Monday, 20 July 2015

Churches Failing to Grow Seminar

I'd like to thank the delegates from communities across the post-Christendom worship spectrum, for their attendance at our ground-breaking seminar, "Reasons why Your Church Can't Grow No
Matter What You Do".

I've seen  too many churches feel they ought to do something, but then give up at the first failure: or even struggle in prayer and through growth strategy meetings, then give up later on. Too many mission committees do detailed sociological analysis, only to conclude that the people in their parish are basically not very suitable for saving. So my idea was, why not cut out the middle person and just get straight to the acceptance of defeat? Saves all that grief, and you can get on with useful stuff like polishing the brass.

The main aim of the day was to develop a comprehensive set of reasons out of which any church can develop what we call an "Agenda for Failure" - a set of reasons why there's no way your community could grow, no matter what you did. And I have to say we got a really good set. Everybody felt much better afterwards. Feel free to pick the ones that you know fit your own community, and then give up. You'll be amazed how the weight of guilt lifts from your shoulders as you accept your destiny.
  1. [Large Churches] The congregation is too big, and new people won't feel at home.
  2. The Minister won't take the lead.
  3. [Churches in town centres] Nobody lives round here - it's much easier to make contact when the church is in the centre of a community.
  4. Who on earth would believe what we do?
  5. It's the summer. Everyone's on holiday.
  6. The modern world is so scientific, they don't really believe in God or Jesus any more.
  7. [Churches in Schools / Community centres] Nobody realises we're here. We'd have to put banners up or something.
  8. We haven't got the car parking space.
  9. Nobody sings hymns in schools.
  10. People who don't go to church are weird.
  11. Society has changed. We just need to plan for decline.
  12. Nobody understands anything we are saying. You really need to grow up in the church. 
  13. Our songs are too old fashioned. We've got to move with the times.
  14. If anybody started coming to our church, they'd only decide they weren't growing and move on to a more exciting church in a year or two.
  15. We don't really have anything to tell people.
  16. People go shopping on Sundays. They didn't do that 40 years ago.
  17. Nobody likes incense any more. But we like it.
  18. The Minister is too controlling.
  19. How can we get people to "come in"? We've tried lurking around in the Church waiting for them, but people who wander in get really jumpy when they spot us.
  20. The Holy Spirit was all very exciting in the Bible, but probably wouldn't want to turn up round here.
  21. Outsiders don't know what to do when. So they stop coming after a while.
  22. [Village Churches] There's mostly older people live here now. The Sunday School has folded.
  23. [Suburban Estates] People just drive past. The church in the town is right next to the shops, where people go on Saturdays.
  24. Kids these days play football on Sunday mornings. They didn't do that 40 years ago.
  25. These days everybody is into alternative religion. That seems to be more spiritual.. We're too traditional and boring.
  26. It's the winter. It's always so cold in here.
  27. It's easier to clean up the monuments than explain a living faith.
  28. People who come for baptisms never come back.
  29. People these days play cricket on Sundays. They didn't do that 40 years ago.
  30. The Minister preaches only sermonettes.
  31. People these days have a lie-in on Sundays. They didn't do that 40 years ago.
  32. [Small Churches] Nobody would want to come to a small church. Big ones are much livelier.
  33. The Minister preaches long, boring sermons.
  34. The music we sing is too modern. People like the old stuff.
  35. We don't believe our Church can grow.


  1. People in the public relations and entertainment industries, and in the retail sector, are paid vast sums of money to try to get the public to put bums on seats, buy the latest fad, applaud the latest personality.

    And at least 50% of the time they get it wrong, despite the fact that they are appealing to basic self-satisfying human instincts like greed, lust, envy.

    Maybe old GKC had it right, in his tale of the queer footsteps; maybe old Winnie had it right, promising blood, toil, tears and sweat. Maybe the leaders of my old profession had it right, when they imposed draconian discipline and horrendous work schedules for very little pay. GKC's hotel had queues of would-be customers; Winnie's speech put a backbone into a national effort; teaching hospitals had waiting-lists of prospective students.

    Only I doubt if the leaders of any Christian denomination would attempt that kind of strategy now.

  2. I've often thought about Growing Churches!

    First, how do you grow them? What seed or bulbs is available, and what soil do you plant them in? How much feeding do they need and how much training and nurturing do they need?

    When you tend growing churches do you weed out the sickly ones and throw them on the fire, or persevere with them until they die naturally of wilting and fading away?

    When a church has grown and flowered, do you wait until the petals fall, before dead heading them?

    In my view, planting a church from scratch can prove fruitful, but you need to select the right root stock if it's a graft! However, nurturing, feeding, sheltering and encouraging existing churches might stimulate them to new growth - who knew?


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