Depending on what study you read, anywhere from 50-80% of new churches close their doors within the first five years. And while 4,000 new churches are started every year, about 3,800 other churches close their doors. As I reflect back on my own five-year journey as a church planter and pastor, here are three reasons I believe many churches don’t make it.
1. Launching too many ministries. Most ministries begin with good intentions, trying to meet a legitimate, specialized need. Over time, these ministries become expensive and volunteer intensive. All the while, their effectiveness dwindles. When launching new ministries, you must consider sustainability. What will this ministry look like at five times its size? It may not cost much now, but what about later? In my experience, churches trying to be all things to all people by offering so many ministries ensure that none of them are quality. It’s better to do a few things well than offer a bunch of programs that scratch the surface
2. Being sidetracked by difficult people. Young churches attract some great people, but they are also a breeding ground for difficult people. Talking a good talk, these people often come in with baggage that takes your church off mission. Before long, you’re spending a great deal of time justifying what you do to people who are slightly misaligned. Instead of reaching people, you’re coddling people. I’m talking about the volunteers who just can’t submit to leadership, the finance team member who always seems to have a problem with spending money on outreach, or the deacon who wants your church to be a little more like his last church. In five years, I’ve learned that I can’t justify what we’re about to some people. You don’t have a people problem…you have a vision problem.
3. Working in it, not on it. In new churches especially, the work comes at a fast a furious pace. You had months to plan your first service, but only six days to plan the next. You’re starting things, launching things, meeting with people, and operating week-to-week. While some of this is necessary, if you never back up to evaluate and create systems, then you’re going to stay stuck in the hamster wheel of ministry. Churches must work on the organization, create processes, and develop healthy systems. We’ve got to stop reacting to this week’s problem and implement a long-term strategy. That’s why I put together Docs and Forms – to help you jump start the process of creating healthy systems.