This top ten list comes from years of observation. No definitive study is being referenced, but we think this is a pretty close list of actions (or not) that turn people away from church and lose members.
Top 10 List Of Ways To Run Off Your Members and Guests
10. Having a children’s program that squeezes volunteers to where they hardly ever get to attend a worship service or see church as anything but work. If you really want to alienate, frustrate and burn people out, have them teach the six-year-olds for months at a time and then when they get a month off have them substitute for the people who are too stressed out to keep teaching. Before you know it, you’ll have no one willing to volunteer and your children’s program will be in shambles. That sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? So instead, how about hiring someone, or better yet, having people who are already paid staff for the church being full-time teachers? The quality of the class will improve with a regular teacher and parents won’t stress out so much. They won’t be as tempted to stay home or find somewhere else to worship.
9. Having a preacher who is always negative about life in general from the pulpit. You know, teenagers are no good. The members don’t give enough to offering. Marriages are falling apart because nobody wants to work on their relationship. People aren’t doing church right anywhere but here. That guy. People don’t like him. Sure, there needs to be balance and sermons shouldn’t all be sunshine and rainbows but there ought to be sermons that are “easy listening” every now and then, don’t you think? Maybe one on how wonderful it is that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and to give us real joy? Joy isn’t a sin, right?
8. Constantly asking members for more money and then hiring people at positions like the “Minister of Pew Posture and Bulletin Handing Out.” Give him a fancy office and only ask that he show up 3 days per week for 4 hours. Pay him more than most members earn and then give him a church credit card to max out as well. Nothing quite like members giving the money they work hard to earn for stuff like that!
7. Decide that your congregation is going to focus on one particular age group. You know, you’ll sing songs only for them, hire a preacher who only or mostly relates to them, decorate the building in ways that only appeal to them, make decisions about what the church is going to do only with them in mind and insist, at all costs, to use only their lingo when you talk about things publicly. Whatever you do, don’t try to have any balance so that neither the old folks or the young folks feel left out. That’d just be lame.
6. Get your preacher to constantly preach about how materialistic everyone is. Complain that we all have iPhones, Droids, laptops, Kindles, new cars and nice houses. And that we afford those because we work too much and don’t send enough money to the poor children in Africa. Then, a week or two later, announce plans for a multi-million dollar church complex and start pushing people to give to the “building fund.” Make them feel guilty if they don’t give to it again and again. Maybe even set up a phone tree with automated calls telling members how they should give to “God’s work” and by “God’s work” you mean the building fund. Oh yeah, and plan for the complex to have racket ball courts, expensive chandeliers and giant mega-tron flat screens in the “worship center.” People love paying for that.
5. Hire a “worship leader” who seems to think that unless everyone is standing up with their hands up and singing as loudly as they can for an hour that they aren’t really worshiping. Ignore those people who are spiritually and physically exhausted. The show must go on.
4. Have a different set of rules for staff members and church members. I’ll leave this to your imagination.
3. Focus on guests/visitors/”seekers”/insert your lingo here and ignore members. Or, do the opposite. Works almost every time.
2. Have your 50 year-old preacher dress in skinny jeans and an untucked plaid shirt while holding a latte’ in order to sell him and the church as “cool” to the kids.
Yawn at a 5-minute biblical text, but trip over yourselves fawning over a minor celebrity or athlete who makes any vague reference to being a Christian. Maybe, just maybe, the world will think we’re as cool and hip as them. The middle-aged pastor trying to look like his 20-something audience isn’t relevant, it’s comically cliché.