Depending on what study I’ve read, anywhere from 50-80% of new churches close their doors within five years. And while there are approximately 4,000 new churches started each year, about 3,800 other churches close their doors. So for all the church planting that’s going on, there’s a lot of room for improvement for everyone. As I reflect back on my own thirteen year journey as a church planter and pastor, here are a few reasons that new churches don’t’ make it:
1. Launching too many ministries. Most ministries begin with good intentions, trying to meet a legitimate or specialized need. Over time these ministries become expensive and volunteer intensive. If not reined in, the church will turn into a federation of sub-ministries with each one operating autonomously from the main church. These ministries then compete for space, manpower, and limited funds. All the while, their effectiveness dwindles. When launching new ministries, you must consider sustainability and effectiveness. What will this ministry look like at five times its size? It may not cost too much now, but what about later? In my experience it is much better to do fewer things well than offer a full menu of programs that only scratch the surface.
2. Being sidetracked by difficult people. New churches attract some great people who become an asset, but they are also a breeding ground for difficult people. Talking a good talk, these people often show up with baggage that takes your church off mission. Before long you’re spending a great deal of time justifying what you do or explaining yourself to them. Instead of reaching people, you end up coddling people. The more disgruntled they are, the more of your time they consume. I’m talking about volunteers who will not submit to the authority of godly church leaders, the people who always seem to have a problem spending money on outreach and evangelism, or the deacon who wants your church to be more like his last church. It is an exercise in futility. Don’t do it.
3. Working “in” the church instead of developing it. In a new church the work comes at a fast and furious pace. You had months to plan your first service, but only six days to plan the next. You’re starting things, launching initiatives, meeting with people, and operating week-to-week. While some of this is necessary, if you never back up to evaluate and create new systems, then you’re going to stay stuck in the hamster wheel of ministry - busyness will become your main business. Not good. Pastors should spend time developing the church by creating processes, developing healthy systems, and training leaders. I mean, is running the copy machine the best way for a pastor to spend his time?