Here is part two 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.
7. Watch the clock: Allow just 55 minutes for worship, including announcements; 65 on Communion Sunday. Allow 18 minutes for the sermon, never more than 20, and award points if the pastor winds it up in 15. And be sure to personally grade the pastor on sermon length (not content) on the way out.
8. Don’t tithe: In fact, don’t even talk about money; hide member contribution facts from the pastor, and don’t cultivate the larger donors. The goal is to keep the church strapped for cash so it’s always in crisis mode; then either spend down the endowment or insist it never be touched – they’re equally effective killers. Discourage preaching about financial stewardship except to appeal for funds, and then only once annually or in a severe crisis.
9. Avoid Spiritual Disciplines: Put your focus on the social hour, not on worship and spiritual growth. Don’t learn how to pray, but either “meditate” or “think good thoughts” during worship prayer times, and never ever pray out loud or in a public place. Try to avoid having an adult study program, but if you can’t, use it to read every inspirational and pop-psychology book except the Bible. And do not, under any circumstances, share your faith with your children – the last thing you want is for them to plan on filling your church’s pews as adults.
10. Make your church a refuge from the world: Jesus established the church to be an outpost to the world. So what? Focus, instead, on preserving your building rather than serving others; ask visitors what they can do for the church, not what the church can do for them; spend board time talking about the church’s needs rather than the community’s needs; don’t make neighbors into friends, especially if the neighborhood has changed complexion or ethnicity; and resist hiring bilingual staff, visiting door-to-door, or participating in local events that are ethnic in orientation or origin – unless it’s your ethnicity.
11. Never miss a good fight: To make your church really unwelcoming, sow dissention. Exploit every opportunity for an argument, don’t resolve old conflicts, never forgive, and assume the worst about the motives of those who see things differently. Spread rumors and innuendo, form coalitions in secret, triangulate your pastor, and practice being passive-aggressive.
12. Cultivate ignorance: There is a lot of information about how the culture has changed over the last 50 years, and how successful churches are responding. Pay no attention. Instead, check your God-given brains and hard-won life-knowledge, experience and expertise at the church doors; don’t ever change anything churchly, and make sure only the pastor is allowed to study and talk about spiritual things – but don’t pay any attention to what s/he says because clergy have viewpoints that are impractical in the “real” world. Studiously ignore the 30 years of God-given research into church studies; instead, just have faith. But not active faith; cultivate a passive faith that waits for God to do the things you are called to do. That will really nail your church doors shut.
The Baker’s Dozen: Don’t admit your faults. That’s the position of most troubled churches when confronted with the truth about their problems. Rather than own up, they insist that they are a “friendly church” because, after all, they like the predictability, and perhaps even the “feel” of church gatherings. Or, they insist that it’s the world that has changed and (young) people just aren’t interested in church anymore, despite the contradictory research and the phenomenal presence of young people at a few churches – those that are vibrant and successful because so many people want to worship there.
If you’ve read through this list and identified 2 or 3 things your church is not guilty of doing – don’t conclude that this critique does not apply. The other 8 or 10 do. And not every church is suffering from every church-killing malady; but if your church is not growing, vibrant and attractive, it is suffering from enough of these problems to kill it.
Come back next week to learn more about why churches are failing and what you can do about it.
And, if you’d like a free copy of this two-part report, 12 Easy Ways to Kill Your Church, with links to free web resources that can help change your church’s direction, enter your email address in the sign-up box to the right and we’ll follow up directly.