Mar 23, 2012

When should you be worried your church is in decline?

6 marks of an ageing church

Al Stewart Director of Geneva Push a church planting movement in Australia spoke at Planting for Christ in London on Wednesday.

Here’s his definition of a healthy vibrant and probably young church plant: ‘It has vision and energy and a heart to reach the community around them.’

In a really helpful section of his closing talk Al highlighted some of the signs that a church or church-plant is growing old. Essentially he said ‘churches age as people age’.

8 marks of an ageing church

1)  Loss of vision. As you get older you find it harder to see clearly – you lose your vision. So to an ageing church in which vision for reaching out is lost and contentment to be a church that cares for it’s members is suffiicient.

2)  Loss of flexibility. Just as when we age physically we find it harder to touch toes, etc. so in ageing churches leadership demonstrate a lack of ability  to flex and change.

Every church says it wants to grow but Stewart reminded us that very few want to change.

3) Comfort. As the body begins to creak comfort becomes a necessity and a priority. In ageing churches we are more and more concerned about the comfort of our members than anything else. A church can be slowly declining for decades and be comfortable

4) A loss of urgency. As you get older you get slower. Older churches take decades to make decisions!

5) Harder to make new friends. Ageing churches are not good at welcoming new people. When you’re young you love making new friends and you are excited about meeting new people. Older in life and you have all the friends you’re looking for. Churches reaching retirement are churches in which everyone has all the friends they want or need and new people are not going to find their way in.

6) Loss of hunger. Just as older people lose their appetite for food so an ageing church loses its appetite for challenge and growth. Decline is inevitable once the hunger has gone.


Al had two further points that I didn’t fully get down at the time but I’m working on that and will add those in due course. If you were there and you know what they were feel free to let me know!


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