Very few leaders go into church leadership as pastors, staff, board members or volunteers hoping to be ineffective.
And yet so many churches and church leaders end up that way—ineffective.
You might be stuck in a church like that right now. Or even if you would say your church is ‘effective’ overall, there’s a very good chance there are areas of your ministry that aren’t. Or maybe you realize you’ve become less effective than you used to be.
Why is that?
Sometimes it’s because people have lost faith or lost their faithfulness. But often that’s not the case.
I see many churches populated with people who love God but have become completely ineffective.
And often the issues are behind that are practical, and fixable.
If you’re willing to go where most leaders don’t go, that is.
9 Ways to Make Your Church Ineffective
What do I mean by ‘ineffectiveness’? Great question.
I simply mean not accomplishing what you set out to accomplish.
For most of us in church world, that means something like leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus and growing by becoming a church unchurched people love to attend. At least that’s what we’ve set out to accomplish (it’s kind of the universal mission of the church). I imagine you are not that far off.
So, with that in mind, here are 9 ways to lose your effectiveness in ministry.
1. Don’t dream
The church should be the place where dreams are born and where dreams soar.
In far too many cases, churches have become the place where dreams die.
People with imagination, hope and optimism get squashed enough times that they stop dreaming.
And eventually, an ineffective church is marked as a place where people have long since abandoned thriving and are focused on merely surviving.
Want to be ineffective? Kill dreams.
2. Focus on yourself
Ineffective churches are almost always self-focused.
The natural mission of the church (and almost every healthy organization for that matter) has an outward thrust to it.
But many unhealthy organizations lose their focus on outsiders and instead focus on insiders.
I realize you might be pushing back on this and thinking Well, we can’t just ignore our insiders…we can’t ignore ourselves.
Change gears for a second. Do you know any people who focus exclusively on themselves?
That’s right. We call them self-absorbed, or selfish. And nobody really thinks hanging out with them is fun.
Why would anyone feel differently about a church that behaves that way?
3. Try to keep everybody happy
Trying to keep everyone happy is a recipe for misery. Yet so many churches serve dinner from that cookbook everyday.
You can’t keep everybody happy. You won’t keep everyone happy.
In fact, you will do the opposite: you will make everyone miserable. It doesn’t work in your family, so why would it work in your church?
Operating out of your convictions, with some empathy and sensitivity for those who see differently, is a far better approach.
Still not convinced?
I wrote more about why your church isn’t for everyone in this post.
I honestly wish more churches would just get on with trying to reach a certain group of people, realizing that in the process they will reach far more than that.
I really want to walk into a great church fight. Said no unchurched person ever.
Squabbling, faction and division in the church has killed our evangelism efforts as effectively as anything.
So stop it. Just stop it.
What if our churches became places of humility, grace and forgiveness?
Could you imagine?
5. Make mediocrity your standard
So solve a few problems and you’ll be more effective.
But as long as you’re mediocre, you’ll never reach your potential.
And for some strange reason, churches seems to love mediocrity.
Barely good enough seems to be good enough for many church leaders. Rather than try to do something well, churches have become famous for doing almost nothing well.
I think at the heart of it is a tension between inclusiveness and effectiveness.
This often comes up in places like a music team when someone who can’t sing wants to sing, and many church leaders cave to the pressure. (There’s a strategy around that, by the way.)
Last year, our church adopted 6 values. One of my personal favourites is “Battle Mediocrity: Am I allowing what’s good to stand in the way of what could be great?”
I could camp on that all day.
6. Treat every Sunday like just another Sunday
If you’re bored heading into next Sunday, why wouldn’t everyone else be?
In the church, every Sunday is resurrection Sunday. The same power that was at work to raise Jesus from the dead is the same power that is at work in us. (And no, I didn’t make that up.)
If every Sunday is boring to you a leader, maybe you haven’t read the Bible. Or don’t know God. Or don’t get amazed by seeing what happens when God gets involved in someone’s life.
7. Never articulate a strategy
Passion is one thing…and you’ve got to have passion.
But passion combined with an effective strategy is explosive.
Many churches are afraid to articulate a strategy because it’s divisive. Leaders are afraid that not everyone will like it. And that’s true. But see point #3 above.
Ironically, you will eventually become more effective because your strategy is a little controversial. In fact, a clear strategy is one of the secrets to creating a highly motivated team.
Finally, if you have a clear strategy, your team will become more passionate about it. (You can’t become passionate about fuzz, after all.)
This post will walk you through the process of getting your church passionate about your mission vision and strategy.
But first, of course, you need to articulate a strategy, as scary as that might sound.
8. Avoid all risk
Christians teach their kids stories like David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, and then spend all their time trying to make sure no one gets hurt, nothing gets lost, and everyone is ‘safe’ in the end.
The disconnect is profound if you think about it.
Read the Bible. Live the opposite way: Don’t trust God. Play it safe. Live an insignificant life. Risk nothing.
How do you know whether you’re trusting God or just being stupid? I outlined that distinction here.
But for the most part, we’re just not trusting God nearly enough.
9. Decide you don’t like unchurched people
Too many churches have defined themselves by what they’re against, not what they’re for.
If you really don’t like the people you’re trying to reach, why would they hang out with you? Seriously.
Do you love your neighbours? Really love them? Or do you judge them, look down on them, think you’re better than they are?
Love ’em, and you’re likely to reach them.
Don’t and you won’t.
Not judging unchurched people is one of the 9 signs you’re ready to actually reach unchurched people. (Here are the other 8).
Any Other Ways?
Any other sure-fire ways to make a church completely ineffective?
Or, alternatively, what you have done that has helped?
Scroll down and let me know in the comments!