewalk at varying speeds. You minister to them as they pass by.

This is one reason it is so important to measure other aspects of church growth and ministry effectiveness. Consider these indicators of growth: percentage of attendees in small groups; percentage of people engaged in ministry and service, whether inside or outside the church; the number of people going on mission trips; the number of people fed through a soup kitchen; the dollars spent meeting needs of those outside the church.

This piece originally appeared on BuildingForMinistry.com. Trevor Bron is senior consultant with TAG Consulting (TransformingChurch.net) From: www.ChristianityToday.com website. A ministry of  “Your Church” magazine. December 2009