12 Signs Your Church Is on a Downslope

Do you know of any churches going downhill? (Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash)

Church growth writers talk about the bell-shaped curve that characterizes the growth of many churches. The left side of the bell curve is exciting (vision, outreach, growth and so on), but the right side is challenging (nostalgia, decline, division and so on).

Based on my years of church consulting, here are some markers of churches on the downslope. Every church should be aware of these markers, just in case they're unknowingly moving in the wrong direction.

  1. A visionless leader: Often, the primary leader in the church—the pastor—has lost vision for the future.
  2. Unspoken conflict: The conflict may not have yet risen to a raging fire, but the embers of division are beginning to flame quietly.
  3. A "back door" problem: People are leaving the church more rapidly than they're joining. Sometimes, the difference between the two is stark.
  4. Few converts: Congregations in this state seldom do much evangelism.
  5. Non-returning guests: It's not that first-time guests aren't coming to the church; it's that they never come back after the first time.
  6. Stagnant, if not declining, finances: Long-term members may be keeping the financial ship afloat, but nothing suggests coming growth in giving.
  7. Fractured leadership: Ongoing conflict among staff or lay leaders is not uncommon in churches going in the wrong direction.
  8. Decreasing funds for ministry: This problem is often the result of maintaining a larger-church staff as the church itself gets smaller. Salaries dominate the expenses as the church struggles.
  9. "Yesterday" conversations more than "today or tomorrow" hopes: "I remember when" statements become much more common than "I'm so excited about what God's doing."
  10. Longer-term leaders just "hanging on": Even the strongest, most faithful members begin to think about leaving when a church is on the wrong side of the curve.
  11. Increasingly a one-generation congregation: Typically, younger families leave rather than wait out any needed changes.
  12. Entrenched hopelessness: Those who remain begin to lose hope, but they remain unwilling to change.

What other characteristics have you seen?

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, he served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife, Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art and Jess; and 10 grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Dr. Mark Rutland's

National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)

The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!

FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.

Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.

The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.

Charisma Leader — Serving and empowering church leaders