By Thom S. Rainer
In a recent post, I noted that 90 percent of churches in America will not go beyond the 350 attendance barrier. I also said that one key reason is organizational challenges. A lively discussion ensued in the comments of that post.
For many years, leaders have moved away from the discussion of numbers and organizational issues. To many, such issues seem unspiritual or secular. Indeed, if the numbers become an end in themselves, such arguments have merit. I fear, however, we are throwing out the baby with the bath water. In our zeal not to seem numbers-focused, we are often failing to be good stewards of our God-given resources.
As I have noted in other posts, the number one reason for declines and plateaus in churches is declining frequency of attendance of church members. Though there are many possible explanations for this reality, some of the reasons are in the category of organizational issues. Let me note five of them.
- The church does not keep good records of attendance of worship services and small groups.Do not neglect this stewardship. You will not begin to know the nature of the problem until you have this data on an ongoing basis.
- The church’s small groups are not an organizational priority. Those in small groups are five times more likely to be active in the church than those who attend worship services alone. Leadership in the church must give fastidious attention to small groups and Sunday school classes.
- The church does not organizationally have some method of action reminders. For example, I know of one church that contacts anyone who has been absent from a small group for two consecutive weeks. The leaders shared with me that it has given them great insights into pastoral needs and hurts before the members drop out of church life.
- The church is not organizationally a high expectation church. I have written and spoken on this issue many times. The best way to address member expectations is through a required new members’ class.
- The church does not have organizational accountability. For example, a small group leader should be accountable to someone to make sure anyone in his or her group is contacted if they miss consecutive weeks.
At the risk of redundancy, let me again emphasize: The number one reason churches are declining or hitting plateaus is the declining frequency of attendance of church members. I have noted five organizational issues in this post. There are many more we will discuss later. In the meantime, let me hear from you.
This article was originally posted on ThomRainer.com.
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.