Are you blind to your church's mistakes?
Are you blind to your church's mistakes? (Flickr/ND Strupler)

My church consulting team and I often work with unhealthy churches. In fact, most churches who contact us have reached a significant level of disease before seeking help. Here are some of the miscalculations we see among leaders of these churches:

  1. Overestimating the health of the church. Even for those churches that seek outside help, it's not uncommon for leaders to still see the church as healthier than it is. It's hard to camp out on the negative without being personally affronted.
  2. Underestimating the recognition of struggle in a struggling church. I'm intrigued when leaders assume their church doesn't see the reality of what's happening in a struggling congregation. Lay leaders usually do see it, even if they don't want to verbalize it.
  3. Misreading the response to the preaching. This miscalculation is most often apparent when the preaching isn't the greatest. The congregation has concerns, but the preacher doesn't always recognize the issue.
  4. Wrongly stating the church's growth and giving patterns. Sometimes the church leaders simply don't know these figures. In other cases, they make a guess at the numbers—and are usually wrong.
  5. Overrating the amount of opposition in a church. My experience is that the perceived opposition in a church is usually less than what it really is. Leaders think it's more, though, simply because the fewer opponents are still quite loud.
  6. Misunderstanding the level of diversity in a community. Very seldom do I meet a pastor who can accurately describe the level of diversity in the church's ministry field. Leaders take a stab at the percentages, but "guesstimates" are often way off.
  7. Understating the percentage of budget funds dedicated to personnel costs. I don't use a set percentage as the ideal amount, though costs over 50 percent of the budget usually hinder overall ministries. Too many church leaders, though, don't know this percentage in their own church budget.
  8. Undervaluing the power of the preacher as leader. Some pastors understand the influence they have, but many fail to realize how far their shadow falls when they preach the Word every Sunday.

What is your evaluation of your church and ministry in all these areas?

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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