Thursday, July 06, 2006

What to do when your church hits a plateau

I'm posting Rick Warren's toolbox. I don't always agree with Warren but he does have some thought provoking ideas on church growth.

I hear it frequently: "My church has hit a plateau. What can I do to get it moving again?"

While this can be a common crisis, it’s not unfixable. There are several things you can do to help your church move beyond its growth block.

First, though, it’s important to understand that the longer your church has been plateaued, the longer it’s going to take to get it going again. There is tremendous power in momentum. At NASA, most of the energy – the jet fuel – in a rocket engine is used up in the first several hundred yards. It takes all that fuel just to get the thing off the launch pad. Once it's in orbit, it takes very little power to keep a rocket going. But you still have to get the thing going, and that initial push takes a lot of time and energy up front.

If your church has been plateaued for six months, it might take six months to get it going again. If it's been plateaued a year, it might take a year. If it's been plateaued for 20 years, you've got to set in for the duration!

I'm saying some people are going to have to die or leave. Moses had to wander around the desert for 40 years while God killed off a million people before he let them go into the Promised Land. That may be brutally blunt, but it’s true. There may be people in your church who love God sincerely, but who will never, ever change.

I often tell the pastors of existing churches to remember the illustration of an oil tanker. It takes about 14 miles for an oil tanker to make a U-turn. That's like a lot of churches.

For a church to turn around it may take many, many minute degrees of change and a long time to make a complete turn around. I personally believe you have to be called to a church like that.

People ask, "Is it easier to start new churches, or is it easier to take existing churches and turn them around?" My answer is this: "It's always easier to have babies than to raise the dead." However, God is in the business of raising the dead! He's a pro at resurrections, but it just might take some time.

So what do you do with a church that has plateaued? I believe you need to do three things:

First, as we’ve just discussed, understand that it will take time. As pastor of an existing church that needs to be turned around, you must pray for an extra amount of patience. People change very slowly. They are resistant to change because they recognize that life as they’ve known it will cease to exist. So the very nature of the primary group is to fight change. It can take time to win them over. Read More.

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