I was recently in Arkansas speaking with a pastor who is a daily reader of this blog. He expressed gratitude for all the free content, but then he made a kind plea. He said that the blog has so much content that it can be overwhelming at times.
He then asked if I could write some posts that summarized several issues I covered in multiple articles over many months. I asked him to give me an example for clarity. He said, “Maybe you could write an article on the ten most common mistakes made by churches.”
His request is proof positive that my readers are much smarter than I am. Why didn’t I think of that?
Thank you, pastor. Here is my response with one added to the ten. These are not necessarily the most important issues (I think theological heresy would outrank them all), but they are the most common.
- Failure to have a informative, easy-to-use website. I cringe when I see some churches’ websites. That is now the first place a prospective guest visits when he or she is thinking about attending a church. Websites are incredibly affordable today, and they can be updated easily. A church website should be updated at least once a week. It should be one of high quality. And it should contain good and accurate information for guests and members alike.
- Failure of pastors and staff to be actively involved in social media. That is analogous to a missionary in another land failing to learn how to speak the language of the people.
- Failure of pastors and staff to understand they represent the church when they are involved in social media. When I see some of the blog posts and Twitter and Facebook communication of pastors and staff, I am often left speechless. Even if it is a personal blog or Twitter or Facebook account (or almost a dozen other social media entrants), church members read them. The community reads them. Pastors and staff: you represent yourself, your church, and, most importantly, Christ. Please be careful with your words.
- Failure to urge people to be a part of groups. Groups are key to healthy assimilation, ministry involvement, evangelistic intentionality, biblical accountability, and community connections. Church leaders should regularly encourage members and others to get involved in a small group, home group, Sunday school class, or some other ongoing group.
- Failure of leaders to be actively involved in influencing the content of groups. Can you imagine a pastor asking a random person to preach on Sunday morning without any idea what that person would say? That’s how many leaders treat their groups. Some have no idea what is being taught, studied, and discussed.
- Failure of church members to be considerate of where they sit during a worship service. I can’t tell you how many guests told me they had to climb over church members who arrived early and got an aisle seat. I can’t tell you how many left no room for others because they used space for their coats, Bibles, smartphones, and other items.
- Failure to have parking lot greeters. This ministry is a church’s opportunity to make a positive first impression. However, most churches do not have parking lot greeters.
- Failure to have clearly marked guest parking. Most churches have guest parking places. The problem is most guests can’t find them.
- Failure to have clearly marked entrances to the worship center. Ask a person who has never attended your church to do so. Then ask them how difficult it was to find the worship center. Because we know our own church well, we often don’t comprehend the challenges a first time guest may have.
- Failure to have clearly marked entrances to the church offices. This issue is, of course, more of a problem during weekdays.
- Failure to have adequate restroom facilities. There should be an adequate number of restrooms. They should be clean. And guests should see clearly marked signs that tell them how to find them.
This “top ten plus one” list is not comprehensive. It simply represents the most common mistakes I see. I look forward to your responses and feedback.
Posted on February 10, 2014
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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I realize your information is based on research, but I’d like to add a common mistake that the most passionate and driven members of a dying church make. Stepping up when others won’t, taking on more and more to fill in the gaps, serving on multiple committees or perhaps chairing multiple committees because no one else will. This results in burn out, frustration and resentment. I realize now that it is not in anyone’s best interest. The passion and drive that should be spent on reaching others with the message are now spent on fighting those internal battles of “preserving the past” and keeping everyone happy in the church as the change agents are stopped in their tracks. We have enabled other members to sit back and watch and not be active participants in our mission. By our stepping up, nothing has improved or changed, we are spread thin so it becomes difficult to focus on God and our responsibility to him and it has only gotten more frightening as we see the attendance numbers continue to fall. Thank you for listening.