There are conferences, seminars, articles, books, curricula telling us how to grow a church. It’s high time the other side of the issue be considered. While I don’t guarantee these easy-to-apply steps will always keep your church from health and vitality, they will, with proper application, certainly increase the chances of stagnation.
1. Change Pastors Every Few Years.
This will assure that no pastor gets too much “power.” It will also discourage members from committing to any long-term goals or growth efforts. And those brought into the church by the pastor’s personal ministry will feel insecure because “their” pastor may not stay more than a couple of years.
2. Don’t Allow New People to Serve.
This applies particularly to those who have never been a church member before, or who were recently converted. These people tend to identify strongly with the group from which they came and offer many unwanted suggestions for reaching others from those groups. By insisting that they serve a proper and lengthy “probationary period” before participating in church decision-making, they can be stalled until they lose their enthusiasm and relationships with the un-churched. Once this happens, THEN they can be used for church work.
3. Split Up Small Groups & Ministry Teams Regularly.
This will greatly frustrate the people who are most active in the church. They won’t have a chance to build and strngthen meaningful relationships; and they will not develop any deep sense of belonging, ownership, or empowerment.
4. Try to Reach Only People in ‘Stable’ Situations.
Since people are often more responsive to the Gospel following geographic, social, vocational, or life-situational changes, concentrate on people in stable circumstances to minimize contacts with the kind of people that often lead to responsiveness and change.
5. Don’t Send Your Pastor to Conferences or Encourage Him to Read Books on Evangelism & Mission.
If he insists on attending such a workshop, make sure no other church leaders go with him. Enthusiasm for outreach and mission can be easily squelched as long as the pastor is the only one who gets enthused.
6. Emphasize “Quality not Quantity.”
This one almost always works!
Make it sound like those who want to see new people join the church are playing the ‘numbers game’. The myth that numerical growth automatically and spontaneously comes as a result of spiritual growth – without actual outreach and evangelism – is believed by many, so take advantage of it.
Also, point to unmet needs of your own people as the only real concern of the church, and the primary concerns for the pastor.
7. Don’t Be Friendly to Visitors.
If this seems too extreme, be friendly to them at first – THEN ignore them! Don’t visit them. Don’t invite them to church activities. Don’t talk to them during the week. Above all: DON’T become friends with them!
8. Don’t Invite People to Visit or Join Your Church.
We can justify this by saying: “We don’t want to force church membership on anybody.” To neighbors and guests it says: “You don’t belong here.” But that’s all we need.
One variable to this is to allow the pastor to be the only one to do the inviting and relationship building.
9. Try to Reach Everyone In Your Community the Same Way.
Ignore racial, social, economic, linguistic, and cultural differences. Assume all people are like you – or they should be.
A church out to “reach everybody”, without considering even subtle cultural differences, using the same old strategies used in the past, often reaches nobody. Churches are effective when they recognize these distinctions, and develop relevent strategies to serve the different segments of their community.
If you don’t want to grow, don’t aim at a target.
10. Make Growth Entirely Dependent on the Holy Spirit.
This not only encourages prayerlessness and evangelistic laziness on our part, but it gives us a convenient excuse if growth doesn’t occur. We can always blame God.
11. Don’t Staff & Don’t Budget for Outreach & Mission.
Our resources are precious and limited. Staff and budget for Christian Education, Youth Ministries, etc. first. Staff and budget for outreach & mission ONLY after these priorities are perfectly met.
12. Insist on Using Evangelistic Methods That Were Used During the ‘Good Old Days’.
Don’t consider methods that God may be using today. Stick with crusades, simplistic tracts, and answering questions no one is asking.
By all means avoid meeting actual needs. A church that adresses the needs of the poor – like Jesus & Paul said we should – might be accused of Liberalism and promoting a Social Gospel.
13. Don’t Set Goals.
Say that goals produce frustration. Discourage measurement of any kind. Label statistical analysis as ‘worldly’. If that fails, label it ‘demonic and destructive’. Though that may be unfair, and UNTRUE, it will certainly discourage goal-setting and statistical analysis as a diagnostic tool.
14. Say that God Doesn’t Want the Church to Grow.
Though this statement may be false, you can dig up enough proof-texts to make it seem believable.
15. Don’t Advertise Your Church.
Any advertising should be avoided. Especially don’t let newcomers to your community know where your church is, when services are held, and what ministries might be most beneficial to them.
If you must advertise, put the ad on the church page where only those already churched are likley to see it. And put a picture of the pastor or the building on it, not something that would be of interest to anyone outside your church. And never put a picture of people enjoying themselves together in Christ. Never promote something that might connect with the un-Churched.
16. Don’t Pray for Kingdom Advancement.
Pray for people in hospitals and on sick lists. Pray for generic “spiritual blessings”. Pray for missions, but not specific prayers for individual missionaries; Not prayers informed about the challenges missionaries face in their particular locations and work. Pray only for un-named people who you will never meet. Pray only for people to be healed. NEVER pray for un-churched neighbors and friends. NEVER pray for God to change you and/or your church to become more godly.
This post is satirical and sarcastic. I have edited and adapted it from a chapter titled: 17 Way to Keep Your Church from Gowing. from a book by Mike Grogan, then-pastor of the Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH. I don’t know if he is still the pastor there. Nor do I recall the title of the book.