12 Reasons Why Your Church May Not Be Attracting New People

by Carey Nieuwhof

So maybe you wonder why your church isn’t growing, or why it’s not growing faster.

You’re not alone.

The vast majority of churches are plateaued or declining because they can’t effectively reach new people.

The question is: why? And usually, they don’t really know why that is.

Here’s a list of things that might be holding your church back from reaching new people.

Once you see it, you can deal with it. Otherwise, you’ll be the leader who’s the last to see what everyone else sees.

Don’t be the leader who’s last to see what everyone else sees.


1. You’re Inauthentic

Too many Christians have a gap between what they believe and who they are.

Authenticity is one of the chief values of the current generation of people who don’t attend church. If they think you’re fake or see a gap between what you say and how you live, they bolt.

Closing the authenticity gap is simple: be more honest in your public talk, and live with greater integrity in your private walk.

Christians, be more honest in your public talk. Show more integrity in your private walk.


2. You’ve Lost Your Passion

Go to many churches, and you’d have a hard time believing the One they worshipped saved the world.

Too many church leaders are more passionate about tradition than about the mission.

Or worse, they’re not passionate about anything.

Find me a growing church, and I’ll show you a church that’s got a white-hot passion about the mission.

In declining churches, sometimes it’s hard to find a pulse of any kind.

Too many church leaders are more passionate about tradition than about the mission.


3. You’re In Conflict

Ever been in someone’s home as a guest only to have your hosts start to argue with each other?

It doesn’t happen that often, but the few times it’s happened when I’ve been around have made me want to run out the door.

Why would church be any different? If you’re constantly bickering and arguing, why would any new people stay?

It’s not that Christians shouldn’t have conflict, but we should be the best in the world at handling it. The New Testament is a virtual manual of conflict resolution, but so many of us prefer gossip, non-confrontation and dealing with anyone but the party involved.

Growing churches handle conflict biblically, humbly and healthily.

If your church is constantly bickering and arguing, why would new people stay?


4. You’re More In Love With The Past Than You Are With The Future.

This can be true of churches that are in love with tradition and churches that are have had some amazing days recently. When leaders become more in love with the past than they are with the future, the end is near.

If your church is a museum to 1950 or even 2012, the likelihood of reaching the next generation diminishes with every passing day.

If you want to grow, be more in love with the future than you are with the past.


5. You’re Not That Awesome To Be Around.

Fake. Judgmental. Hypocritical. Angry. Narrow. Unthinking. Unkind.

Those are adjectives often used to describe Christians, and sometimes they have their basis in truth.

There are certain people who are energizing to be around. Unfortunately, too many Christians today don’t fit that description. Jesus was mesmerizing. Paul caused conflict for sure, but he had many deep relationships and incredible influence. The early church was known for compassion and generosity.

If people truly don’t want to be around you, don’t let the reason be that you haven’t let Christ reshape your character or social skills.

6. You’re Focused On Yourself.

Too many churches are focused on their wants, preferences and perceived needs. They are self-focused organizations and self-focused people. It should be no surprise that outsiders never feel welcomed, valued or included.

If you want to reach people, you can’t be self-focused. After all, a life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone.

A life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone.


7. You Think Culture Is The Enemy.

If all you ever are is angry at the culture around us, how are you going to reach people in that culture? Christians who consistently expect non-Christians to act like Christians baffle me (I wrote about that here.)

If you treat your unchurched neighbor like an enemy, why would he ever want to be your friend?

If you treat your unchurched neighbor like an enemy, why would he ever want to be your friend?


8. You’re Afraid To Risk What Is For The Sake Of What Might Be.

Let’s face it, at least you’ve got something going for you. You’re paying the bills. You at least have X amount of people.

And if you’ve had any modicum of success recently, you’re going to be hesitant to risk what is for what could be. The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

When you’re perpetually afraid to risk what is for the sake of what might be, you might as well cue the funeral music now.

Never be afraid to risk what is for the sake of what might be.


9. You Can’t Make A Decision.

Governance will become a major issue for future churches. When your decision making is rooted in complex bureaucracy or congregational approval for every major change, it makes decision making difficult and courageous change almost impossible.

10. You Talk More Than You Act.

Most church leaders love to think and love to debate issues.

Effective leaders add one more component. They act.

Most church leaders I know overthink and underact. If you acted on even a few more of your good ideas, you could possibly be twice as effective in a very short timeframe.

Most church leaders overthink and underact.


11. You Don’t Think There’s Anything Wrong With Your Church.

I still run into a surprising amount of leaders and church members who love their church but can’t figure out why anyone else does.

Well, those churches are on their way to having not much more than a small club for the already convinced.

12. You’re More Focused On Growth Than You Are On God.

Some leaders get so jacked up about growth that they forget it’s about God and his mission. This is just a danger every motivated leader needs to keep in mind.

We’re leading people to Jesus, not to ourselves or our awesome church. Keeping the focus on Christ ensures genuine life-change happens and lasts.

These are 12 things I see holding our churches back.

Used by permission of the author.

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