Why the Problem You're Facing Might Not Be the Problem

I have a saying with our staff team: 95% of church problems have nothing to do with the church.

Think about it. What if:

  • 95% of the problems in your church have nothing to do with your church?
  • 95% of the problems in your business have nothing to do with your business?
  • 95% of the problems with a group you’re involved with have nothing to do with the group?

And so on…

Don’t get me wrong, we have church problems. And businesses and groups have business and group problems.  And please understand the number isn’t scientific. But the pattern is quite clear.

What poses as the problem often isn’t the problem.

Example: someone tells you they’re leaving your church because they feel so disconnected. You may indeed have a connection problem in your church. But sometimes you really just don’t.

Probe a little deeper. Often here’s what I find if I do. The person leaving has other issues. Their life story is they feel disconnected. Or their marriage is struggling. Or they are about to lose their job.

What presented as a ‘church problem’ isn’t really a church problem.

Spend a bit of time with them or, typically in our case, get a small group leader to spend some time with them. Pray with them. Listen, understand. Journey with them. And you might just discover that the ‘problem’ goes away.

So,when people present with a ‘problem’, get into the habit of asking yourself if it’s really the problem. And start considering angles like this:

People who complain that the church talks about money too much often have financial issues (debt or greed).

People who complain that they feel undervalued might just be insecure.

People who can’t get along in their group might have big family issues they’re dealing with.

That doesn’t give you an excuse to write them off. Instead, it gives you an opportunity to see if they need help dealing with the actual issues their facing. Sometimes that help can be life-changing.

And coincidentally, helping them walk through that problem often resolves the ‘church’ problem or ‘business’ problem or ‘organization’ problem.

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of church problems I need to fix. But often what presents as a church problem isn’t a church problem. It’s a people problem. Help people and the problem disappears.

What’s your experience in this area?


  1. Christy Burton on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I have experienced much heartache from churches asking overzealously for money mainly because I allow myself to feel guilty no matter how much I give. Every time I hear requests for money, in my head I go through a dialogue like, “…I can’t, I gave money to this radio show, I gave money to this unemployed person, I dropped money in the Salvation Army kettle, I’m housing a homeless person.. and I just don’t have any more money, please stop asking, please, ohhh, I can’t listen to this anymore.”

    I have tithed with a cheque that bounced after being quoted, “test me in this,” I’ve had a church come to my house and insist I commit to giving towards an expansion project despite the fact that at that time I was a single parent, seriously ill, one of my sons was seriously ill, I hadn’t worked for months, and was having trouble feeding my family.

    I stopped going to church for a long time because of barrages of requests for money. I don’t think it’s Godly to do that to someone. Some people are designed by God with tender hearts that want to help everyone before themselves. I know of an elderly lady who ate cat food after donating all her money to ‘starving children’ on tv (long time ago when cat food was cheaper, lol!)

    Just wanted to answer to, “People who complain that the church talks about money too much often have financial issues (debt or greed).” I feel that’s a callous comment.

  2. cnieuwhof on November 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Good point Robert. Thank you for it. I think the goal is to work through the real issues together. I’m not saying churches don’t have issues For sure churches do. I’m just saying sometimes it’s good to work through what the issues actually are to everyone’s benefit.

  3. Robert on November 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    This is an interesting, timely and controversial issue. I wonder what percentage of people in any particular congregation came from another congregation. I also wonder what those same people would say the reason was behind them leaving their original congregation. I’d be willing to bet they would place a great deal of blame on the church. If I’m correct about that, what does that say about “The Church”, and what does that say about “A Church”? “The Church” and “A Church” is nothing more than people anyhow, so the problem is one and the same whether you are standing by the pulpit or sitting in the pew. To state anything less may be undermining anyone who said “I left my previous church because the church didn’t…” by suggesting that it wasn’t the fault of “A Church”. When people left Jim Jones’s church, he blamed them as well. :o) God bless

  4. cnieuwhof on November 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Thanks for your perspective Adam. Appreciate it. There are definitely church problems, and definitely people problems. What do you do if someone is projecting their issues on you? Can that be a 100%/100% thing?

    • Adam Janes on November 15, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      I believe if you truly know you are doing your 100% as a Church and/or person, it will be more clear someone is projecting and you can speak the truth in love and talk about it and it can also help you see weak spots in the church.

  5. Adam Janes on November 15, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I would say it is a both/and issue! The personal problem rubs against a church problem. If church is unfriendly and a person is feeling disconnected, it is two problems colliding, the church isn’t helping the persons problem, the person isn’t helping the church’s. A friendly church allows most who feel disconnected or tend to need to be drawn out a way to overcome thier problem. An extroverted socialite can over compensate for a churches unfriendliness by choosing to be a light of welcome in this place. The solution is what I have taken from my marriage counselling, 100/100, its 100 percent the responsibility of the church and the person to own up and do themost loving thing! On occasion we must over compensate for the issue of ther other but we also need to work as a church to have people with the right gifts in the right places so that when people are in need in a certain area we can help and those that are struggling can find places of both comfort and eventually of strength to help the church own up to its 100 as much as it can! True though that a person has their hundred to own up to as well, if they only do 50 or often less than the church is held useless arms open ready with thier love and gifts! Thanks for this it has been very helpful to think it through, your church and your leadership is an inspiration to me!

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