Truth be known, most church leaders don’t hit the Church Growth Panic Button until the money hits the fan. At the moment it becomes clear that the endowments aren’t going to last forever and the only remaining line item in the budget left to slash is the part-time salary of the beloved eighty-two year old organist, then someone will ask, “Who do we need to call to get help?”
Sadly, by that time it’s far too late to start a turnaround. The best outcome in those situations is death-with-dignity.
If Only …
If only the church leaders could wake up and smell the coffee before it’s too late.
Here’s how to get that dose of reality into the minds, and hopefully the hearts, of your church leaders. If you’re in a denomination that gathers annual statistics, you’ll start with the denominational year books. If not, hopefully someone in your congregation has been recording weekly worship attendance. If possible, go back and record the church’s average worship attendance for the past 25 years or so. Then put those figures into an Excel spreadsheet and create a line chart. Next, create a Trend Line for five years into the future … That’ll probably wake ’em up.
Below is the one we created for a church we were working with a year or so ago.
Over the space of twenty years, the reasons for the church’s rises and falls were pretty much irrelevant. What was relevant is that if something didn’t change, the hearty group of 150 that was left would be down to 50 by 2022. At that point, the church wouldn’t have the people or the funding to keep the lights on … literally. This particular church mobilized to try and turn it all around. The problem is, they have a culture of decline that’s been built over the past twenty years. It’s very difficult to change a negative culture into a positive one. It’s not impossible, but it is improbable. We’ll know over the next year or so whether the church has the stomach and the resources to pull off the transformation.
In any event, charts like this may help you to get the panic button pushed early enough for the church to get triage, diagnosis, a prescription, and enough rehab time for a resurrection.