April 17, 2017 Tony Morgan

Early Signs Your Church Is Headed for Decline | The Unstuck Church

Last week I shared about the 7 Phases of a Church’s Life Cycle, the key concept in my new book, The Unstuck Church: Equipping Churches to Experience Sustained Health, now available from Thomas Nelson.

Every church has the potential to go through a very similar life cycle, the peak of which is a phase I call “sustained health.” I believe God desires that our churches reach and live in that peak, where life change is occurring, healthy growth is happening, and the church is fulfilling its purpose and vision.

But gravity pulls on healthy churches, and we all tend to start drifting over the hump.

It’s never “all of a sudden.” Because of that, churches are typically in the maintenance season for months or even years before they realize it.

That’s what’s so challenging about all three phases on the right side of the life cycle. They are hard to confirm and even harder to accept. And that makes leading change extremely difficult.

Leaders will see it before the congregation does.

Leaders tend to understand the present condition and future ramifications before others. That’s a characteristic of those who truly have the spiritual gift of leadership.

Still, in no season is the assessment of the condition of the church more confusing than during this maintenance phase. One of the reasons is that it can feel like the strategic growth phase in so many ways. The differences are very subtle. They both have some solid foundations of health, such as:

  • A clear vision for the future
  • Established systems and strategies
  • Strong giving


But there are two key indicators that differentiate those phases. I share more on that in this video clip:

The life cycle of a church will play out predictably through all seven phases if the leaders ignore the signs or refuse to take steps toward sustained health. If you’ve slipped into maintenance mode, don’t delay to address the underlying issues that are setting decline in motion.

Consider taking the new Unstuck Church Assessment to discover where your church sits in its life cycle and the practical steps you can take to reach sustained health:


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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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