Signs That Alert You That a Congregation Is In Trouble

Perhaps you have known someone that died because they failed to take action. They ignored subtle signs that their health was failing and refused to go to a doctor for medical attention. People are grieved that the person has passed away but the greater tragedy is that it could have been prevented.

I have been blessed to be in churches by the hundreds throughout the course of my ministry. Occasionally I am troubled when I see what I perceive to be obvious signs that the church is in trouble and yet the members and sometimes the leaders are continuing as if nothing is wrong. The church will never die. However, a congregation can and sadly it happens all too often.  Here are some signs that the demise of the congregation is imminent if emergency measures are not taken:

1.     No preschoolers are present. The absence of preschoolers means the absence of young adults. Who are your preschool leaders? I have received the response that “we have no preschool leaders because we have no preschool children.”  Just the opposite is true. One reason the church has no preschool children is because they have no preschool leadership or ministry. Get the padlock ready for the front door.

2.     The church cannot keep a pastor.  This is the church that has a different pastor every two or three years. None are willing to stay. I hate to break the news, but if the church has gone through five or six pastors in fifteen years, the problem is probably not the pastor.  Decline is imminent.

3.     No baptisms all year.  The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Do you recognize that from Acts 2:47?  It is still true and God is still saving.  Not one baptism?  How can a congregation go an entire year and not see one person come to faith? It is because they are in hospice care and may not even know it.

4.     The congregation does not resemble the immediate community.  Communities do change over time. Occasionally the members are driving from outside the community and few people if anyone has been reached inside the community for many months or even years. The congregation is gasping rather than breathing.

5.     The church does not publish any statistics.  Sometimes the congregation or the leaders are either ignoring or possibly hiding the reality of a decline. God can bless a church of any size and there is no right or wrong size for a church to be.  However, shrinking numbers (attendance, baptisms, offerings) can be symptomatic of deeper issues if the erosion has taken place over many months without end.  Ignoring the information does not change the reality or the need to honestly assess the health of the congregation.

What do you do if you experience these signs of demise?  Don’t give up.  More to come.

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