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Planning on Closing Anytime Soon? 21 Signs Your Church Needs to Change

Leadership / The Church //

Sometimes I think we should just hang signs like this in some churches or organizations when it comes to change: people are just closed.

And if you’re closed to change, it’s probably only a matter of time until your church or organization closes.

Okay, no one actually says they’re closed, but in reality, they’re not open.

Here’s how it happens.

The need for change is easy to spot in others, and very difficult to spot in yourself.

So leaders are left wondering: do we really need to change?

They tell themselves:

It’s not that bad

Things will turn around

I’m sure it’s going to be okay

Sometimes all of us go a bit blind to the need for change because we’re afraid.

We’ve seen how change has swallowed colleagues alive. We’ve watched great leaders suffer as they met all kinds of opposition. We sense the conflict pending in our own community.

As a result, we ignore the signs that would tell us change is needed.

So, how do you know your organization needs to change?

How do you stay 100% honest as a leader and engage the difficult issues?

Answer: You constantly watch for the signs you need to change.

21 Signs Your Church Needs to Change
What are those signs? Well, there are plenty of them.

At the macro and micro level, here are 21 signs your church needs to change:

1. Your stories are about what used to happen
When your stories are about what used to happen, not what’s going to happen, you need to change.

Your memories exceed your dreams. And that’s dangerous.

2. You’re still growing but any real innovation has stopped.

For some churches, growth stopped years ago. But some are still growing.

Remember. Every season has a shelf life. Smart leaders prepare for the next season before the current one expires.

3. Your team is misaligned
This means you need to change your culture.
Misaligned organizations will always struggle with organizational health and unity in purpose and mission.
For more on alignment, see this post on what I’ve learned from North Point about alignment, and this post on how alignment can revolutionize trust in your organization.

4. Your growth is mostly transfer growth
You’re missing your mission. Enough said.

5. The number of baptisms has slowed
Signs like this are the canary in the coal mine.

6. You see more obstacles than opportunities when you look at the future

Leaders who are afraid of change only see the downside of the future.

This kind of thinking breeds a culture of fear. Decline is right around the corner, if not already present.

7. Your volunteer turn over is too high.
Something needs to change in your volunteer culture or structure.

If you wonder why you’re losing volunteers, this post might help you.

8. Your volunteer turn over is too low
Surprise. I just said the opposite, but turnover that’s too low is as much a danger sign as turnover that’s too high.
If your volunteer turnover is exceptionally low, something needs to change because you have no room for new people. Many dying churches have the same people serving in the same role for decades.

9. You’re not hearing stories of life change
Stories are the currency of missional effectiveness.

10. You haven’t done anything exciting in the last six months

The Gospel is anything but boring, so why is your church boring?

Stagnation starts subtly. Keep an eye on it.

11. You’re not offending people
Organizations that make a difference always anger someone. If you’re not upsetting someone, you’re likely doing nothing significant.

Just make sure you’re offending the right people.

12. Your average age is creeping higher
A sure sign you’re missing the next generation.

13. People are afraid to suggest new ideas
Your leadership culture may have become more about preservation than innovation.

14. People are content with the status quo
Thinking you’ve arrived is a sign that you’re vision has departed.

15. You are talking about the same issues in meeting after meeting
You’re stuck, and progress will become increasingly difficult until you tackle this.

16. Your growth curve has slowed or stopped
I know. This is obvious. But you’d be amazed at how many organizattons and church have stopped growing but aren’t responding to it.

The change probably should have started a year or two ago. Analyze and act now.

17. Your community wouldn’t notice if you disappeared

This one hurts, but does your community notice you?

Churches that only serve themselves miss their mission.

18. Your passion level is average-to-low
Declining organizations always lack passion.

If you want to get your church passionate about your mission, read this.

19. You don’t look like your community
Churches that have become a subculture look like themselves, not like their community.

20. Talk doesn’t translate to action
Most of your decisions result in nothing significant. You talk a great game, but you do nothing about it.

Jesus didn’t call us to make decisions, he called us to make disciples. Act.

21. You’re still breathing

This one’s just fun. Keep changing.

Change is a constant. The day we stop changing is the day we begin to die.

Those are 21 signs I’ve identified.

I don’t think there are any exceptions, we all need to change.

What would you add to this list?

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About the Author

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting. Follow Carey on Twitter: http://twitter.com/cnieuwhof