February 2014

Why Small Churches Survive

There is always the temptation to worship at the altar of big. We all know the big churches in our regions—those flagship congregations that can afford their own picnic grove, gymnasium, sound systems, organs with banks of pipes, air conditioning, three or four pastors and a half dozen support staff. They need tons of people to support this lifestyle. That’s why there are so few large churches!


Regional offices love them, however. It makes them feel successful. They count on a few thousand dollars a month in support from them. Pastors compete for calls to serve them. They become the stepping stones for professional leaders who want to climb the church ladder.


The problem? They reach comparatively few people. Most people belong to small churches with fewer than 300 members.


Large churches grew out of post-war franchise thinking. Before there was a MacDonald’s in every town with a population of 10,000, there was the local hamburger joint or soda counter. That’s where you went for memorable dates or to hangout for hours long after a waiter carried your plate away. That’s where you knew the owner and staff by name. And they knew you, too. And your family.

Hey, let’s centralize our services. We’ll build big churches with bigger parking lots in the suburbs. People will flock to the big churches. We’ll let the little churches die and focus on getting bigger. It will provide more money for mission! That’s our job, right?


So how come there is less money for mission these days? How come the regional bodies are starving for support?


Franchises run on efficiency. You can serve more for less. Most management decisions are already made for you by the franchise owner. The decor. The menu. The salary structure. The hours.


Profit is the goal. Profit is made when people keep moving and present no challenges. Franchise operators don’t need to be leaders. They just need to perform. And customers? There is no expectation of customers beyond stuffing their paper plates in a trash can before they leave. They’ll return to the nearest franchise (it won’t matter which one) the next time they need quick satisfaction for their hunger—not unlike Christmas and Easter Christians.


Church leaders are attracted to franchise thinking. They see themselves as managers. That’s what managers do. They make the bottom line work — for them! The liturgy, the music, the bulletins, worship times, the robes—they’ll be the same.  So will the mission opportunities. Streamlined. Efficient.


Franchise mentality only works to a point in church work. We are not selling hamburgers. We are trying to reach people.


People present challenges.


That’s why small churches work. People don’t mind being part of a franchise’s profit base when all they want is a burger with fries, and their need can be satisfied with a $5 bill.


Some problems are harder to solve. People may:

  • Be sick or dying.
  • Be addicted or poor.
  • Be confused.
  • Feel broken, lonely or inadequate.
  • Feel guilty.
  • Long for fulfillment or expression.
  • Want to know the people around them and see them again.
  • Remember sitting and singing with mom and dad or grandmom and granddad.
  • Want their children to be nurtured with good food or sound thinking.
  • Need a friend.
  • Want more from a staff than an upsale and a stack of napkins.


That’s when they turn to the neighborhood church.


The efficient, centralized church 15 miles away will not attract them. If that is the only option, they’ll look elsewhere to satisfy their needs. It probably won’t be in church.


In the end, they won’t care how many staff there are or about the organ or air-conditioning.


They just want to feel better. They want to know that God, the great franchise owner, cares about them.

Adult Object Lesson: Transfiguration


Matthew 17:1-9  •  Exodus 24:12-18
Psalm 2  •  2 Peter 1:16-21

Mountaintop Experiences for Valley-Dwellers

You know the old philosophical question: Is the glass half empty or half full? The answer determines, for some, whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.


Artists would ask: Are you looking at the positive space—the water—or negative space—the air? Artists know that both work together to create great things!


It’s with this question in mind that we are going to ponder a bowl and how it might help us think of The Transfiguration.


Use a simple kitchen bowl. Nothing fancy. A glass half-filled with water will also be a useful prop. You might fill the glass from the baptismal font as you start your lesson.


Today’s lectionary lessons refer to and compare the Bible’s great mountaintop experiences.


In the Old Testament, Moses climbs Mount Sinai to spend 40 days and nights closer to God. In the New Testament, Jesus goes on a little hike with a few select disciples. For all they know they are just taking another stroll with Jesus. If he stops to pray, it will be nothing new. They are accustomed to His ways and are totally comfortable using Jesus’ prayer time to nod off, just as they will do in Gethsemane. Praying is something Jesus tends to do alone.


Both mountaintop experiences are beyond memorable. They are highlights of our collective relationship with God—foundational stories of our faith.


As you talk about mountaintop experiences display your bowl upside down. It will be like a little mountain. With the bowl inverted, talk about the two biblical mountaintop experiences. Explain that they are like the bowl turned upside down—out of the ordinary—not the usual way we view a bowl.


Mountaintop experiences are exhilarating. Having reached the top, we feel a personal sense of accomplishment. We feel closer to God. With the world laid at our feet, we may even feel a little more like God.


Allow your learners to think about their own mountaintop experiences. When you’ve talked about the amazing events that occur on mountaintops, slide your fingers down the side of the bowl (mountain) to remind them that both Moses and the disciples came down from the mountain. And so must we.


Do we leave God behind? Does God remain in the clouds, waiting for us to return? Now turn the bowl around. The bowl becomes a valley. Valleys in the Bible are a symbol of the depths of despair.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.”

God is with us on the mountaintop in spectacular glory. But he is also with us in the valleys—the everyday trials and troubles of life—our personal and collective depths of despair.


At this point you might want to pour the water from that half-filled glass into the bowl. Water seeks the valleys. Our baptismal waters, like the River Jordan, flow through the valleys of our life.


We need occasional mountaintop experiences to catch the view, to help our spirits soar. But most of us spend more time in the valleys. God is with us there, too.


Is the glass half full or half empty? Is your bowl a mountain or a valley? Regardless, God is with us.


With that thought we end the season of Epiphany and begin our journey into the valley we call Lent.

Related posts

Teaching the Transfiguration Through Art

Slideshow: (The images of this slideshow can be used for bulletins and web sites.)

Last year’s Object Lesson on the Transfiguration


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Slideshow for Transfiguration Sunday

Mountaintop Experiences in the Bible

This week’s lectionary features two mountaintop experiences. Moses climbs into the clouds shrouding Mount Sinai and emerges with his face aglow and the Law. Jesus climbs the mountain and meets with Moses and Elijah. As his robes shine and God speaks, disciples huddle in fear.


Amazing things happen on mountaintops!


Here are some images to help your congregation understand these dramatic biblical stories.


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What If the Idea of CHURCH were brand new?

Reinventing Church

Where to begin

What if the Church didn’t have 2000 years of history built on top of another few thousand years of tradition?


What if the Church had never spent the Middle Ages entrenched in monastic thinking, building cathedrals and chapels in every hamlet?


What if our ways of worship had never been written down—lost like the tunes that went with David’s psalms? What if the organ had never been invented?


What if the New World had never been discovered and there had been no outpost for the revolutionary religious thinkers of the 17th century to go?


What if we just decided to start over?

Redefining Church

So much of what the church is was carved in stone long, long ago.


The current decline of the church is a failure to adapt. We may think new thoughts but they get stuck in the web of tradition.


The only nod to modernity in the Church is music. It is a little odd to attend “contemporary” worship led by pastors wearing several layers of Medieval robes. The jive of the modern music is lost in absurdity.


There are so many spheres where Church needs a fresh look.


Updates are needed in:

  • Architecture
  • Education
  • Worship
  • Witness
  • Mission
    and most important, perhaps
  • Economics


Let’s start there.

Church Economics: A Fight for Survival


The modern Church is failing because the economics no longer work. Life in ministry as we once knew it is no longer sustainable.


Yet the economic structure of the Church is held in a fortress protected by those who consume Church wealth—not lavishly but expensively.


Therein lies a great dichotomy.


Our projected image divides our budgets like this.



All the talk is about mission.


We write mission statements. We do not budget for mission. Most church mission efforts revolve around volunteer effort.


The typical congregational budget looks more like this.


The bulk of church offerings go to sustaining buildings and church professional workers—just sustaining them. In theory, we are using these assets for mission. Statistics show that we are not doing this effectively.


If the Church were a business, it would undergo an emergency restructuring. The best leadership talent would be sought. No expense would be spared in implementing a new financial plan. Staff would be retrained. What isn’t working would be history.


But the Church doesn’t work that way. We work with what we have. We have tradition. At least for now.


In tough economic times, fewer resources go to mission. Those already in the church accept this. We love our buildings. We love our pastors. We are willing to keep filling the pot to sustain what we love.


The structure of Church requires that leadership come from a very shallow clergy pool whose primary training is not innovative management. Most clergy go into ministry to follow tradition—not lead. If they enter the ministry as young movers and shakers, they won’t last long! They will hit the long black wall.


But new people—the people for whom Church exists according to most mission statements—see a disconnect between what the church preaches and how the church prioritizes its assets and behavior.


They can’t justify the vast expense on things that aren’t working. They are not part of the failing tradition and we give them no incentive to join.


If the Chuch is to survive it cannot be the Church as we know it. Change will be painful because the change must be structural —starting with the top—where the dependence on the past is most deeply entrenched.


It is also where change is least likely to happen.


Church structure guarantees that.


Unless laity start to demand that their offerings be put to better use.


Part of church structure keeps the voice of laity silent.

Adult Object Lesson: Matthew 5

silver bulletMatthew 5:38-48  •  Leviticus 19: 9-18
Psalm 119:33-40  •  1 Corinthians 3:10-11,16-23

The Christian’s Silver Bullet

Christianity is an attractive religion in that it centers on love more than deeds. God is our loving Father. We are his cute-as-a-button children.

This relationship comes with challenges. There is always the danger that God’s faithful will enjoy the protection of their Father to the point that they seek to have Him wrapped around their little fingers. Get as much of God’s love for ourselves as possible.

All children have a knack for drawing attention to our own needs—real and imagined.

Jesus addresses this temptation in his Sermon on the Mount.

We’ve been reading Jesus’s sermon in ten-verse segments for the last few weeks. Now might be a good time to piece together all of Matthew 5.

Lone Ranger Christianity

Today’s object is a bullet—a silver bullet.

As you talk to you adult learners channel their memories back to the Saturday matinée or Saturday morning television.

The Lone Ranger’s mission was to help the individually oppressed. He and Tonto rode about the West looking for damsels, ranchers, bankers, and children in distress. They would rescue them in as peaceful a way possible and ride off into the sunset, leaving behind a memento. An unspent silver bullet. “Who was that masked man? I didn’t have time to thank him.”

In today’s section of the Sermon on the Mount (verses 38 to 48), Jesus illustrates the Sermon’s opening list of “blessed” people. Remember that strange list?

Jesus probably gave this same sermon over and over again—the better that Matthew might record it years later. Imagine him delivering it to you!

Jesus is opening the church doors and letting the faithful out into the world. Our relationship can grow only so far within our own circle. The Father is telling His children it is time to grow up.

As God’s children, we will leave “home” and face a gauntlet of challenges. We will become “Rangers” of sorts.

We will face unpleasantness.

  • People will argue with us and ridicule us.
  • We will be tired and feel like failures.
  • People will seek to take advantage of us.
  • People will turn to us for help when we are feeling needy ourselves.

We will be tempted to point them toward the church door. “Here’s where I found peace. You are welcome. Sunday morning. 10 am. See you there.”

We will ask: When did it become our job to solve everyone’s problems?

We know the theory. It became our job the day we were baptized and accepted as Children of God.

How do we put that theory into action?

And so Jesus gives us a list of behaviors that are in keeping with God’s wishes for his people.

Talk about the scenarios in today’s lesson. Compare worldy advice with the advice Jesus gives.

Display the bullet (you can use a picture) and talk about Silver Bullet or godly advice.

The Christian’s silver bullet is in godly behavior.

  • Somebody is giving you a rough time.
    Turn the other cheek.
  • Are you working hard and feeling like you are getting nowhere?
    Go the extra mile.
  • Are the needy begging for help? Don’t they know how you worked for what you have?
    Give them the shirt off your back.

Our earthly parents would caution us. “Learn to fight back.” “Tough time? Find a way to move on.” “Walk around the beggar.” “Don’t lend money.”

But that’s not God’s way. If it were, where would we be!

How often when we watched the Lone Ranger, was the focus on the needs of the hero?  The focus of the serial stories is always on the people in distress.

God’s silver bullet is in putting other peoples’ needs ahead of our own—which brings us back to the Beatitudes. Take another look at the people who are blessed in God’s eyes.

As we reach the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is taking us out of our comfort zones.

What are Jesus’ final words in Matthew’s Chapter 5?

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Tall order. It’s all right to take baby steps.


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photo credit: RW PhotoBug via photopin cc

Slideshow: Epiphany A7—Go the Extra Mile

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself
and Other Challenging Teachings of Christ

  • Turn the other cheek.
  • Go the extra mile.
  • Give to those who beg.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.

Tough teachings to put into practice.

Sixteen slides illustrate the lessons for February 23, 2014.

Slides illustrate Bible verses from Matthew, Leviticus, Psalm 119 and 1 Corinthians. Images spark conversation about difficult teachings.

The Powerpoint presentation is fully editable. Individual slides can be used to illustrate weekly blog posts, embedded on a church blog or website or projected during worship.


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7 New Statistics to Help Grow Your Church

tape measureA New Church Tape Measure
How Do We Measure Ministry?

The Old List of Statistics

One of the churches I grew up in had an usher/greeter stationed at the door to the sanctuary. With his right hand he shook the hand of each congregant as he or she entered the door. Behind his back, in his left hand, was a counter. He’d tap the button and tally the attendance. Most people had no idea they were a walk-in statistic.


In the same church in the hymnal rack were communion cards. Congregants taking a place at the communion table would drop proof of their presence in the offering plate. These would be forwarded to the church secretary who kept a big book with the name of each church member and their communion history.


A third measure is offering history kept as much for tax purposes as pledge purposes.


The church governing board will keep track of the income and expenses and asset values. At the end of the year, all of this valuable information will be forwarded to the denominational headquarters.


The problem is that this information is helpful mostly to professional leaders, specifically those considering a call. Does this congregation have enough money and a support base to afford pastoral services? is the question on their minds.


We are measuring these things out of tradition based on what was practical to measure in years past. A person sitting in the sanctuary is easily counted. A dollar placed in the offering plate can be added to the other dollars and counted.


Little of this information is of use to mission planning. It was probably NEVER a measure of true viability.

In Search of More Useful Statistics

If growth and mission are goals, the Church needs to start measuring things that matter—things that were impossible to measure years ago.


It is a new world. There are many ways to measure statistics that are far more helpful to mission planning. The more detail you have, the clearer your mission plan will be.


Here are statistics that are more important to mission and church growth.

  1. Participation in church activities
    How many attend every niche activity? How many youth take part in youth groups? How many children are in the nursery school? How many helped with the walkathon or mission project? How many attend midweek services or socials?
  2. Where people come from
    Many churches keep statistics on race. They do this a bit apologetically. It’s to measure their progress in fostering diversity, they’ll say. This is not a statistic that really matters. What matters is how do people learn about your church? What is their entry point? Was it a program? Was it through a network of friends or acquaintances? Did they learn about you on your website? Did they read about your project in the news? This type of information tells you which evangelism efforts are effective.
  3. Age demographics
    This information helps you plan a bigger picture. If your congregation is aging, you are going to need to find a way to reach younger demographics. If you are attracting unaccompanied children (common in urban neighborhood churches) you’ll need to plan supervision for their nurturing and involvement, especially reaching the adults in their lives.
  4. Membership cycle
    We are borrowing a concept from marketing. Businesses track how long it takes a person who expresses interest in a service or project to actually make a purchase? It is called the “sales cycle” and is often depicted as a funnel. You place all your prospective customers at the top and widest part of the funnel. Then you track their engagement as they filter through the ever-narrowing channel that leads to their conversion. If they drop out of the funnel before reaching the bottom, sales people want to know why. At the bottom of the funnel are the prospects who actually buy and hopefully form a brand loyalty. It’s called conversion. Conversion: one of those marketing words that evangelists share!
    The same process is vital to successful mission. How long does it take a visitor to your church to become engaged and join? What happened on their journey through the “membership funnel”? Why did some drop out? At what point did they lose interest? How can you improve the experience for other visitors?
  5. Ongoing engagement or member retention
    It is not unusual for an excited new church member to suddenly disappear or slowly become less engaged. Often, they don’t quit or transfer; they just stop showing up. Do you have a way of tracking this and addressing any problems. Their waning engagement could be demands or problems in their personal life—or they might have felt snubbed. If you don’t know, you can’t help them—and that’s the ongoing part of mission.
  6. Member interests, problems and goals
    The church has a tendency to pigeon-hole members. We encourage youth, but once you reach maturity, you are what you are. This has changed. We have reached an age of life-long learning. People are expected to retrain constantly. They are not going to feel comfortable participating in the world of church if they cannot grow. Churches must know member interests and provide channels to nurture and use new skills.
  7. Engagement outside of Sunday morning
    Today’s culture makes it impossible for some to attend church on Sunday morning. Some spiritual people have no interest in Sunday morning worship. They may still consider themselves loyal members, and they may have valuable skills that you need.

How can churches measure all of this?

It’s easier than it might seem.


A church BLOG provides these statistics—all built into the software. It takes some skill to offer the kinds of content that promote engagement that will give the best results, but within a year or two you’ll have a new picture of your congregation that will help you plan and carry out your mission.

  • You’ll be able to count views.
  • You’ll be able to see what pages attract the most interest.
  • You’ll be able to track whether they reached you through Facebook or what words they plugged into their search engine to find you.
  • You’ll be able to communicate directly with anyone who subscribes.
  • You’ll be able to see which days of the week and hours of the day get the most traffic. No need to schedule everything on Sunday morning.
  • You’ll get an idea of where people are from. It might surprise you to find that you might be engaging with people all over the world.
  • You’ll be able to track when people unsubscribe and that information can influence your mission.
  • You’ll be able to see skills and interests in profiles which they choose to make available online.
  • You’ll be able to plan educational offerings that connect with your readers.
  • You’ll be giving them a safe place to explore their relationship with God and his people.


If a congregation tracks these kinds of things and looks at weekly progress, they will be less likely to wallow in the status quo.


In addition, the blog is living evidence of your commitment to your community. You have a platform that is not defined by your church walls. You can use that platform to address neighborhood interests. You are no longer waiting for people to come to you; you are going to them. It’s the kind of social proof that younger generations expect.


Yet practically NO churches have a blog.


How do you account for that?

photo credit: Vanessa (EY) via photopin cc

Adult Object Lesson: Keeping the Law

cageMathew 5: 21-37  •  Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Psalm 119: 1-8  •   1 Corinthians 3:1-9

What Are the Consequences
of Breaking the Law?

Each of the lectionary readings for February 16, 2014, or the sixth Sunday in Epiphany, has to do with keeping the law.


The Gospel keeps us in the Sermon on the Mount where we’ve spent the last few weeks. Today’s passage is just one part of Jesus’s longest (but still short) sermons. He is talking to people who take the law seriously. The people gathered around Jesus on the hill live under the law of the land (Roman rule). They must also keep the law of their religion, which has consequences that are more dire than today. And then there is tradition—perhaps the hardest task-master of all.


Consequences of breaking any of these laws were swift and harsh.


In walks Jesus, with a new message. Let’s not dwell so much on things like murder and adultery and the trouble they bring.


Let’s talk about how we live our lives before we reach extremes.

Today’s object is a cage. It can be a bird or pet cage.


The cage is a symbol of consequences for failing to follow law.


Harm, steal, murder and expect to go to jail.


Today’s lesson suggests that there is a lot going on inside our heads and heart before we ever get to crimes that call for such drastic intervention by society.


They are crimes against God’s intent for us. They are laid out early in the Ten Commandments—before we get to murder, theft, lying, adultery and coveting.

  • Love God. Treat God with respect.
  • Honor mom and dad—the foundation of societal structure.
  • and coming up in Matthew 22 but hinted at here: Love your neighbor as yourself.


Disobeying these laws today will not put you in jail.


Disobeying the later commandments might get you there.


Today’s message reinforces these early commandments. If we set standards for our lives that honor God’s intent, the consequences are freeing.

  • Don’t insult one another.
  • Work harder at making peace than strife.
  • Respect the relationships of others and the boundaries that come with them.


Do these things because you love and honor God.


These are rules for happy living—rules that set us free.


You might use your cage in this way.


Write down on separate index cards each of the infractions listed in any of today’s lessons.




As you talk about each, toss its card into the cage, repeatedly locking the door.


As you near the end of the list, pick up the cage, unlock the door and allow the cards to fall out.


Following God’s rules sets us free to do good and honor God. We’ll have our place in the kingdom—close to God.

photo credit: Pensiero via photopin cc


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Weekly Slideshow: Obeying God’s Law

Part of the Bible We’d Like to Ignore

God’s Rules for the Sticky Parts of Life

Some of the Bible’s toughest advice is found in this week’s lectionary—yet it is the part of life that we often need the most help with.


The lessons deal with getting along with each other and with God. It’s tough living a godly life when we are filing divorce papers, suing one another, feeling jealousy, hatred and disagreement—all those times when we’d rather not talk to one another distance us from God.


Much of this week’s slideshow concentrates on the Old Testament lessons from Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Psalm 119:1-8. The New Testament lessons are Matthew 5:21-37 and 1 Corinthians 3:1-9.


We attempt to find thought-provoking images—the kind that can start discussions or illustrate an important point. You’ll see more than mountain vistas and waterfalls which are the focus of many scripture slideshows.


We started this series six-weeks ago and so far about 300 people are viewing the slideshows each week.


It’s a learning curve for us as the software for slideshows is not the most stable. Line breaks can be funky and transitions often don’t work online.


The shows are in raw Powerpoint format and therefore you can edit them easily for your system and needs.

If you find this to be a helpful worship resource, please consider subscribing to 2x2virtualchurch.com (upper right part of this page). You’ll get an email link to a new slideshow each week.


Hiring and Firing God’s Workers

This week’s Alban Weekly post, Courage Under Fire, by Susan Beaumont, addresses the unpleasant task of ending professional relationships in the church.


The sample scenario has a senior pastor fretting over a member of a team—a troublesome lay member, of course. A woman, naturally. You know how church women can be.


The article has the senior pastor as the sole determiner of this staff person’s value. In the Lutheran church, the congregation council would be making this determination.


There are very few churches in America large enough to have a team. Most congregational leadership teams are a pastor and a loyal group of volunteer lay leaders. Too bad. Can’t fire a volunteer!


Regardless, let’s look at Beaumont’s list of factors to consider. Note how they also might apply to congregations dealing with pastoral leadership.


Her keys points, shortened and rephrased:

  1. It’s someone else’s job to care for the emotional needs of the targeted staff person.
  2. The pastor as team leader cannot be both caretaker and supervisor. The roles must be separate.
  3. The payroll dollars of the church must be for mission and not for preservation of employee needs.
  4. The personal needs of the employee cannot trump the collective needs of the team.
  5. The readiness of the employee for firing is not relevant.
  6. It is not your job as the “firer” to be liked.
  7. No employee can serve well amidst conflict and anxiety. You are doing them a favor to help them move on.


These points are well taken.


Now let’s look at how they might apply to congregations and pastors.


Pastors are called and there is a tangle of red tape and polity traditions governing their comings and goings. In some denominations, the people paying the bills have no say whatsoever. Other denominations give the congregation this responsibility, usually through some sort of governing board. They have the responsibility for ensuring mission but often without any real control over professional leadership.


In the performance of their duties as a church board, they will face a sort of pastors’ “union.” It is formidable.


Clergy control church media and structure. If a dispute develops, congregations have no platform to present their case. Clergy have an ongoing relationship with church leaders and a platform for their causes. Gossip will reign. For decades. Or longer.


Church structure doesn’t like to admit that pastors can:

  • be difficult.
  • be ineffective in mission.
  • create tension and poor working conditions among the team.
  • rally personal sympathy and support within the congregation and cause division.
  • emphasize their comfort, emotional needs, and professional needs over the combined mission of the church


Lay leaders have the responsibility for the parish. They will live with the consequences as pastors come and go.


They should be able to follow the advice of Susan Beaumont. They should put mission and the health and spirit of the team (congregation) first. As Christians they should feel concern for church leaders but not make their emotional or professional needs the focus of their ministry. They should be able to make unpopular decisions.


But often congregations are required to protect their relationship with pastor above all else. Likability is more important than performance.


As long as there are no moral issues, the pastor’s role is protected. Congregations can wither for years under the same pastoral leadership. Everybody likes everybody. No change will be sought (and no change will result).


Decline is accepted—even expected. All congregational reserves will be spent on a relationship that is pleasant but unproductive before change is considered. Then, it is too late.


Pastors will not want to serve a congregation without a well-filled coffer.


So what’s happening to the laity while everyone is happy?

  • Talented members leave with a sense of futility.
  • As things decline, murmurs of discontent start. Finger-pointing isn’t far behind
  • People stop coming because of the atmosphere. They may not be able to put a finger on it, but things just don’t seem right. This will be interpreted by clergy as a “change in demographics.”
  • Lay people who feel a responsibility for the future of the church are labeled as troublemakers. They may even be discouraged from leadership—seen as a threat to clergy.
  • The pastor will seek solace among the clergy. The denominational rumor mill is primed. Laity will be unaware that they are grist.


Should ministry fail, it’s the fault of the laity.


Pastors never fail.