Have you ever thought about intentionally killing your church? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t embraced church-killing practices. In fact, if your church is either stagnant or in decline your membership probably already knows – and practices – most of these church-killing behaviors without even realizing it!
Here’s part one of a brief overview of how to kill your church without lifting a finger. There’s more to be said about each item, but if more than three of these twelve practices apply to your church you’re on the road to closing your doors.
1. Have a bad website, or no website: Over 33% of people hunt online to get religious information, find a church or to explore a church’s website to decide whether they would be interested in visiting. But developing and maintaining a website involves a learning curve and requires a measure of commitment from a staff person or volunteer in order to keep it up-to-date – so skip it.
2. Hide your church in plain sight: The reason Sleeping Beauty was left undisturbed for so long was because trees and bushes grew up around her slumbering palace, and after awhile nobody noticed it! Church foliage, lack of signage, locked doors, chained parking lot entrances, poorly kept paint and trim, and failing to invite the community in – these are some ways your church can hide in plain sight and keep Prince Charming at bay.
3. Make visiting an ordeal: Don’t have a parking lot; or if you already have one, make sure there are no easy-access spaces for visitors. If they come anyway, do this: avoid internal signage, especially if you have a large facility; ignore special needs guests and visiting children; and unless you’re the deacon of the day, mind your own business – it’s not your job to be welcoming.
4. Don’t talk to strangers: Don’t answer the church phone, don’t communicate online, and never ever intrude on a visitors’ privacy by asking about them, their interests and needs, or their children. If you can’t avoid a conversation, keep it superficial – and be sure to abandon visitors before they try to sit beside you at worship. (By the way, you can help kill the church by refraining from fraternizing with members of the congregation other than your usual clique, too.)
5. Make worship dull: This one’s pretty easy. Just sing hymns like dirges, avoid spontaneity and laughter, forbid clapping, and avoid comfortable seating and audio equipment that would make it easy to hear the pastor wherever s/he stands. Oh – restrict your instrumental accompaniment to bells and organ, and play that organ with a heavy hand.
6. Practice and support poor preaching: This has two parts. Clergy can help kill your church by insisting on the three-points-and-a-conclusion lecture format, by making obscure references to Greek and Hebrew, by telling predictable jokes and stolen “real life” stories, and by talking in a “preachy” voice rather than simply conversing. Congregations contribute by refraining from addressing the pastor’s dull preaching, by discouraging hand gestures and direct conversation with congregants, by rejecting heart-felt clergy passion and levity, and by settling in for a nap when the sermon starts.
Come back next week for the next six practices and behaviors that have proven to be effective church killers. Or, leave your email address in the sign-up box to the right and we’ll immediately send all twelve to your inbox in a pdf format that also provides links to free helpful web resources.