Growing up I had quite a few fish. You know, the typical goldfish in the round bowl with colorful rocks and one little plant? I went through fish after fish. We had more than our fair share of toilet bowl funerals over the years. After a heartfelt eulogy about bubbles the goldfish’s 6 month life, we would watch the fish swirl to its eternal resting place.
I remember one fish in particular though. This fish’s name was Goldie, and Goldie was an active little swimmer. I won Goldie at a school carnival, and convinced my parents that I needed a really awesome Little Mermaid themed tank. It looked a little something like this…
Goldie was my favorite, but the tank she lived in was small, so it didn’t have a filter. Of course, if you’ve ever owned a fish, you know how gross they are. So, Goldie’s tank wasn’t cleaned as often as it should’ve been. Let’s be real, what 8 year old knows how to keep a fish alive? 😂
Here’s where Goldie took a turn for the worst… You see, she stopped swimming around actively, and just sort of wallowed in the misery of her really cool Little Mermaid tank. I noticed her not being as active, but didn’t realize what was causing it. Of course, one day I woke up to a floating Goldie at the top of the tank.
The tears flowed, and yet again, we had a eulogy about the long, 4 month life of Goldie, and away she swirled. I didn’t see the signs though, because I was naive and unaware of what was needed. She was dying, and I didn’t see it, because I didn’t understand the signs.
Sometimes, I think we do the same thing with our churches. We are often unaware of problems, or we don’t see them as problems. Things are not looking good, and we ignore the signs. We don’t realize our church is dying.
Here is a list of things that we need to be aware of, so that maybe it sparks some conversations about how to better our churches in America, and we can start being the churches God intended for us to be.
20 Signs Your Church is Dying (or already dead…)
1. Members stop attending.
2. Members stop giving.
3. Focus is more on numbers and upholding tradition than finding lost souls.
4. Ministries (youth, young families, etc) begin to dissipate.
5. Leadership is fractured.
6. Members stop volunteering.
7. The building and grounds stop being maintained, and no one cares enough to do anything about it.
8. Baptisms are rare, and usually children.
9. Families are neglected or attacked.
10. Leadership makes immoral decisions.
11. Number of first-time visitors drops to near zero.
12. The younger generation isn’t drawn in or is ignored, so no reviving occurs.
13. Elders are managing and not shepherding.
14. Past practices are more important than the future and growing.
15. Members attendance frequency declines greatly.
16. Worship services are not joyful or lively.
17. Low community impact or evangelism.
18. The congregation is mostly focused on the desires of senior adults.
19. Leadership has no transparency with their members.
20. Any change is met with resistance from many.
Though these probably relate, (they do for my church) there is hope of you learn from these struggles and make positive changes. The key is to get others to realize the need for change as well.
Churches often wither, which is a slow, gradual process. The challenge is recognizing the signs. It’s time to realize that the focus needs to be about saving every person we can by sharing Jesus and far less about the tradition of Sunday evening church being maintained.
Accept that some traditions (yes, I said traditions) like Sunday evening worship, are a dying cause. What should matter is doing what Jesus commanded, and seeking those around you who need Jesus in their life.