If I Could Change One Thing in My Church, It Would Be . . .

I put the statement on social media. The responses were voluminous. After a couple of days, I had to stop counting and tally the results. There were hundreds of them.

In an effort to simplify my reporting of the results, I put the responses into several categories. I have to say, I was more encouraged than not. Sure, we got the usual complaints about other people and the worship services. But I was surprised to see how many respondents said the greatest change needed to be themselves. Pastors said it. Elders said it. Deacons said it. Other laypersons said it. That response, among others, greatly encouraged me.

My question was about one thing, so I had to disregard those who gave two things, or three things, or fourteen things (seriously). Keep in mind, each tallied respondent could only say one thing. So, when you read that three percent wanted a greater emphasis on prayer, it doesn’t mean 97 percent did not want a greater emphasis on prayer. It just means three percent put it at the top of their list.

Here are the top ten results. The numbers do not add to 100 percent, because there were many responses that did not fit any of the top ten categories.

If I could change one thing in my church, it would be . . .

  1. Other people (16%). No big surprise here. Other people need to get their acts together. The pastor needs to visit more. Other people need to attend more frequently. The essence of these responses is that everyone else is the problem.
  2. Me (13%). I was incredibly gratified to see this second highest response. So many of the respondents acknowledged the plank in their own eyes rather than the splinter in others. Indeed, this response was both a surprise and a great sign of hope for churches.
  3. A greater emphasis on evangelism (10%). Again, I was heartened by these responses. The second and third most frequent responses were “change me” and “share the gospel.” That’s very hopeful.
  4. The worship services (9%). No surprises here. It’s just hard for me to imagine that someone would say the greatest need in the church was to turn down the volume. Of course, there were the expected responses: more hymns; more contemporary music; more blended music, and on and on and on.
  5. The church facilities (6%). There were a number of concerns about church buildings. It seems like this problem is becoming more pronounced. Deferred maintenance is growing in churches. Then again, some of the responses were, well, strange: “If I could change one thing in the church, it would be light bulbs that are too high.” Now that’s important.
  6. The pace of change (5%). Almost all the responses in this category expressed a desire for increasing the pace of change. As one church member said: “We are moving slowly, and we are slowly dying.”
  7. A greater emphasis on prayer (3%). As I monitor church trends, I am seeing this type of response with a greater frequency. That’s healthy, very healthy.
  8. A greater emphasis on discipleship (3%). Again, as I read these responses, I was hopeful. Church leaders and members desire to return to greater emphases on evangelism, prayer, and discipleship.
  9. Our church polity (3%). Though a frequent response, there was no consistency on desiring any one type of polity. The theme was, for the most part, whatever our polity is now needs to be changed.
  10. Greater diversity (2%). “When I look around our church, I see nothing but white faces. When I look into the community I see diverse ethnic groups and races.” That pretty much says it all.

Out of the hundreds of responses, there were many memorable, some for good, and some not so good. One of those: “If I could change one thing in my church, it would be the toilet paper brand.”

There you go. That’s Kingdom thinking.

Posted on July 25, 2018

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Michael Cutler says on

    This could be a GREAT resource for a pastor taking over an existing church. It would be very informative on where the people stand and wouldn’t have the potential for the personal attacks against the pastor (yet!) Then he can take that information and use it to work into the church in an effective manner.

  • Arthur De Boer says on

    I think one thing missing in church today is love. From the congregation and the Pastor . No one says hello except the greeters. I have volunteered at my church and served and have asked about Bible studies and small groups.No answers – Wow

  • Daughter says on

    Sorry…one more thing. I love the seniors! As a single mom, it was the seniors who embraced me and loved me. They are the ones that pull me aside and encourage me. They are the ones that call and check up on me! If you want happy seniors, make sure you have a vibrant seniors ministery and activities. They like having younger generations filling the pews!

    So, Thom, my church has done this, but that would be the necessary change to be made in alot of churches. Ok, I have made my point ????

  • Daughter says on

    Truthfully, churches need to have vibrant activities and outreach opportunities like homebound ministry, senior choir who perform in the church and community, senior game days, senior outings and trips to name a few.

    People are living longer and longer these days. Seniors are great and this is a way to get them involved.

    There was a point 7 years ago in my old church during a business meeting when one of the Seniors stated that they were getting too old to do the things that they used to do like putting letters on the building sign or door knocking. From that point outreach went downhill drastically except for the children’s ministry.

    Seniors who have been doing church and have been in the same church for 70 or more years are clinging to the old ways of doing things and resistant to change possibly because there are no activities or ministries suited to them. I mean who comes to all three services a week? Yep, seniors. Their lives revolve around church. I get it. I am in my forties and my bones are definitely creekier than I ever recall. And, for some, if not involved in activities this group may become overly critical. Some may be lonely. But, they definitely want things to remain the same.

    My point is, create a diverse and robust Seniors Ministry. The door will swing open for outreach and evangelism to the community. This will require the actions of young adults up to 60. Seniors do outreach such as volunteering at the school that has been adopted by the church. There are lots of things seniors can do for outreach. They cannot physically get into the trenches of the time and often back breaking work associated with outreach and evangelism anymore. There was a time when they could and did! Time for younger generations to take the reins. Work with the seniors to figure out the activities that they would be interested in.

    When you put yourselves in other people’s shoes, you will see that the answer is right in front of you. It is just common sense.


    • Daughter says on


      Churches need to have a vibrant Seniors Ministry that can include day outings, trips, game days, senior choir who performs in church and the community, and ways that they can contribute to outreach based on their abilities.

  • Pastor D. says on

    The one thing I would change would be the attendance habits of some members. “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together…” has been written out (or deleted) in the minds and the hearts of some people.

    This is true in the most previous church that I served in KS for 5.25 years, and I already seeing it in my first month in a new pastorate in FL.

    May God help our people see their need for corporate worship — to truly worship Him with all their hearts, minds, souls, and to give of their best to the Master (with all their strength).

    Great topic!

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