January 20, 2020 Tony Morgan

4 Assumptions Hurting Your Church

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

Part of what distinguishes a leader is that gut sense you have for purpose and direction. The problem is that sometimes our gut is wrong.

The assumptions we have cause us to see the future in a way that leads to poor decisions today. Those incorrect assumptions can create problems with consequences.

A sign of a good, humble leader is that he or she acknowledges what they know and what they don’t know. Some assumptions, though, aren’t based on reality. We put them in the “known” category when they should be in the “don’t know” category. A sign of a good, humble leader is that he or she acknowledges what they know and what they don't know. Click To Tweet

Because of that, it’s critical to periodically challenge current assumptions. Sometimes we can do that on our own. We can also invite the team around us to help us see the world differently.

I’ve also learned it’s helpful to invite an outside perspective. A good coach or consultant will challenge my assumptions.

Let me help you get started. Here are four assumptions I see church leaders making today. Do these sound familiar to you?

Assumption #1: Our church is “known” in our community.

I think churches tend to overestimate their position in the community. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA), less than half the population claimed any affiliation to a church in 2010. I’m guessing that percentage is going to rise dramatically after the 2020 census. People may know that your church occupies a building in your community, but the majority of people in your community don’t. Check your assumptions. Is your church really known in your community? Click To Tweet

I was working with a large ministry in recent months. The church has been in existence for about 30 years in the community. The community has experienced a lot of change and growth in that 30 years. And our culture has as well. The leaders at the church realized, “We’re a big church, but most people in our community don’t even know we exist.

Check your assumptions. Is your church really known in your community?

Assumption #2: We have the right ministry model. We can’t help it that people have stopped going to church.

The pinnacle of the typical church life cycle is “sustained health.” It’s the place in the life cycle that we strive to help churches experience. This is when churches are having the greatest Kingdom impact with the most people.

Unfortunately, churches can slip out of sustained health into the “maintenance” phase of the life cycle.  One of the reasons this happens is because of their ministry model. This is the easiest way I know how to express it:

The way we do church becomes more important than why we do church.

Churches hang onto their ministry model whether their model is working or not. Church attendance is in decline. One could argue that it’s possible the model has stopped working. Rather than blaming a shifting culture, maybe our assumptions need to change. When your church slips into Maintenance Phase, it's usually because the way we do church becomes more important than why we do church. Click To Tweet

Test your bias. If attendance is down, is it possible you need to change your ministry model?

Assumption #3: Everyone knows and owns the vision like I do.

I once worked with a church to clarify their vision, ministry and action plan. We do this through our Unstuck Process. Believe it or not, the person who I had the most challenge with in that process was the lead pastor. He couldn’t understand why we had to spend so much time clarifying the vision.

He had started the church more than 20 years earlier. In his mind, the vision for the church was clear, and he assumed everyone else had that same clarity. To his surprise and dismay, that wasn’t the case. Not even his senior staff team had clarity about the future vision. 

At one point the lead pastor pounded his fist on the table. He said, “How can the vision not be clear? I’m always talking about it with our church.”

The problem was twofold. First, the vision wasn’t tangible enough for people, including his key staff. Because it wasn’t specific, people didn’t understand the ultimate goal. Secondly, there was no strategy or action plan in place. That made it impossible for even the staff leaders to own it. But, beyond that, the pastor assumed because the vision was clear to him, it was clear to everyone.

What about your assumption? Does everyone know and own the vision like you do?

Assumption #4: We can and should try to reach everyone in our community.

I love that passion for reaching people for Jesus. I’m with you. I know the real impact Jesus has had in my life. He’s made me a new person. Jesus has impacted my marriage, my parenting, my purpose and my mission in life. I can’t imagine living life without Christ. Because of that, I want everyone to have a relationship with Jesus.

I’ve seen churches that have tried to reach everyone in their community. They tend to offer more than one style of worship. They provide different types of ministry programming for different age groups. Their ministry calendars are full with events for different types of people. They try to do a little of everything to appease everyone’s personal preferences. The problem is that it doesn’t work.

That’s why our Unstuck Process helps churches look at their mission field. Then we challenge them to consider who they’re trying to reach. That makes it a lot easier to get focused on how the ministry can respond to people’s needs. We’re helping churches connect with people and present the Gospel message.

Challenge your thinking. Is your Kingdom impact as a church limited because you are trying to be everything for everyone? Challenge your thinking. Is your Kingdom impact as a church limited because you are trying to be everything for everyone? Click To Tweet

Is it time to reconsider these and other assumptions? If you do, it could lead to the changes needed for your church to experience new health and growth.

My team wants to help you experience a healthy, growing church in 2020.

We’d love to dive into a conversation about what it would look like for us to partner with your church. 

If you’re interested in learning more about what this experience looks like, check out what a few other churches said about their experience. And if you’d like to talk to one of our team members about the specific challenges you’re facing, let us know

We’re rooting for you in 2020!

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. 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.