7 Signs Your Church Is Honestly…Mediocre


One of the problems many churches face these days is that they’re neither great at things or terrible at things.

They’re honestly just…mediocre.

Streaming has made watching other churches’ services easier than ever, and as I’ve scrolled through my Sunday morning feed or visited different churches over the years, I’ve been a little amazed at what I’ve seen.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of fairly so-so experiences out there.

That probably sounds judgmental, but there’s a lot at stake here. And I say this as someone who’s produce my share of mediocrity over the years.

The goal isn’t excellence…because I think excellence brings dimishing returns.

But mediocrity is something every church leader should battle.

Because the mission of the church is anything but mediocre, the expression of the church shouldn’t be mediocre.

When your church experience is mediocre, it should be no surprise unchurched people aren’t lining up to join you and that you’re not attracting and keeping the amazing leaders who might attend your church but don’t want to get involved because things are so sub-par.

And don’t be discouraged. Every leader and every church can be great at something, regardless of size, budget or location.

So it’s not a question of being a large church or having a million dollars. It’s a question of discovering what you can do well, how you can best express the mission of the church at the local level.

It’s a question of doing the best you can with what you have.

Creating a compelling experience can happen with five people or fifty. And 500 people can end up putting on something that’s less than stellar.

Size doesn’t determine impact or effectiveness, so don’t be discouraged.

So, how do you know your church has settled for mediocrity? Here are 7 things to look for.

1. You have non-singers singing and bad players playing

One sure sign you’ve settled into mediocrity is that on your music team, you have non-singers singing and bad players playing.

We’ve all seen that happen. Singers are regularly off-key or flat. Musicians are struggling to keep up with chord changes or can’t quite get the rhythm right, all the while being glued to their music stands.

And the only people who seem to be enjoying it are the people on the music team. Everyone else is wincing or zoned out, or has become so used to it they’re now part of the problem.

And streaming the experience makes it a little worse.

So why does this happen?

First, too many church leaders value inclusion over gifting.

You ask a few questions and you hear things like:

Well, he really wanted to sing.

She really loves the keyboard.

He’s so passionate about music.

Yep, except they don’t have the talent to match their enthusiasm.

Drill a little deeper, and you soon discover the people who realize this is a problem are far to scared to do anything about it.

They feel paralyzed.

How do I tell them?

I’ll hurt their feelings.

Hey, they LOVE doing it. How can I tell them they don’t have the gifting?

And so we let the concrete of mediocrity harden and set because we’re too scared to do anything about it.

Instinctively you know you’ve caved into cowardice, but you just can’t muster up the nerve to have the hard conversation.

If you recognize yourself in this scenario, just know you have to make a choice.

You either choose the feelings of three people who can’t play or you choose the future and the dozens or hundreds of people you might reach if you actually improved your music.

Your call.

If you want more, here’s some further help on this very tender subject.

2. Bad Production

In addition to sub-par music, many churches settle for bad production…poor sound, poor lighting and a mediocre team running it all.

Often this is a case of trying to do too much.

You’re better off to have a few good tech things (like a great set of speakers or a few good lights) than to try to do many things poorly. Most churches overshoot their ability here, trying to get as much as possible for very little money.

When faced with limited resources (and we ALL have limited resources) investing in a few quality pieces always beats buying a lot of cheap pieces.

It’s also important to find people who know how to run what you’ve bought, or even to invest a little in bringing in an expert who can train your team on how to run it. Having a decent soundboard and excellent speakers don’t help much if your team has no idea how to run it.

When it comes to production, doing a few things well always beats doing many things poorly.

3. School Play Quality Live Streams

It’s great to see many churches go online…and many churches big and small are now streaming their services.

It’s so easy to do with Facebook Live, other streaming services and a simple camera.

But as you go online, ask yourself:  would you watch you?

Honestly, I’ll bet the answer a lot of the time is no.

Many churches suffer from what I call ‘school play’ syndrome. Their services look like an elementary school play. Not great lighting, not great production, not great sound, and a lot of sincere people who really don’t know what they’re doing.

Let’s be honest. The ONLY reason you watch a school play is because your kid is in it. And the number one question you’re asking the entire time is “when will this be over?”

So question: if your church service looks like a school play online, why are you broadcasting it?

If you’re going to be online, audio and video quality matter.

Again, you don’t need a six or seven-figure solution here to make it better. Making sure your online sound is captured through a good set of mics and mixer, a few well-placed lights and a decent camera will help immensely.

And now that many are building home studios, the cost to entry is actually surprisingly low. You don’t have to spend big money to make a big impact.

The question worth asking is: am I helping people come to Christ by sharing this, or am I keeping people from Christ by sharing this?

Maybe ask a few unchurched people who will tell you the truth to evaluate your stream.

And don’t get discouraged, you may be a few tweaks or simple purchases away from being school-play quality.

All of this should help you accomplish the mission, not hinder the mission. And I’m just not sure school play quality broadcasts help much in most cases.

4. A Neglected Website

Another sure sign you’ve settled for mediocrity is a website you haven’t thought about for, well, a while.

Many churches build it and forget it. Sure, hopefully you update it with the current series and a few announcements, but no one has really taken the time to think through it deeply.

Chances are everyone who visits your church for the first time in person has been to your website first.

After all, that’s exactly how you behave. You never go to a restaurant, hotel or even city without first checking it out online, and any new person is going to check your church out online before they visit.

Act like that’s true. Invest like that’s true. Think like that’s the case.

The home page of your website should be built with your guest in mind.

If you don’t have a First Time, New Here, or Plan a Visit option with location and services on your front page, you’re not thinking about your first-time guest.

The most visited pages of your website will almost always be your home page, your message content and (believe it or not), your staff or team page. Making sure those are designed with the guest in mind can make the difference of someone deciding to come or to stay away.

Mediocre churches are reluctant to invest time or money into their website. Smart churches do both.

5. Your Info Isn’t Current

Few things broadcast mediocrity more loudly than out-of-date information.

Whether it’s your church sign advertising an event from last month, or still wishing everyone a happy 4th of July in August, or your church website or podcast is three weeks late on uploading the current sermons, having out of date information screams “we don’t really care” to anyone passing by.

And for sure there are reasons. The sign guy was sick. Or that unreliable website volunteer once again needs reminding. But again, all of that screams mediocrity.

You’ll have a hard time recruiting high capacity volunteers (and new people) into a culture that does a lot of shrugging and constantly sighs “oh well.”

6. You’re Resigned to This

Maybe as you’ve read through this post you think there’s no way out. You’ve resigned yourself to this.

Don’t. The surest way to ensure a mediocre future is to resign yourself to a mediocre present.

I started in very small churches with not a lot of top-tier talent. I get what it’s like to have to start with almost nothing.

But if you focus on the best you have at the moment, and bring all of that to your mission, you will create a better future.

Eventually, more and more talented people will emerge from the crowd and new people will join your mission, and soon you’ll be so much further ahead.

Was our band always great? No.

Was every singer always on key? Nope.

Did every volunteer always crush it? Of course not.

But we did the best we could with what we had.

And you’ll soon discover if you do the best you can with what you have, your best keeps getting better.

The path to an excellent future is this: constantly improve an average present.

I have two full units in my Breaking 200 online course that will show you how to spot, recruit and develop the talent you have in your church that will move you into a far more excellent future.

There are principles I learned as I led our church from small and rather unskilled in most ministry areas to where we are today (larger and with many gifted leaders).

You can learn more and gain instant access to Breaking 200 here.

7. You’re Afraid to Change

So maybe you don’t want to resign yourself and your church to mediocrity, but you’re afraid to change.

I get that.

But change bridges the gap between what is and what could be. It bridges the gap between a not-great present and better future.

At some point you have to ask yourself, what should I fear more as a leader: change, or never accomplishing the mission?

Now go and accomplish your mission.

If you need practical help leading change, try this.

Overcome Mediocrity, Starting With Preaching

art of better preaching

As much as the digital reality has changed everything, some of the core principles of sermon preparation and excellent communication never change. Great communication is simple great communication.

If you’re ready to start preaching better sermons and reach the unchurched without selling out, then it’s time to start using the right tips, lessons, and strategies to communicating better.

The Art of Better Preaching Course is a 12 session video training with a comprehensive, interactive workbook that will help you create, write, and deliver better sermons. The course contains the lessons Mark Clark (lead pastor of  Village Church, a growing mega-church in post-Christian Vancouver) and I have learned, taught, and used over decades of being professional communicators.

This is the complete course you need to start preaching better sermons, including:

  • 7 preaching myths it’s time to bust forever
  • The 5 keys to preaching sermons to unchurched people (that will keep them coming back)
  • How to discover the power in the text (and use it to drive your sermon)
  • The specific characteristics of sermons that reach people in today’s world
  • Why you need to ditch your sermon notes (and how to do it far more easily than you think.)
  • How to keep your heart and mind fresh over the long run

And far more! Plus you get an interactive workbook and some bonus resources that will help you write amazing messages week after week.

In the Art of Better Preaching, Mark and I share everything we’ve learned about communicating in a way that will help your church grow without compromising biblical integrity. We cover detailed training on everything from interacting with the biblical text to delivering a talk without using notes, to writing killer bottom lines that people will remember for years.

Don’t miss out! Check it out today and gain instant access.

Any Other Signs?

Any other signs you’ve seen that a church is mediocre?

How have you beaten mediocrity in your church?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

7 Signs Your Church Is Honestly…Mediocre


  1. Andre on July 28, 2021 at 8:20 am

    Have to agree with this comment wholeheartedly!

  2. Elizabeth Tai on July 9, 2021 at 9:40 pm

    I’m not a pastor, but if this is what you think will get people to your church or help it grow you are sadly mistaken.

    I’m one of those “fringe Christians” who have given up on church, precisely due to the church’s obsession to perfect the exterior and appearances. Many of us have hailed from mega churches with polished exteriors like one Carey recommends churches should have – podcasts, websites updated, great singers and great live streams. I’m telling you this – many of us are SUSPICIOUS of this. I’d much rather be a part of a church with broken pianos and terrible singers if they will visit me when I’m ill or give me food when I’m hungry. And although I’m a content manager in real life and advocate good website UI, UX, content marketing etc – it is STILL not important to me. I’d much rather have a church that focuses on feeding the flock with good bible teaching filmed via a low res smartphone than polished self help with a Christian flavour streamed in HD 5 times a day.

    Posts like this just make me shake my head, wondering when the modern church will wake up and realise what their priorities are. If this is how they plan to improve … no wonder so many of us fringe Christians are staying away.

  3. KJR on July 9, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    There are definitely some thoughts that are helpful to consider, I do want to bring the best we can to our worship services, but my primary goal isn’t the building of a worship experience as it is building people as disciples. As a smaller church pastor of 23 years, now in a church hit hard by conflicts over COVID, we are rebuilding. There is joy mixed with sadness. Joy with those willing to go with us, some sadness that the “rebuilt” temple at this point doesn’t look as grand as Solomon’s before it was torn down.

    I am skeptical on the degree that first-timers are coming for a high-end production experience. The truth is that I can never compete with the production quality that they can get from secular entertainment. We want to do our best, but there must be something more that has the unbelieving world “…..falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (1 Cor 14:25)

    I appreciate a heart that desires to bring as good of quality as it can, but I have witnessed a sweet inviting Spirit within the context of old country churches and mediocre (by any secular production values) music and preaching. There was still something about it that made me glad I was there.

    I think the value of the article is that it reminds me of areas of quality that one can strive for (don’t intentionally have a frustrating – to – navigate website if you can engage with some help to improve it….and yes, sometimes chronically off-key people should gently be moved to other areas of ministry….which includes me right now, but right now I have too few people willing to be developed in areas of music).

    I am largely discouraged in reading this article as it is a reminder of yet another area that’s “not good enough”…..maybe it will improve in degrees in the future, but it will never meet the production bar of what first-timers will find in the secular. Why would they come to a church if they can find better religious entertainment online anyways? But then, it is not “religious entertainment” that I am seeking to offer.
    Production value should not be simply ignored, but there must be something more that we strive for within our churches as our production values will always eventually be outdone. The Holy Spirit can and does infuse the fish & loaves we offer that in and of itself is far inferior to the need before us. If we don’t start there, then the quality or lack of it won’t matter anyways.

    Thank you for your articles. I am presently reading one of your books and have found many of the thoughts helpful and challenging……particlarly the part I read this week “Only humility will get your out of what pride got you into.” p. 129 “Didn’t See That Coming”. I will be using the quote in a sermon this week 🙂

    • Elizabeth Tai on July 9, 2021 at 10:07 pm

      As a person who has given up on church but is yet giving another go at finding a home church, this is encouraging. I want to confirm that as a first timer a polished production – worship, service, online or onsite – isn’t what I am looking for. I’m looking for a church that really wants to function like a church, a community and one that equips me to go out into the world and bless others.

      You can put all your content on a paper towel for all I care.

  4. Ted Martens on July 9, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Carey — Interesting responses — some really harsh because when you touch pastor’s egos you see the lack of humility of thought!
    Ministry leaders and pastors are not the best at hearing criticism (a gross understatement) and that is the same reason they are criticized because they don’t listen well and therefore don’t benefit from it! And that is why some are not coming back after COVID — they realize how often it is about the shepherd, not the sheep.

  5. Ally on July 9, 2021 at 10:28 am

    Job 1 of the church is to preach Jesus. That said, if no one is there to hear it, what good does it do? Or if someone visits once and has such a bad experience that they don’t want to come back, how long will it be before they go to any church? We have to do things to clear the obstacles to hearing the Word, whether that’s over-production or leaving things “mediocre “.

  6. Jim Denison on July 9, 2021 at 7:36 am

    Nothing about Discipleship and quality of Disciples. Lame entertainment and consumeristic metrics about what makes mediocrity. Until the Church learns the right focus our metrics will skewed and our impact will remain minimal. Please use your platform talk about the things that matter Carey!!! This is poor.

    • Roger Lau on July 9, 2021 at 10:26 am

      It’s sad, Jim, that you view the technical aspects of worship as “lame entertainment and consumeristic metrics.” This whole topic is about how non-members view the church, either online, or as a first-time experience. This topic is NOT addressing spiritual growth and discipleship once people start coming regularly. It isn’t because Carey thinks they’re not important, it’s because they don’t happen to be the topic. You’re attacking a straw man.

    • Paul Porter on July 9, 2021 at 10:37 am

      Nope, Jim. If people are not present on-line nor in a service, discipleship can’t happen. There is no requirement for anyone to use a website if it’s a mess. Certainly folks won’t watch mediocre services, unless to critique it. This article is VERY important. Discipleship is not what new folks are searching for.

      • Melanie on July 9, 2021 at 9:50 pm

        So we lure them in with good music and high quality production, and then you think they’ll stay for Jesus?
        What we win them with, is what we win them to.
        The Gospel makes a true church. Not slick production or rock stars doing worship.
        Jesus doesn’t need your production value.
        He is enough.

    • Ralph L on July 9, 2021 at 10:40 am

      We have learned the hard way from our experience & Carey is right on the money. You can’t clean fish you haven’t first caught. I have seen first hand how we have had great intentions, but we inadvertently repelled, rather than compelled, and therefore didn’t reached very many who even wanted to be discipled or mentored. We have also experienced that creatives who have quality talent and gifting will not be drawn to, & mentored, by those who won’t challenge and inspire them. Even though our church is 80 plus years old, and I am a baby boomer aged pastor, we have made most of the gut-wrenching & courageous changes Carey espouses here, and the fruit produced in reaching the unchurched is exhilarating and undeniable. From a “monument to a movement”, all glory to Jesus! Not that we have attained, but we press on. So well worth the continued cost to me as lead pastor to see people discover and follow Jesus.
      Also keep in mind that it’s not realistic to expect one concise blog or article to cover every critical topic in God’s Word pertaining to reaching the unchurched and/or building the church. This just addresses one aspect of how the church can better position itself to shine it’s light on a hill.
      My take away was that Carey is pin pointing how a loving, well meaning community of Jesus, can easily drift into ruts or complacency, and no longer be an attractive attraction to the unchurched. “Follow Me and I will MAKE you Fisher’s of men.” Keep making me Jesus 😊.

    • Elizabeth Tai on July 9, 2021 at 10:10 pm

      I have to agree. So surprised to see this on Carey’s website. God promoted the shepherd boy to be a king – I have a feeling fine fancy appearances never mattered to God.

  7. David C Sylvester on July 6, 2020 at 6:17 am

    Strange that everyone gives their best to be the best in the worldly things but when it come to the things of God they don’t care. Shame on you

    • Mark on July 6, 2020 at 9:23 am

      I don’t know about that. I know employees who are mediocre too. Some people aren’t allowed give anything but money to any organisation.

  8. Gary Clark on July 4, 2020 at 10:51 pm

    I remember a pastor friend of mine said the 3 main lightning rods in the church are wine, women, and song.
    Thank you for asking God’s people to prayerfully converse on the third of these lightning rods.
    Another older pastor told me many years ago, that change is the only constant in God’s creation even though God never changes.
    This is something that has been in most of our faces for many years, but now has moved closes enough for us to touch noses.
    I don’t know about you, but I can hardly stand my own breath most days let alone that of another person (except my wife and grandchildren).

    Keep asking these tough questions and I will continue to be blessed with the Holy responses of God’s Holy people.

    Blessings in Christ Crucified and and Alive,

    Pastor Gary Clark

  9. Donna on July 4, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    Carey-Thanks for saying the hard things. Everybody wants to tiptoe around some of the points you made because they feel it makes them sound less spiritual, but the people that come in the front door and leave just as quickly through the back door are saying the same thing. The unchurched are not looking for entertainment, but they ARE looking for quality and a group of people that look like they care about the details. Thanks for sharing! I hope the mediocre churches step back from being offended by the post so God can work in their hearts and they can begin to reach beyond their four walls to a community that expects more effort from them. It speaks volumes to the lost!

  10. Justin Klatt on July 4, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Not sure why so many negative comments! All these things Carey said are very true, even if we don’t like them or maybe would have worded them different.

    We all need to be able to see the good and run with it. We all need to be able to take the meat and leave the bones. Non of us can ever use 100% of ever word Carey writes and use it completely. We have to take the majority, pray through it and see what wisdom comes to the surface for our own context of ministry.

    Carey, i loved all 7 of these. So good. Now I know a few more things I need to make better and challenge my leaders to do better!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 5, 2020 at 4:11 pm

      Glad to help Justin!


  11. Doug on July 4, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Hey Carey,
    I’m genuinely a fan of yours. Read your book and benefit a lot from most of your blogs and podcasts, and have made a lot of ministry adjustments based on your great content. This blog wasn’t great. I found it shallow and unhelpful, and whilst it may speak into some contexts, I think it’s mostly unhelpful. Sorry for the feedback, maybe my context in South Africa is too far removed to appreciate the post. Looking forward to more helpful input.

  12. Jim Denison on July 4, 2020 at 9:12 am

    Really dude?? Really??!! You are just adding to the burden and pressure and self loathing of so many doing their best. Have a go at consumerism… not church leaders clogging themselves with no resources and fickle sheep. Your perspective Carey is part of the problem … how dare you define what mediocrity is!! What heartbreaking arrogance. This statement says it al, “ Creating a compelling experience.” How stunningly unBiblical and Hollywood. Please check yourself Carey. This is just so wrong.

    • Justin Klatt on July 5, 2020 at 12:40 am

      Pastor Jim, you have to “take the meat and leave the bones”. There has to be a couple of things in a long post like this that you and your team can work on and if not, then you are the man. No reason to call someone out so harshly for just sharing their opinion. Grace, have some Grace!

      • Jim Denison on July 5, 2020 at 2:25 am

        Hi Justin. I think your words are fair. I was harsh. I am sure I let too much of my frustration leak and was too transparent about how this post made me feel. For any pain I have caused Carey or yourself I apologise. The essence of my post is true. It was an article that will make many good-hearted men and women of God feel like failures. That makes me cross. But you are right, I should not have written from that emotion. It had too much edge. Bless you Justin.

  13. Alan Jenkins on July 4, 2020 at 7:23 am

    You cannot contain everything that is helpful to reach people in a single article. In reading what Carey writes on a regular basis it is obvious he cares about more than production value. He is just saying that we should do our best and get the right people in the right positions based on how God has gifted them. He develops leaders and volunteers. So people have a place to begin and grow in their ability. I told a person yesterday that I am not the best at what I do but I always do my best. He is encouraging us to continue developing and to do our best because people matter and eternity is at stake.

  14. Steve on July 4, 2020 at 6:57 am

    To continue my thoughts from my last post.. the approach to worship ministry should not be misunderstood. The music doesn’t have to be good for people to be saved, nobody is saying that. You have the ability to have your music be the best it can be with what you have. Just spend the time and resources doing your best to make your music not a distraction. People who come to check out your church and consider staying will much more likely stay if the music isn’t a deterrent.

    Don’t feel like your music must be reaching a certain arbitrary threshold.. just make sure you are actually doing the best you can with what you have. Don’t shrug and just let it be what it is if it could be better. You’re CHOOSING to not make your church more attractive.. that’s not spiritualism. Part of reaching today’s culture with the Word is doing all you can to not distract from it. Yes the gospel is the power source but if you have the ability to draw people to your church, there’s zero reason to just not do it.

    As for Carey’s points about serving with gifting, I’m a gifted guitarist but a novice vocalist. I started vocal training this year and my ear was so-so. At the audition I crushed a rendition of Living Hope for the director and then was asked to harmonize alongside a female and couldn’t do it. I realized I needed more ear training.

    I’ve been able to practice on my own, communicate and send clips to my director demonstrating progress and can connect with the team to work together to getting better so when I stand up to sing on Sunday I am not a distraction for anyone by being bad. Some churches lack the system in place for people to develop and grow and move into the ministry they want to serve in.

    I am waiting to audition again, and that may sound daunting to some who just want to get up there and participate regardless but I respect my church (a different church in Barrie) for having standards.. again, not because they set a bar for themselves but because there’s so many good singers in our church they want to be the best they can with what the have.. and they are happy to help me improve in the meantime. Don’t let someone be a distraction just because they “love to sing”.. there’s just no need for that, it’s lazy.

  15. Steve on July 4, 2020 at 6:37 am

    This is interesting.
    Some people here are upset because they think the number one issue should be the focus on Christ, and yes that is true.

    The point of this blog post is a hard truth for people from small churches that aren’t growing.. but they love their small community of believers. These churches may be faithfully preaching the Word but if they’re not growing and not putting any effort into the points Carey listed then they’re not TRYING to grow.. which is what makes them mediocre.

    I sense an arrogance from some believers commenting here that they are proud to not care about production quality, because the Church is about Christ and Him crucified.

    This is flawed thinking, because the mission of Christ is to reach the unbelievers, who in 2020 are used to a high level of production. If you just simply WON’T invest in it because you think you’re better than that, don’t need that, gospel power etc. You aren’t wrong about the power of Jesus, but why would you not do all you can to attract people to want to be at your church, to want to come check you out, why would you CHOOSE to present your services in a way that new people have to “get past”. There’s just no need for it, it’s lazy, it’s not spiritualism.

    • Melanie on July 9, 2021 at 9:55 pm

      “You aren’t wrong about the power of Jesus, but why would you not do all you can to attract people to want to be at your church”
      Because the goal of church is not entertainment.
      You can’t entertain people into the kingdom.
      You give them the Gospel. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God. Not by entertainment.
      What a heavy burden you must carry, to be the one to attract people to Jesus.
      Lay it down, brother.
      Jesus will draw all his people to Himself. All we have to do is share His word.
      We can be mediocre. He is supreme.

    • Elizabeth Tai on July 9, 2021 at 10:52 pm

      Perhaps I can comment because I am one of these people your churches are seeking to attract.

      First, how has the Seeker Sensitive movement doing lately? Yes, it does a bang up job attracting people to the church. But how has it been doing in maturing and discipling the people of God?

      The no.1 reason why I will stay in your church is if your community of believers care for the Word and for each other. But a church is not mediocre because they don’t have good production values that will match the world’s. A church is mediocre if they focus on these things at the expense of feeding the flock.

  16. […] I give you this piece from Carey Niewhopf entitled “7 Signs Your Church Is Honestly Mediocre“.  This is representative of where a goodly portion of the leadership in evangelicalism is […]

  17. Sarah on August 29, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Maybe it’s time you read The Benedictine Option, because your idea of Church is why the Church is dying in the West. Church is where truth takes precedence over crickets in the men’s room, and when our love for Jesus is judged by our performance, then we have completely missed…the entire Gospel.

    Seriously. This post is heartbreaking and so terribly wrong.

    • Jonathon Smith on August 29, 2018 at 5:45 pm

      Seriously accurate. I can’t believe someone would post about churches being mediocre and fail to mention the Messiah.

    • Scott Bullock on September 4, 2018 at 6:43 pm

      Serving God with excellence should never obscure our PRIMARY goal . Defining the mediocrity of a church solely by the ” event production” artificially directs the attention away from aspects of the church which should lead to deep and rich spiritual growth.

      • Dan on July 4, 2020 at 4:04 pm

        Sign #? : Your Youth Ministry is under supported, under resources and under staffed. It is a secondary ministry and priority in the budget. Instead of budgeting and hiring top notch staff you are settling for young and inexperienced. Instead of offering a sharp and well done meeting space, student settle for back rooms, basements, or outdated areas. Ministry and mission require fundraisers and personal expenses.

    • Pedro Lopes on September 15, 2018 at 7:59 pm

      Completely agree with you! From the title I thought it was bad already, but when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did indeed. Carey missed the mark by miles on this one.

    • Samuel odhe on April 8, 2020 at 5:26 am


    • Samuel odhe on April 8, 2020 at 5:32 am

      Well in my own understanding and fact, in everything we do in church the purpose of God shld be our priority for the church, is possible for the church to be mediocre in both spiritual and physical,we must balance everything, no matter how sound your doctrine may you must also arrange all your choir and other equipment well.

  18. Ordinary Gerald White on August 27, 2018 at 1:13 am

    Nope! Nope! Nope!

    Instead, faithfully open up the Word and give the Church Christ and His glorious Gospel, week in week out!

    The ordinary, mediocre Church does this, it doesn’t look for thrills and gimmicks. Acts 2:42

  19. Carsten Mediocre Jorgensen on August 26, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Throw away all the gimmicks and preach Christ and the gospel of Him crucified. If that is insufficient to attract many people, so be it. Be mediocre…

  20. Armen Mediocre Nazarian on August 26, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

    Mediocre Church right there^

  21. Armen Mediocre Nazarian on August 26, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
    – 2. Tim. 4:3

  22. Andrew Mediocre Price on August 26, 2018 at 10:32 am

    So grateful for faithful mediocre churches and their leaders quietly preaching the gospel.

  23. Dan Edelen on August 26, 2018 at 8:25 am

    I was a terrible guitar player who could barely sing, and the woman who ran music at my church encouraged me to perform “special music” and during the offering. I got better over time and ended up leading worship for various Christian organizations around the country, as well as being a fixture of worship teams in two states.

    Your advice would have made that impossible.

    How do you make disciples? From unmolded clay. If the intermediate stages of that molding aren’t gorgeous, that doesn’t mean the vessel should be laid aside, only that it is in process.

    Adults recognize this truth. Immature people focused solely on their need to be entertained do not.

    When the raw talent shows up on the stage of church and misses some notes, recognize that God is merciful to us as we grow in Christ.

    Maybe what we need is some mediocrity and humanity now and then and less slick, perpetual professionalism.

  24. […] THIS is the kind of leadership advice they are getting and listening […]

  25. Janis Vitolins on August 22, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    If a church’s worth is determined by its praise band, mixing board and IT personnel then, yes, many churches are mediocre. It would have been to your advantage by being more specific about your focus (see Sign #5 regarding this). Maybe you could elaborate on a church’s liturgy , that sort of thing next time. That could be interesting.

  26. Caleb on August 22, 2018 at 10:33 am

    This blog doesn’t even rise to the level of Mediocrity. We are all dumber now for having read it.

  27. Kirk on August 21, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    1. No mention of a watered down weak no gospel sermon!
    2. No mention of a pastor mishandling the clear word of scripture!
    3. No mention of a pastor who spends all his time promoting himself instead of Jesus.
    4. No mention of the WL failing to pick doctrinally sound music to perform.
    5. No mention of the musicians being Christians and having a deep love for Jesus and the proper heart attitude to even be up in front of people leading them into worship.
    6. No mention of churches that promote feelings and emotions over the truth and knowledge of God’s world.
    7. No mention of churches that redefine essential Christian doctrines to mean all new unbiblical things.
    8. No mention of churches that shift away from the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into merely “Social Justice”.
    9. No mention of churches that fail to preach against sin and call for repentance.

    I’ll stop with 9 points. Those are the churches that I would call mediocre.

  28. Kirk on August 21, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Wow, can Carey Nieuwhof be any more shallow? Not one mention of accurate handling of God’s word or exegetical preaching? Hollywood production and empty shallow sermons are probably what Carey is used it. Sad where the church world is going.

  29. Gloria goold on August 20, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    This is a bunch of bunk. The prob is not music ,website etc it’s the lack of Jesus in a person Jesus builds his church not websites etc Acts 2:47 . Let me tell you,if the nation would turn to HIM,REPENT BE OBEDIENT,HOLY,SURRENDER this nation would turn around . When Jesus works with a people we see results. No Jesus no results just saying

  30. Jennifer McSparin on August 19, 2018 at 9:23 am

    It appears you are confusing church with an entertainment venue.

    • Sue on August 19, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      Exactly!! None of what you said matters. What tou daid is what is wrong woth the church today!!

    • Debra on July 5, 2020 at 3:14 pm

      I like your post Carey. I’m the worship music director at a smaller church. We have a great team. We have people that are natural talents. & some have raw talent that I am working with to get better. I have had a few that were not improving & I asked to step down, or they didn’t pass audition, 2 left the church because of it. It was definitely not their talent, & I received confirmation to let them go. Its distracting to have someone sing off key, or play bad, which then interrupts our focus on worship time. #1 have a heart for Jesus. & we are called to have skill as the leaders of worship music.. Thank you for the post.

      • Elizabeth Tai on July 9, 2021 at 10:58 pm

        Lord in heaven. I have a feeling God will enjoy people singing in broken key if they sing from a genuinely repentant heart. It’s not entertainment. It’s worship.

  31. JD on August 19, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Saying “I’m sorry if that’s how it feels to you” is not actually an apology – it’s a cop out. Your opinion is that these churches (viewed on line) are mediocre. You are welcome to your opinion – but it is in no way FACT because it is YOUR opinion.

    The goal of church is not to attract and keep “amazing leaders”. Why would you think that it is? Is that what Jesus did in his ministry or did He have a mediocre church too (in your opinion)?

    The statement that church is about the leaders is likely intended to keep up this narrative about leadership being important to the heart of the Gospel. What that does is promote the idea that a certain class of the Jesus children deserve special attention and accolades (i.e. leaders). This promotes hero worship (idol) and power drunkenness in leaders.

    The certain class that deserved special attention from Jesus himself was the 1 of the 99 who wandered.

    Also, I could not read the rest of your post – since the opener was so mediocre in giving me a reason to spend another 10 minutes hearing your “advice.”

  32. Bruce N H on August 18, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    You forgot the part about failing to actually teach anything out of the Bible. Why in the world would I get up on a Sunday morning to hear a feel-good self-help message? Why would I want financial advice from my pastor when I could go to, um, a financial advisor who actually does this for a living? Why would I go for a concert that is a watered down version of what I could get from an actual concert? No, I go to hear about Christ, crucified for my sins and risen for my justification. The rest is set dressing.

  33. Bunny on August 18, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    I have years of experience on worship teams. I have been on teams with the best in production values, musicianship, all the bells and whistles. I am presently on a team in a small church where according to you we would be classified as mediocre. Most of the time we do not even have a drummer.

    I would not trade where I was for anything. People pour out their hearts to God, the team loves the Lord with all their heart and they are there to worship Him, not perform….all the things you talk about would be fine if you were talking about a corporation. Which maybe you are.

    But the Body of Christ is a family not an organization or a corporation. The values we have should be family values not corporate values. People do not care how slick production values are when they are hurting because a loved one is sick, or they are having a crisis of faith, or they are lonely. The loneliest I have ever been was in a megachurch with the very best of everything. But all I needed and all I wanted was Jesus and my church family. Really.

  34. Steve Simms on August 9, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Go beyond mediocre church! Google: Beyond Church Bible Ekklesia.

    • Pedro Lopes on September 15, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      That’s just bad marketing Steve. This is probably the fifth place I’ve seen you make this kind of comment. You should stop spamming posts and actually add some value to the convo. Would love to know your actual opinion on this matter since you wrote a book on bible ekklesia!

  35. Alternate View on August 5, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    Has it dawned on you that a lot of folks really don’t care as much about the music as church leaders think they do? Although anecdotal, in every church I’ve attended for a lengthy span or served in, there’s a large contingency of people who actually don’t care how the music is.

    And first-time guests especially don’t care about the music. In fact, most find the music very weird. Whether it’s a wonderfully produced, album-matching rendition of “Oceans” or an off-key, all-six-verses marathon of hymn #452, people who’ve never stepped in a church before, honestly, find the music weird. They won’t know the songs… they’ll feel odd for not knowing the songs… and they won’t likely participate. So, at some capacity, the production level and talent level really isn’t as big a deal to the average Joe as it is to the church leader.

    And what’s the point of our worship, anyway? Amos 5 offers some harsh criticism for the people of faith who put more emphasis on the production of their worship over the purpose of their worship.

    A mediocre church is one that cares more about how its service looks to everyone instead of how good the fruit of their lives tastes to the world.

    • Jeff on August 5, 2018 at 8:47 pm

      ^ This.

    • Gary Clark on July 4, 2020 at 10:38 pm

      I believe Amos 5 is referring to the medocre (of only moderate quality and not very good) not approaching almighty God with their best in a faithful response, but rather, perhaps doing what they want in their own sin stained hearts and all the while expecting God to reward them for their half (if that) measures or mediocre response to His mercy and blessings even though they had been turning away from His good commands for quite some time.

      I will need some more clarification to understand your comment and reference to Amos 5. I admit I can be slow, so I ask for your grace and mercy and your willingness to share your knowledge from God’s word of truth.


      Pastor Gary Clark,

  36. […] 7 Signs Your Church Is Honestly… Mediocre by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  37. Thomas on July 30, 2018 at 10:59 am

    I visit a lot of churches and when I see mediocrity it’s really sad. Yes, it’s all about the Gospel and the power of the Spirit in congregations – agreed. And, when churches don’t care about the little things, they’re probably not caring that much about the bigger things. Weeds in the parking lot, overgrown bushes, finger prints on the windows, dead crickets in the men’s room, announcements on the screen that are two weeks old, praise teams that look bored, and really bad coffee (I’ve seen all them all)… these things SCREAM “We don’t care.” If a church doesn’t care about the little things like these, my guess is that they won’t be caring much about new people walking in the door either.

    • ML on August 2, 2018 at 12:00 am

      This is one of the most arrogant and least insightful blogs I have read about church ministry. When post-article commenters feel justified in discussing weeds in the parking lot, overgrown bushes and finger prints on church windows – it is a sign that the original content has missed the mark. Unfortunately, it is the continuation of this surface level quasi-spiritualism that resonates with the Old-School-Legalist (why the July 4th reference when you speak out of a church in Barrie, ON, Canada?) and disengages the younger generation of Christ followers who want nothing to do with it, and thus, the Church.

      I’ve grown up in Christian community and am a Pastor’s kid. I hate to say it, but you could have the best vocalists, instrumentalists, light show and be streaming in 4K over your website; but when that unchurched friend you bring to that high level production comes and hears the first Christian-term-laden-phrase of the first song , they will see it as overwhelmingly “lame”. It is grace and love and acceptance that builds community. And it is caring for people despite their “mediocrity” that encourages them toward a relationship with Christ – not the expectation of exceptionalism.

      I do however, agree with the author’s last point: “You’re Afraid to Change”. Maybe he should take his own advice, discard this tired way of thinking, and try his maligned ‘School Play’ model. After all, I can’t think of a better example of a time when one puts aside their own pride, agenda and expectation to attend strictly out of love for the one they long to celebrate in the midst of likeminded people.

  38. dm on July 27, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Everything is executed to a high standard in the production, worship service, etc., but there is no GENUINE love and care from the congregation for newcomers or people who don’t ‘fit in’. It is all relegated to the Connections Ministry. I Corinthians 13.

  39. Nathan Smith on July 27, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Or your Church is mediocre because you’re a mediocre leader and need to stop marinating in abstract Church ‘science’ once in a while and act spiritual now and then.

  40. […] 7 Signs Your Church Is Honestly…Mediocre by Carey Nieuwhof on CareyNieuwhof.com. Sometimes the truth hurts. […]

  41. Gone, but not Done on July 27, 2018 at 8:26 am

    Ask yourself,
    1- How much (what percentage of) staff time, budget and energy go into creating that Sunday morning ‘worship’ experience?

    2- Is it realistic to expect that all/most churches should be ‘professional’ grade entertainers on a Sunday morning?

    3- Now ask yourself how was it possible that a bunch of refugees from Jerusalem who likely fled with little or few possessions into Antioch and other regional cities, could possibly have been instrumental in actually precipitating the most explosive growth of the Church in history?

    (if your answer is ‘the Holy Spirit’, I’ll give you that one but, wouldn’t/ shouldn’t it be the same today?)

    Now ask yourself,

    4- In a world of declining church attendance, the rise of the totally unchurched (here in a land of churches) consider “Is your ‘Emperor’ (Sunday morning church) is actually wearing any clothes?”

    (How do I know it’s your Emperor? — It’s the one thing that you will not lay down! and, no, I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t gather together…)

    Per this blog post, the primary thing we should be doing seems to be ‘putting on a reeeelly Great Show!–churches across the land are to out do one another in a brief concert and compelling? speech– but, my friends, it’s not working)

  42. Bernard Blackmon on July 27, 2018 at 8:12 am

    I read so many of your blogs. Usually I say in my head that is some good thoughts and words. Today, I wanted to not just say it within, but post. That is some good thoughts and words. I can see myself in it and striving not to remain there.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 4, 2018 at 5:12 am

      Thanks Bernard!

  43. Fenella Liddell on July 26, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    A generation ago, Dr. F. B. Meyer said this about the local church: “It is urgently needful that the Christian people of our charge should come to understand that they are not a company of invalids, to be wheeled about, or fed by hand, cosseted, nursed, and comforted, the minister being the Head Physician and Nurse; but a garrison in an enemy’s country, every soldier of which should have some post or duty, at which he should be prepared to make any sacrifice rather than quitting.”
    Len Buttner

    • Tony on July 31, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      Finella Lidell: impressive… …but what does it mean?

  44. Michelle Nolan on July 26, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Great post! I agree. My husband and I are Pastoring now in Colorado Springs. It’s tough but having people endure worship with people who aren’t skilled vocally or musically. It’s painful for everyone worshipping. I went to Bible School so why do we “feel bad” when someone isn’t skilled well and we have to say it’s not a fit. With tact and sensitivity we could suggest voice lessons, or music lessons. Developing our talents for everyone is a call not just those behind the pulpit.

    • Roger Lau on July 9, 2021 at 12:07 pm

      Wonderfully appropriate comment about how some “unfit” or “un-ideal” people ministering may just need some tweaking or refinement in small ways that produce great improvement.

      When I was learning to teach Bible studies back in the 70s, I would rehearse in front of the mirror using my notes, to keep myself within the time limit, to get rid of the “ughs” and pauses of unrehearsed speech-giving. When I learned to be a school teacher, I was videotaped teaching, and had to endure watching my visually make many gaffes in my teaching and class management.

      How many of the people posting negative comments never watch themselves preach, or see themselves teach, or hear themselves sing? Examining yourself from another’s perspective yields valuable, if painful, insights, but which produce good fruit, whether in preaching, teaching, janitorial duties, or worship.

  45. William Miller on July 26, 2018 at 2:56 pm


  46. Sam on July 26, 2018 at 11:12 am

    We’re in the Atlanta area, so you don’t have to go very far to be at a church where the music is good, production is good, etc. But I think points 5-7 are much more important to growth than 1-4. Your music, production, needs to be good enough but you don’t have to keep up with bigger churches with more resources in order to bring in new people (I’ve learned that it’s best to stay within your means to accomplish this: we do an acoustic service with minimal production because we can do that well right now. We would not be able to do a more produced service with excellence). What 5-7 emphasize are including new people: you have to give good, inviting info to make new people feel comfortable and know how to become engaged, you have to be willing to change to bring in new folks because new people change your community if they truly become a part of it, and you can’t be resigned to how things have always looked because that will get the results that you’ve always gotten. I think most growth on Sunday mornings comes from personal invitation and people feeling like they’re valued, and the people in our church will invite friends if they feel like their friends will enjoy the experience and be valued by the people in the room.

  47. Paul Sankey on July 26, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Great post, though as a pastor of a church revitalization I think that a ‘mediocre ‘period can still be an upgrade of where a church once was, and is just a transition season on the journey from awful to impacting.

    • Dee on July 26, 2018 at 11:19 am

      from awful to awesome?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 4, 2018 at 5:11 am

      That’s true Paul. Good point! As long as it’s not the resting place or destination. 🙂

  48. Josh Poe on July 26, 2018 at 8:12 am

    – You’re inward focused
    – You don’t have healthy numbers (visitors, salvations, baptisms, etc)
    – You have meetings with no clear action plan
    – You’re always rushing last minute / not prepared
    – You often try to buy your way out of problems (adding unnecessary staff that you can get volunteers for)
    – You’re doing everything yourself and not delegating
    – You’re sharing tasks and not vision.

    • Josh Poe on July 26, 2018 at 8:18 am

      We have helped beat mediocrity
      #1- By having a great leader who invests in our staffs leadership weekly. Our staff meetings are focused around personal spiritual growth and leadership
      #2 – Looking at the health of the church. Numbers compared to previous years. Ask why if they are off.
      #3 – Not being afraid of change or afraid to try things outside of the box
      #4 – Having a core value of being outward focused

  49. Halcyon on July 26, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Just wondered why there is no mention of prioritising the presence of God or doing the works of the Father or encouraging encounters with God? Churches grow when God is there.

    • Dean on July 26, 2018 at 11:32 am

      Thanks! Emphasis on outward things may help you notice mediocrity in the outward things, but the greatest “show” in the world won’t make up for the One who said, “abide in Me and I in you…”

    • Paul Wilkes on July 27, 2018 at 6:52 am

      My sentiments too!

  50. Will on July 26, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Other signs:
    You’re preoccupied with keeping people happy rather than reaching out to engage new people.
    You’re more focused on Christians than the spiritually searching.
    You’re afraid some people might leave if you…
    You’ve lost faith in the power of the gospel to impact society and transform lives.
    You believe that you can’t set a high bar because you’re working with “volunteers”

    …to name a few more

    • Josh Poe on July 26, 2018 at 8:19 am

      Right on!

    • Ally on July 9, 2021 at 10:25 am

      Those are some good ones!

  51. Scott on July 26, 2018 at 7:10 am

    How can mediocre people grow and get better in their ministry if they are not given an opportunity to serve?

    • Josh Poe on July 26, 2018 at 8:25 am

      Hey Scott! A couple thingsI believe…

      #1 – Everyone has a ministry. For me my first ministry is my family. Before working for a church, my 2nd ministry was my job. Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”

      #2 – There are plenty of opportunities to serve.
      On a personal side -Mathew 9:35-38, “35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.””

      On a church / ministry side if you’re not in a church leadership position, just jump in and help. Often times church leadership forgets to do simple things like… ask for help. Just jump in when you see an opportunity/need.

      • Scott on July 26, 2018 at 8:37 am

        Hi Josh, Thank you! 🙂

      • Tony on July 31, 2018 at 5:41 pm

        Josh: That’s good!

        • Steve on July 4, 2020 at 6:36 am

          This is interesting.
          Some people here are upset because they think the number one issue should be the focus on Christ, and yes that is true.

          The point of this blog post is a hard truth for people from small churches that aren’t growing.. but they love their small community of believers. These churches may be faithfully preaching the Word but if they’re not growing and not putting any effort into the points Carey listed then they’re not TRYING to grow.. which is what makes them mediocre.

          I sense an arrogance from some believers commenting here that they are proud to not care about production quality, because the Church is about Christ and Him crucified.

          This is flawed thinking, because the mission of Christ is to reach the unbelievers, who in 2020 are used to a high level of production. If you just simply WON’T invest in it because you think you’re better than that, don’t need that, gospel power etc. You aren’t wrong about the power of Jesus, but why would you not do all you can to attract people to want to be at your church, to want to come check you out, why would you CHOOSE to present your services in a way that new people have to “get past”. There’s just no need for it, it’s lazy, it’s not spiritualism.

  52. Denn Guptill on July 26, 2018 at 6:55 am

    Thanks Carey, a great reminder of Cromell’s words “He who ceases to be better, ceases to be good.”

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