Churches fail. There’s no getting around it. People who feel called to pastor churches have a special passion to help people grow in their Christian faith and walk with God. Pastors go to school to learn how to preach and teach the Word of God BUT often lack the administrative gifts that are required when you are managing people and money.
These church leaders wear many hats and conflicting responsibilities often result in unintentional mistakes, which can lead to a failing church. Many business processes need managing within a church – budgets, people, processes, systems, strategy and goals. Consequently, making mistakes in managing any of these operational areas can threaten the church’s long-term viability. Here’s 11 signs of a church headed for failure.
11 Mistakes a Failing Church Will Make
1. Unclear Mission
Every organization needs to understand its reason for existence, because it is the anchor for all decision making. Churches must be able to articulate why it exists and what it’s striving to achieve. Church leaders must focus time and attention on developing a mission and vision statement. And, decisions about strategy, budgets and people should support the core mission of the church.
For example, a church with a mission to: “Create an atmosphere where people can become Disciples of Christ while learning to live life through biblical principles” will make spending decisions that support the mission.
2. No Plan
There is an old saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Every organization needs to know why it exists (mission) and to develop a strategy and plan to achieve its mission. Large or small, every church needs a plan. Devote the time, at least once a year, to review the church strategy. This will help to ensure that the ministry is moving intently in a planned direction.
3. No Written Goals
Goals are how churches fulfill its strategy, and ultimately mission and vision. A ministry must first develop goals based on the strategic plan. Write ministry goals and assign accountability for achieving them. Each goal should have someone identified who is responsible for achieving it – within a predetermined timeline.
4. Not Budgeting Limited Resources
I am always amazed at the number of organizations that operate without a budget. A church needs budgets to fund its strategy and goals. Churches often ignore the need to budget because of the required time investment in the process.
Nonetheless, budgeting is how churches achieve the strategy to fulfill its mission. There are many organizations that do not operate with a budget, but churches that do are able to allocate dollars to those things that will help the ministry grow closer to mission fulfillment.
5. No Accountability
Churches need to hold employees accountable for job responsibilities. Churches pay employees to fulfill job responsibilities and if they are not held accountable for doing so, they are providing no value to the ministry. Churches need to provide the necessary support and resources for employees to ensure they are able to fulfill job responsibilities. Managing how work is done is an important part of achieving a church mission.
6. Not Anticipating Technological Changes
The market changes quickly in every industry making it important to keep an eye on shifting trends in areas such as technology or customer requirements. For a church, this means paying attention to how employees, volunteers and members use technology to communicate and share information.
For instance, ten years ago it was a luxury to have a sophisticated church website – which only a small percentage of churches could afford. Today most churches have a website because they understand its importance as a communication tool.
7. Not Understanding Members
Tithing members pay the bills so church leaders need to take the time to understand member needs (within the boundaries of a church mission) and to create programs, systems and processes to meet those needs.
For instance, young families expect churches to provide programs for their children that engage them and help them grow spiritually. Churches need to understand this need and develop programs that cater to young church members.
Simply asking the question can flush out information that can be used to create programs that church members participate in and support financially.
8. Not Considering Employees the Most Important Customers
Church employees are the hands and feet of a church and facilitate everything a church does. These special people are often the first contact for a member or volunteer. Support employees by providing them with clear job descriptions and the training to perform those job responsibilities. Monitor how jobs are completed and reward employees for doing a good job. Well-managed employees are happy, and happy employees have a direct impact on a positive member and volunteer experience.
9. Lack of Communication
Poor communication is a problem in many organizations and many issues can be avoided by simple, consistent communication. Successful organizations create structured processes to manage how information is shared.
For instance, identify a person to help think through what information needs to be shared, who needs to receive it and when it should be delivered. The trick is to think about what questions someone might have before they have the chance to ask it!
10. Not Consistently Looking for Ways to Improve
Continuous improvement is how organizations develop and enhance products and services. Do this by constantly looking for ways to improve programs and the systems that support church processes. Church leaders should continuously review internal processes in an effort to identify improvement opportunities.
For example, review the process of volunteer recruitment, screening and placement in an effort to improve the volunteer experience.
11. Not Celebrating Successes
The burden of the daily grind keeps organizations from taking the time to stop and acknowledge how far they have come. Celebrate success along the way to build strong volunteer teams and strengthen employee, volunteer and member engagement.
Overseeing the operation of a church can be challenging. However taking the time to articulate a mission, develop a plan, budget dollars, hold people accountable and celebrate successes along the way can be a great way to avoid many of these common mistakes.