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10 Very Possible Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing

reasons your church isn't reaching new people

Sometimes you and I make life out to be more mysterious than it actually is.

You ask why you keep getting speeding tickets (why me God?!?) when the simple truth is you usually speed.

You ask why your friendships are so conflicted when the truth is you gossip.

You wonder why your kids don’t talk to you when the truth is you haven’t been around to build a relationship in the first place.

Often problems whose origins seem mysterious to us are really not that mysterious to others. We just can’t see the truth.

The same is true for many of us who want our church to reach new people and are puzzled why that just isn’t happening.

Maybe it’s not as mysterious as you think.

The same is true, by the way, for personal growth. Growth in effectiveness and impact as a leader is not as mysterious as you think.

A Few Things First and a Motive Check

Every time church growth surfaces as a subject, some leaders defensive.  What’s wrong with small churches? Why are so many people obsessed with growth? And then people go hyper-spiritual and start quoting scripture verses to justify why church growth is a bad thing.

I write posts like this because I love the mission of the church, and I truly believe Jesus is the hope of the world.

I have met with countless church leaders who want their church to grow for great reasons (because they love Jesus believe people’s lives are changed by him) but are puzzled at why their churches aren’t growing. That’s why I write posts like this. (If you want more posts on growth, you can check out The Top 8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark and 6 Keys to Breaking the 200, 400 and 800 Attendance Barriers).

And, yes, I have also met church leaders who want their church to grow for questionable reasons too. God knows the hearts of people, and just because some people might want a church to grow because of ego does not mean all growth is bad.

And, in the end, healthy things grow. The mission of the church at its best throughout the centuries has been an outward mission focused on sharing the love Jesus has for the world with the world.

That’s why this matters to me (and to so many of you).

10 Very Possible Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing

So with that in mind, here’s a list of ten things that might be holding your church back from realizing the potential of its mission. We’re often the last to see what so many others see, and once we see it, we can deal with it. Progress often ensues.

Here are ten very possible reasons your church isn’t growing:

1. You’re in Conflict

Ever been in someone’s home as a guest only to have your hosts start to argue with each other? It doesn’t happen that often, but the few times it’s happened when I’ve been around have made me want to run out the door.

Why would church be any different? If you’re constantly bickering and arguing, why would any new people stay? It’s not that Christians shouldn’t have conflict, but we should be the best in the world at handling it. The New Testament is a virtual manual of conflict resolution, but so many of us prefer gossip, non-confrontation and dealing with anyone but the party involved.

Growing churches handle conflict biblically, humbling and healthily.

2. You’re more in love with the past than you are with the future

This can be true of churches that are in love with tradition and churches that are have had some amazing days recently. When leaders become more in love with the past than they are with the future, the end is near.

If your church is a museum to 1950 or even 2012, the likelihood of reaching the next generation diminishes with every passing day.

3. You’re not that awesome to be around

Fake. Judgmental. Hypocritical. Angry. Narrow. Unthinking. Unkind.

Those are adjectives often used to describe Christians, and sometimes they have their basis in truth.

There are certain people who are energizing to be around. Unfortunately, too many Christians today don’t fit that description. Jesus was mesmerizing. Paul caused conflict for sure, but he had many deep relationships and incredible influence. The early church was known for compassion and generosity.

If people truly don’t want to be around you, don’t let the reason be because you haven’t let Christ reshape your character or social skills.

4. You’re focused on yourself

Too many churches are focused on their wants, preferences and perceived needs. They are self-focused organizations and self-focused people. It should be no surprise that outsiders never feel welcomed, valued or included.

If you want to reach people, you can’t be self-focused. After all, a life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone.

5. You think culture is the enemy

If all you ever are is angry at the culture around us, how are you going to reach people in that culture? Christians who consistently expect non-Christians to act like Christians baffle me (I wrote about that here.)

If you treat your unchurched neighbor like an enemy, why would he ever want to be your friend?

6. You’re afraid to risk what is for the sake of what might be

Let’s face it, at least you’ve got something going for you. You’re paying the bills. You at least have X amount of people.

And if you’ve had any modicum of success recently, you’re going to be hesitant to risk what is for what could be. The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

When you’re perpetually afraid to risk what is for the sake of what might be, you might as well cue the funeral music now.

7. You can’t make a decision

Governance will become a major issue for future churches.

When your decision making is rooted in complex bureaucracy or congregational approval for every major change, it makes decision making difficult and courageous change almost impossible.

8. You talk more than you act

Most church leaders love to think and love to debate issues.

Effective leaders add one more component. They act.

Most church leaders I know overthink and underact. If you acted on even a few more of your good ideas, you could possible be twice as effective in a very short timeframe.

9. You don’t think there’s anything wrong with your church

I still run into a surprising amount of leaders and church members who love their church but can’t figure out why anyone else does.

Well, those churches are on their way to soon having not much more than a small club for the already convinced.

10. You’re more focused on growth than you are on God

Some leaders get so jacked up about growth that they forget it’s about God and his mission. This is just a danger every motivated leader needs to keep in mind.

We’re leading people to Jesus, not to ourselves or our awesome church. Keeping the focus on Christ ensures genuine life-change happens and lasts.

These are 10 things I see holding our churches back.

Break The Barriers Holding You Back

Many churches find themselves reaching some new families, but still not growing much. If that’s you, I have some deeper practical help.

The Church Growth Masterclass is everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that. But I believe you can position your church to grow. You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people. That’s what I’d love to help you do in the Church Growth Masterclass.

In the Church Growth Masterclass I’ll show you:

  • The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The five keys to your church better impacting millennials.
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

 

What would you add to the list? Leave a comment!

87 Comments

  1. Darryl on December 7, 2019 at 9:18 am

    I believe #10 is most important. Numerical growth should never be the central focus of mission. Growth should be viewed as a by-product and never as a goal or an end.

    And what happens if there is minimal growth (whatever that means—you could be a bamboo plant where no growth is observed for years)? Don’t worry! Stay focused on mission. God calls us to faithfulness, not whatever your standard of success is.

    • Daniel Chiasson on January 16, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      I believe my Church is not growing because it is suppressed and rejected., and a servant of rulers.

  2. Viken Mikaelian on November 2, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    11th reason churches do not grow: they are not pursuing planned gifts. Money is critical for survival. Whether you are an individual, business, or a church. Google “planned giving and the church” and you’ll see what I mean.

  3. Jim de Jager on August 11, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Very disappointing to see that at the end of this good message money is being asked. It felt so business like. In my view the Gospels never asked for money and God gave His Life so we can be saved through his healing power and Gospel. Yet in the USA we see more and more churches and ministries becoming businesses by shamelessly asking for money. You might want to add this to your top 10.

  4. CR on February 17, 2019 at 7:34 am

    There is a saying: “Shepherds do not make sheep; sheep make sheep.” Which is to say, of course, that some churches rely mostly or solely upon their pastor(s) to lead people to Christ and otherwise “minister” to them. They want their pastors to visit the sick at home or in the hospital. They want their pastors to correct or counsel people, all by themselves. “That’s the preacher’s job,” they say, and, “that’s what we pay them to do” is a common refrain heard in hushed tones whenever this elephant lumbers into the room.
    Obviously, this had to be, and was, the manner in which Jesus began and conducted most of His own ministry, but it was not the same work to which He called His disciples; He was, after all, leading people to Himself! But then Christ used His authority to send the disciples to “teach them (the world) to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:16-20 ESV Many Christians have conveniently forgotten (or have paid no attention to) additional Scriptures which call them to “Consider the outcome of their (the spiritual leaders’) way of life, and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7 ESV To be considered an imitator one must actually do themselves what they have seen and learned through instruction and example.
    Each Christian is given the charge to become more like Christ through doing the things He Himself did and has shown them how to do; where are we told to leave those responsibilities to someone else? Any attempt to circumvent this clearly-outlined process for “be[ing] perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect,” will fail to bring the outcomes He has promised to those who do obey.
    Finally, having said all of that, a prayerful, discerning reading of the letters to the churches in Revelation can offer many other insights into what our LORD dislikes about some of His churches. The same passages reveal what exactly may be done to correct our faults. If we started there then we wouldn’t have much time to quibble over what WE think the church’s problems are or what to do about them (as I have done here along with others…..)

  5. Tyrone Jackson on December 16, 2018 at 2:38 am

    To support a comment on the poster who stated about a mostly white elderly congregation being in a neighborhood of mostly Hispanics and Catholics, the same could be said of how churches puts so much focus and attention on marriage and families and do little or nothing to minister to or even acknowledge singles. With lack of resources and opportunities to serve given to ones who has the greater advantage, {1 Corinthians 7:32} singles either leave or won’t commit where they know they are not wanted nor feel that their needs are not met. After all if I need gas for my car, why should I be in a department store?

    Also to address the poster who stated “better to have 6 good people have 6,000 of pretenders,” this kind of thinking is another reason why churches are not growing. Although the statement is correct in itself, why settle for such a low number of 6? Since it is God will that all should come to repentance {2 Peter 3:9} shouldn’t it be better to have 6,000 good people instead of 6?

  6. Donald Sensing on October 29, 2018 at 9:09 am

    There is another reason that often gets overlooked. “Your physical facilities will not support more people.” I am a United Methodist minister with 20-plus years of full-time pastoring. The church I began serving 15 months ago is wonderful and IMO would not be too tripped up by most of the things on this list.

    But our facilities are about maxed out, especially parking. We are located in the “downtown” area of small town and our parking lot is just inadequate. People have to park up and down the two bordering streets but will only do that so far away, especially families. So we are discussing what to do about that – new construction is on the table but is long-term and we need to so something pretty quickly.

    So failure to grow does not always means that there is a hold-back among the people of the church.

    • Dennis on April 12, 2019 at 8:53 am

      Donald, earlier this year your entire denomination fell headlong into #7. My personal experience with the UMC was lengthy (50+ years) but most of what I saw was rooted in tradition and “the Discipline” rather than in the gospel of Jesus. I heard more of; “the Book of Discipline says . . .” than; “Jesus said . . .” That position is holding the UMC back from becoming the best it can be AND it is causing negative growth. People are leaving in large numbers. Some are finding churches that are independent of the polity and focus on governance, but some are joining the “nones.” (no religious affiliation) That is sad.
      I hope and pray the leadership of the UMC will get it together and lead the flock back to Jesus.

      • Stephanie Rollins on November 2, 2019 at 4:57 pm

        I just left the UMC. I am going to an independent church. Why? I am tired of the fighting.

    • Bud on January 18, 2020 at 9:30 am

      A local church I know well, thought they had a space problem because a paid consultant told them so.
      Their facilities all were paid for and the overall ministry had a huge cash reserve.
      They bought a shopping center which made them look cheap and now owe millions. Now they stoop to the lowest levels of “Christian Marketing” and regularly announce when they can’t make the mortgage, “pay up or go to hell”.
      Combine all this with Donald Trump and how fake and desperate they have become for money, they have ruined what used be a fairly comfortable haven.
      This place, along with it’s debt, politics and now fake Christianity has truly made a mistake in quantity over quality.
      Serves them right.

  7. Gary Whittaker on October 29, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Great list. We have seen wonderful growth. I wonder if we are too “us” centered, and not enough Jesus-centered. We use our church name, our pastor’s name, etc. a lot more than Jesus’s name. And WE are not the answer, Jesus is. We’ll talk about it and pray. Isn’t He patient with us?

  8. Musa m maina(peace)!!!!!!!!!!!!! on June 15, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Thanks for the effectivenes of your answers.

  9. Jim on May 3, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    I see my church declining every year. We have a few young couples, but mostly retires folks. I filled in for our preacher last Wednesday evening and expressed my concern. I am hoping that others will take up the challenge and begin asking some hard questions.

  10. Jim Kenney on March 16, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    The lack of willingness or ability of leaders to hear or see what they do not want to hear or see turns off others. I see this when some have their desires or hopes fixated on thing and are not interested in any other options.

    • Ron Edwards on March 18, 2018 at 9:17 am

      Churches are not growing because many are self absorbed. They are not friendly. They want new attendees to fit their mold. Individuals that are talented are not welcomed to use their gifts because people in leadership are dug in and see them as a threat rather than a asset.

      • Lori on March 27, 2018 at 6:33 pm

        I agree… So many people are self absorbed. Sometimes I wonder if they are really there for God or just a big show and production for all to see they are in control. It breaks my heart. God wouldn’t want it this way… it’s like a popularity contest all over again like high school. Many are disrespectful and rude if they do not get there way… or if you step on their toes by trying to help. I’ve lost trust and Love in my Church. I pray that people will be Godly again and respect one another. I was raised and Babtized and taught Sunday school since my oldest Son was 3 years old… He is now 30. Hardly anyone even knows I taught Sunday school, because I don’t do it for show… I do it for Jesus and the Children. I Love My Church Family…, but when you don’t feel Loved when your there… Why go???? Jesus is everywhere. He doesn’t judge me or my Family…

      • Stephanie Rollins on November 2, 2019 at 4:58 pm

        Amen!!!! It often becomes a club.

  11. Bolaji Popoola JP on March 4, 2018 at 2:22 am

    Thank you for being a life changing agent here, May our Lord – Christ Jesus continue to uphold, strengthen and supply you with sufficient tenacity to satisfy Him till the end as you throw the net of Gospel around the globe!. Thanks very much and be blessed. Bolaji Popoola JP(Ibadan, Nigeria)

  12. Adegoke Emmanuel on January 28, 2018 at 9:27 am

    This is really helpful, God will increase your auction.
    Thanks

  13. Tom Johnson on January 26, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    This is a good article but you omit what a building can do for or against church growth. There are two area that are essential for attracting new people and younger couples. They are: 1. the nursery. If the nursery is too small, dirty, not secure, and doesn’t have younger, visible, personable, people , it can be a big turnoff. 2. Restrooms:. If the restrooms are too small, dirty, uncomfortable, and not easily accessible, they can be a big turnoff.

  14. Mark Hadley on January 26, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Hi Carey,
    Listen, I just want to say thank you so much for being willing to open the discussion about why churches are struggling. I appreciate you sharing your experience in this area as someone who has worked with hundreds of churches. This is a mission-critical issue and it seems that many in the comment box here seem to think they have all the easy answers. Many are also very quick to judge and blame pastors. As a pastor, I agree with what you have said – that the majority of us out here are doing all we can to love Jesus and obey and proclaim God’s Word. I want to encourage you to stay strong when you receive very personal and often vindictive attacks in response to your writings. This is so disappointing to me. Especially when brothers and sisters in Christ Bible bash one another. That is so blatantly against God’s Word. Thank you so much, and be strong and courageous. Your blog helps so many of us out here. Blessings to you brother!

  15. […] 10 Very Possible Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing […]

  16. Ellen on October 12, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Number 9 is a really good one. I have come across so many Christians who think that something is wrong with people because they don’t go to church or stopped going to church. If more people stop going to churches or even stop supporting certain denominations, then the churches will have to see that they are the problem. Anytime someone leaves a church and says why, the church will rarely acknowledge it because they have hundreds of other members.

    I read an interesting blog about why someone left a church. This person was feeling disconnected from the people in church and felt that services were more about mocking than about serving God. Over time, she would only go to church when it was her week to work in the coffee shop, and she did not go to Christmas party. She believed that she was not missed, so she left the church. A few months later, she wrote the pastor a letter about why she left. He did comment that he noticed that was not always attending church and did not go the Christmas party. So, if you have people in a congregation who don’t go to church and then leave, talk to them. Not just attacking for not going to church, but ask what’s on their minds and actually listen. Also if someone is looking for support, don’t just pray for them. Let them know that you are there for them and that you care.

    • Lori on March 27, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      I agree…

  17. Carol Freeman on June 9, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    To me, people want the new generation. I do to, they are the future. But there will be no future if we keep pampering the young generation. Here’s what I hear, get rid of the old songs, you know the ones, they’re the ones who have brought more people to the altar than any of these new ones have. They tell a story about Jesus Christ and a loving God. You pick up a book and are able to read the music. They don’t repeat things over and over, and most people can’t sing them because they never sing them enough to learn. God said I am the same, today, tomorrow and forever. Look at our churches..we have no Sunday school, we have no Sunday night services, we have no revivals, we have no prayers from people in the congregation, no singing and usually 30 minutes of preaching. Everyone wants our kids to hear love love love from God, but no one wants the kids to hear what will happen if you don’t give your life to God. We have gotten so far from God and His teachings that our poor kids and grandkids don’t have a chance. What happened to prayer, laying on of hands? Does no one believe you can pray to the Holy Spirit and trust in Gods Word and your children will at some time listen to you and want to go to church. If they are just going to hear hopped up feel good music and are never taught that God will not accept you any other way except His way, what have we achieved for the next generation? Our churches seem to be following the old saying, if it feels good, do it, God won’t care. Thank you

  18. Cane Pastor on April 20, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Big Killer: Good pastors mistaking a call to lead through a challenging season (where maybe you won’t grow for a time and don’t look awesome for a year or two) for a call to leave. There usually aren’t enough like minded gospel advancing pastors to go around to replace ones that leave too early.

  19. JJ truth on March 23, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    Another false guy out to make $$$$ from Christianity. Non of his reasons were rooted in Scripture. “You will know them by their fruit. The church and its leaders don’t need more books, sermons, speech making and courses. Relational, Bible focused, Christ obedient, Holy Spirit filled, servant leadership is what the church needs badly.

    • Ray on March 22, 2018 at 2:14 am

      You need to understand the writer from his point of view not yours.
      It’s true that we should be Bible focused but what he wrote up there is simply the truth. Sometimes there are certain things we need to put into practice to make our church grow. Don’t forget the church is also an Institution.

      God has made each and everyone unique in his/her own way.. he has given us wisdom to do things, that’s why others are good strategic leaders.
      Don’t be too spiritual my friend.
      Sometimes certain things in the church needs to be corrected with common sense( we shouldn’t be to spiritual).
      Sometime we use what God has given us thus wisdom.. don’t forget others are wiser than others.

      Example: what he said in point one. If as a church you are in conflict (internally), how can a new member stay??? “We should be the best in the world at handling issues” as Christians

      Okay let me ask, if your Church building is literally collapsing or you are having bad sound everyday, do you need the Bible to tell you what to do about it? NO.
      God gave us wisdom from the very first day that we started fearing him.

      • Kgosi on October 6, 2018 at 2:43 am

        Practical wisdom:-) thank you Sir

    • Tabitha on December 1, 2018 at 9:56 am

      I have a heart. I really don’t know what’s goin on. I think a church that’s growing. Should invest their time in helping others. The best they can. It would be helpful if the church can team up with some agencies. Help communities with the WORD OF GOD, PRAYER OF STRENGTH AND GIVING THE BEST WE CAN…CHURCHES ARE WORRY ABOUT GETTING SO BIG AND HIGHLY. I’M NOT AGAINST THIS… IT JUST PUZZLE ME ABOUT HELP. FOR OTHERS. I KNOW GOD GIVES OUT THE BLESSES… BUT SOME CHURCHES ARE SO BIG. A BIG CONGREGATION. WHY AREN’T THEY BUILDING HOMELEßS SHELTERS. FOOD PANTRIES , REHABILITATION SUPPORT SERVICES…I JUST A LITTLE PUZZLED. YET , THEY WANT BIGGER CHURCHES AND TITHERS

  20. Mmwebster on November 15, 2016 at 6:49 am

    You have no interest in members as individuals and don’t have time to get to know them. Your pastor doesn’t call on people or invite them to join in service personally. Most people and even animals are very uncomfortable approaching a new group of any kind. Someone needs to welcome them and include them. If someone stops coming, make a call and invite them to a specific function. No one likes to feel that their absence isn’t noticed. If they’ve moved elsewhere they can tell you that.

    • Tyrone Jackson on December 16, 2018 at 2:44 am

      Well said. the lack of interest in members as individuals really affects singles being locked in such a family and marriage environment.

  21. minstrel Amoh on October 29, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    God cannot be mocked, some church leaders think they can deceive God. The church is for God, not man, so in a case where you tHink the church is business establishment the Holy Spirit Power Will leave the church. God kNows our minds. We, clay, cannot deceive the potter.

  22. chercher on September 9, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    I don’t know why Christians won’t open up their Bible instead of letting someone tell them what’s in it. Jesus told the early Christians that the world will hate them just as they hated him. He didn’t tell them that if they didn’t do this or they didn’t do that then they would be hated.

    Also, the Scripture said that there will be a great falling away ….so even believers will turn their back on the church and we have seen plenty of that. Jesus tells us that broad is the way that leads to destruction but narrow is the way that leads to life and few will find it.

    So christians, don’t sweat it ….there are about 2 billion of you still around and even if you go to a church and there is only 6 good people in it, that’s fine….better to have 6 than have 6,000 of pretenders.

    I don’t really get these so called pastors who form their own opinion as to how Christians should conduct themselves, instead of going straight to the source….the Bible.

    • TheTruth! on November 8, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      Wow… Amen! Powerful post.

    • Joy Wilfred on June 22, 2017 at 8:29 am

      God bless you for speaking the truth

  23. ChiefRagamuffin on May 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I like the article. Very good. One thing that pops into my mind is … people are not making enduring relationships with lost people. Therefore any invite is more or less cold call selling, which doesn’t go over big with people. When I surveyed people formally, the number one reason that came up was that they didn’t have regular, good, deep relationships with lost people. Cloistered Christians syndrome.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 13, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      YES!

    • JJ truth on March 23, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      Christians aren’t being properly fed to disciple the lost. Another thing Christians are called to have deep, enduring, loving relationships with one another not with lost people. If the lost choose Christ then that is another subject. Read your Bible woman.

      • Josh Scherer on April 5, 2017 at 5:05 pm

        Having fun JJ Truth? No-ones listening. Go troll somewhere else.

  24. GABoy on May 4, 2015 at 8:56 am

    The pastor is lazy! Too many pastors I’ve met seem to know what is going on in every single church in town – how many come, the dumb thing the pastor believes, the “rejects” that left his church for the other one. He claims that his church could grow too, if they did what the big church in town does, but he is too lazy or proud to change anything. Change means work. Too many pastors are just lazy. The miinistry is a job you can do poorly and still get just as much money as if you did it well. So some get lazy.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 4, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Some pastors are lazy for sure. Many work incredibly hard. But it can be a reason for sure. Most I know work hard.

  25. TxPastor on February 5, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    My suggestion as an additional item is somewhat of a mix between your number 10 and Jeremy’s 11. So number 12 for the list: “Lack of Spiritual Leadership.” And this is especially for the laity. Yes, many churches have leaders, but are the Spirit minded? I have seen a rural church near collapse a year after its spiritual leader passed away. The church had not raised up new spiritual leaders, part neglect and part reluctance of the “old guard” to hand over the reigns to the next generation.

  26. Damien on February 4, 2015 at 11:09 am

    You want your church to grow? This is a very serious idea from one of the many, in your church pews…

    Next week, without warning ANY of us first, have all of us, get off our ASSES and actually do something! Sunday, instead of parroting phrases and boring unintelligible songs to back of blue-heads in front of us, get us out of our stale, boring church! Rent a bus and take us – even for an hour – take us to do what Jesus wants done. You and I know, Jesus didn’t want us to repeat stories about helping others – He wants us to ACTUALLY help others. Do this, in a dramatic way, during the time people would be sitting in church will force members to talk about it. Imagine, just imagine every single member of your congregation enthusiastically telling their family, friends, workmates, neighbors, etc… about how exciting church was? … finally!

    • Monica on October 9, 2017 at 3:10 am

      Pray is another key 🔑

    • Stephanie Rollins on November 2, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      Jeremy Myers has written books on this topic. I recommend them and agree with you.

  27. Jeremy on January 5, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I would add 1 to this list. (By the way, I think all the above is true).
    11. We don’t train our people to reach out. At most churches, the only expectation of a church member is to “Invite people to church.”
    What about training our people to intentionally make disciples?
    In most churches there is 1) No expectation for Christians to reach out to non-Christians and 2) If there is an expectation, there is no formal training to help people do so.
    Until we get out of the mindset of just telling our people to invite people to church, our churches will not grow.
    Having sermons on how we should be evangelizing without training people to do so just makes people feel guilty. We need to help them be effective.
    How many churches have any kind of training whatsoever in teaching members how to make disciples?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 5, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Great point Jeremy. Been thinking about this a lot lately.

    • sisteract on January 18, 2017 at 11:38 am

      In my experience it starts with friendship. Otherwise it will be just cold calling which, as the person above posted, is awkward and mostly ineffective. Not sure about yet another meeting to formally train people. Us families are busy enough. Start with being a good neighbour and friend. Then an invite can naturally flow. And make sure the intent isn’t just to put bottoms in seats but instead is from a genuine caring and wanting them to know who Jesus is.

    • Sisteract on June 7, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Very good point Jeremy. Happens in our church regularly- invite and invite. Guilted if we don’t invite. But no training. I can invite and befriend but I haven’t the skill to disciple.

  28. toby on January 3, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Awesome Article. …

  29. Tim on July 3, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Katherine Harms,

    I think you are confusing the term culture. Culture isn’t the enemy. That is not to say that Christianity isn’t counter-cultural, in many aspects it is. But where there are people there will be a culture and subcultures of that culture. Christianity is part of its culture wherever it is. Culture isn’t the enemy, sin, death and their father within that culture is. If what you say is true than our purpose in this life is to fight cultural wars (same-sex marriage, abortion, conservatism). I think that we are to live and tell the Gospel in our culture in a way that redeems it, not defeats it. When people believe the gospel and experience gospel transformation they will affect the culture…but the culture will remain albeit reshaped if the church is being the church.

  30. […] Keynes–gracious article seeking peace with all who have believed in Christ.) 10 Very Possible Reasons Your Church is Not Growing (Carey Nieuwhof–Take seriously any one of them that apply.) Christian Singer Shares Struggle […]

  31. Nicholas O. Nyamolo on June 20, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    This very well applies to Christian businesses

  32. Peter Pearson on June 19, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Excellent! Thank you,

  33. Katherine Harms on June 13, 2014 at 10:07 am

    I firmly believe that the culture IS an enemy. That doesn’t mean that I think people enslaved by the culture’s lies are enemies. You actually point to this same truth. You don’t suggest we accommodate the culture; you insist, as Christ did, that we love the people — like Zaccheus and the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn’t say we should go along with theft and adultery, but he did way we should love the people. So we agree, but I would say “Don’t think that people who disagree with you are enemies. The culture is the enemy. The people are the unwitting dupes of the culture, because politically correct language sounds so nice.”

    • David Snead on August 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      I think you’re confusing the ideas of “culture” and “world”. Culture is just the style in which we do things. The world, however, leads us into sin. Making style (culture) an issue is the same as what the Pharisees were doing, and Jesus rebuked them sharply, telling them that they were teaching as doctrines the traditions of men. Even the church has its own culture, and that is often a stumbling point for people coming into the church. Things like “girls HAVE to wear skirts” or “men HAVE to wear suits” aren’t in the Bible. Neither is “all church music has to be hymns.” Those are cultural things.

  34. ron on May 23, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Am not in the ministry, saw this post from my daughter.
    Probably more than any time in the recent past churches seem to be splitting into 2 major camps. The ‘old’ main line denominations and the ‘fundamentalist”.
    You seem to be speaking to the first. Which as can see from reports are declining. The Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, etc. Meanwhile the fundamentalists are growing.
    It is a split in culture and mindset. The main liners stress an individual relationship with God, introspection, silent prayer, ‘christian’ attitudes towards people and culture that has been open and inclusive. Answers to BIG questions will vary based on individuals and their understanding who God is.
    The Fundamentalists in today’s world have all this figured out. The denomination, the church or a leader has the answers to all BIG questions. The Bible is referenced as the source, but it is all based on a specific way of reading and interpreting it. (even the word interpretation is unacceptable for them, it is FACT, unquestionable by believers).
    One group requires introspection, the other faith not so much in the Bible, but in the leadership who has heard and read the word from God himself.
    Fundamentalism by it’s own definitions is exclusive, not inclusive. The rules for membership requires this.
    One requires hard work, talking and more importantly listening to other’s.
    The second is better served by minimizing interaction with others to avoid infection.
    The more difficult culture becomes, gays for example asking to be treated the same as all others. Exactly the same as blacks, women, inter-racial marriages in times past. The more enticing the fundamentalism mindset becomes.
    Science challenges as harshly as culture, but like culture accepting a portion creates a crack in the belief system. For some science is a way to understanding the world and universe around us from genes to the history of our earth and universe.
    For the fundamentalist it is a challenge to belief systems. It becomes EASIER to accept all or reject all. Accepting, being inclusive is creating cracks in this system.
    The things listed here to me seem secondary to first making it known that you are inclusive and challenging. The challenge isn’t attacking members, but asking them not just ask questions, but share insights.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 23, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Ron, I had no idea this post was about mainline v. fundamentalists. I’m just trying to help Christian leaders from various backgrounds. Thanks for your input.

      • ron on May 24, 2014 at 10:12 am

        I read it that way, because the things oyu discuss are not an issue within the fundamentalist mind set…..

        • Micah on June 18, 2014 at 11:00 pm

          Ron, fundamentalist churches are declining as well. And fundamentalist youth have absolutely no use for the homophobia.

          • ron on June 19, 2014 at 12:10 pm

            on the second statement I agree…..



      • con howerton on July 19, 2016 at 9:24 am

        Too often people confuse “Conservatism” with “Fundamentalism”. The word “fundamental” simply means “rudiments” or “basic tenets”. True Biblical Fundamentalists do their dead level best to impact people with the love of Jesus. It seems the “Conservative” mindset (which does find itself within the “fundamental” core) is the one which establishes exclusivity based on unBiblical ideals. Hate will always attract a crowd – loving people like Jesus requires work, patience, long-suffering, thick skin, humility and an understanding of who we are in Christ. I am a Biblical fundamentalist, we happen to be more “conservative” than most Churches around us – but that is based on a desire to be separated unto God but NOT to keep others out. WE are commanded to go, to love, to share the gospel, etc. I am a Biblical fundamentalist but I can’t stand most Fundamentalists…

        Thank you for the article – we are trying to get to 200 – we’ve made it to the 150 mark and are just having difficulty breaking through that. It is not about “Church growth” it is about reaching souls and impacting lives for eternity!

      • Pam on January 26, 2018 at 1:20 pm

        Whew, amen to that Carey.

  35. Taser on May 19, 2014 at 1:50 am

    I think our little church is stuck on no. 8 and there’s an element of no. 1 too. But as 4 of us lead the church, we can’t seem to break through what feels like apathy but is constantly presented as waiting on the Lord. I feel sure after 7 months we should be able to retain and grow but we keep losing people. Very disheartened!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 19, 2014 at 8:50 am

      Sorry to hear that. I hope you can find a breakthrough soon!

  36. Rory on February 27, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    You forgot one. A small church in Texas that is almost all elderly and white surrounded by neighborhoods now of 99% Hispanics and mainly Catholic.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 27, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      A perfect opportunity for them to reach out far beyond their culture and into the world.

  37. Michael on February 23, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    changing the Bible to fit your agenda
    preaching at the people all the time for not giving or doing enough
    making the worship something else like a concert or funeral
    prayerching – pretending to pray but just still preaching
    being a performer especially for a camera
    thinking that it is you that is moving peoples hearts and not the Holy Spirit

    • Jackie Raimondi on June 11, 2014 at 11:57 am

      Yes! The blaming your congregation is awful. I was around leaders who constantly blamed their congregation for “not getting it”. My response was that if they aren’t “getting it”, that is reflection on leadership not them. But the excuse was always there to explain away failure after failure in the mission. They also exhibited a host of other issues from the list, but that one was a biggie.

  38. Deron on February 7, 2014 at 9:14 am

    I might be possibly reiterating what others have said or alluded to, but I might put it in different ways. It will be problematic if we are so concerned about being “relevant” that the gospel and what it means to be a disciple becomes so watered down that IT becomes virtually irrelevant. If we just preach the whole counsel of God as it is and refuse to ignore the parts that are difficult to swallow, that itself will cause enough waves to “stifle” growth. The gospel is offensive to an unbeliever and while we shouldn’t go out of our way to make it more offensive than it already is, we don’t really have to go out of our way. I can’t remember the last time I heard a sermon in a church on the wrath of God.

  39. tone on February 5, 2014 at 6:27 am

    Nice one Carey.

    But what about the main reason, which is that many people think that going to church requires one to believe in obvious impossible things which nobody who has any integrity could do.

    The remedy is I think is clarity – what in those beliefs is symbol, and what is physical. We have several clergy and they regularly mix these up, suggesting they don’t actually understand this themselves. I suppose the most obvious one is ‘Jesus is alive’ – he is not physically incarnate today, but he is obviously symbolically very much alive. Some people get upset about Jesus being ‘insulted’, as if he were a physically alive ‘friend’ – it is not possible to insult a symbol.

    Our preacher last Sunday preached about not judging Christianity by people who call themselves Christians, but by one’s relationship with Jesus himself. Great I thought at first, then I thought that people who are not christians are obviously going to look to christians to see what a life supposedly in relationship with Jesus is like. Your point no 3. And I am not expecting a sermon on exactly HOW one has a relationship with Jesus any time soon. ‘Read the Bible’ and ‘Pray’ are meaningless to non-christians, who can plainly see that the Bible contains much contradiction, know that it was written decades after Jesus’s death, and that large parts of the original have been removed.

    Some people are prepared to suspend critical thinking faculties and go to church anyway for the benefits of ritual, community, support etc. Others aren’t.

    Still your point no 3 – many people who come across as being those seven things you say are either not aware of it, or justify it using ‘scripture’, which is perfectly possible if you really do believe that ALL of the Bible was written by God. Which introduces another problem: double standards – why are some Bible verses referred to to justify prejudices (anti-gay for example – a major reason people often cite first when you ask them what is wrong with the church) and not others (women are unclean when they have just given birth, and more so if the baby is a girl, etc). This last one is, I think, generally regarded by everyone as ridiculous. On what grounds are we spreading the message ‘Love your enemies’ when ‘Smite your enemies’ is also prevalent in the ‘scripture’? People want reasonable answers to many things which they do not get from their churches.

    Whoops – I think i’ve gone on long enough….!

    • Jess on June 11, 2014 at 11:15 am

      There are great answers to the questions that you allude to. One must ask who determines what good is? Do you, or does God? A faithful person believes that God determines good. A secular humanist believes he determines what good is. That is an example of the age old sin called pride, inherited from Adam. The OT cleanliness laws which you refer to had there place for a time to establish a nation called Israel, God’s chosen. Through this people God would bless all nations (Gen 12), this is understood and fulfilled in the NT appearance of Jesus the Christ.

  40. Len Hjalmarson on February 4, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    great post Carey 🙂

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  42. bob pearson on February 3, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    People who think that growth is a bad thing have to realize that what we are working for is to make the Kingdom of God a reality on Earth as in Heaven. We pray this every Sunday Actually!! So growth to make the Kingdom more of a reality for more people is in every Christian’s prayers every week. Eliminating these ten barriers to growth in each church is only an answer to our most basic prayers.

  43. What I’m Reading | Waiting for Green on February 3, 2014 at 3:41 pm

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  44. Nathan on February 1, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I think it is also very important to establish what you mean by church growth. We can match the culture, work at being very “relevant” and bring people in to a very socially acceptable environment for them. But does that mean they are truly being made a disciple of Christ, or just a familiar social environment?

    On the other hand…we can so ignore opportunities to advance in our methods that we not only drive people away, but we drive away the freshness of the Holy Spirit. Neither extreme has biblical backing.

    Growth needs to be about seeing people bear spiritual fruit. That is the sign of a church that is maturing believers. The parable of the sower lets us see that there are many cases where the seed actually takes root, but does not endure. But those churches who generate ongoing believers who become spiritually mature are the ones who are really showing “growth”.

    • Lawrence W. Wilson on February 1, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      I think you’re right to keep the focus on life transformation, Nathan. Where I personally have been convicted lately is for the need to make more disciples, not just to deepen the faith of those who already believe. Would you agree that growth should include both?

  45. Rob Sellitto on February 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Once again it feels like you are writting right into my situation. If you are following me around we could atleast grab a coffee!

  46. Lawrence W. Wilson on February 1, 2014 at 9:00 am

    We’ve been ticking these off the list one by one. This process has taken exactly five years to date, and we still have about 3 items to go. For others reading these posts, take heart. It takes longer than you’d like, but your church can change.

  47. D.F. Yates on February 1, 2014 at 6:21 am

    Great article, cause these 10+ reasons are very true. A lot of churches need to read this.

  48. Kurt Lindgren on January 31, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    #BOOM!

  49. Best INotSay on January 31, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Oh my! I think I might have attended this church!

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