7 Warning Signs Your Church Is Struggling

Often in church leadership, we get so busy working “in the church” that it becomes harder to work “on the church.” We’re so focused on making weekends happen and caring for people that we lose perspective on whether we’re seeing a difference in our community. The reality is, as church leaders we can be consumed with activity but have a lack of focus to push forward. Sometimes it’s hard to see if we’re making any difference or slipping into irrelevance. Here are a few early warning signs that your church might be struggling to fulfill its redemptive potential.

  • More Memories than Vision // A sure sign that your ministry is slipping into Signs of a struggling churchatrophy is when you pine for the “good ole days” or you look back fondly on what happened years ago. If what has happened seems better than what is going to happen … you may be headed for irrelevance. Is the view in your rearview mirror bigger than the one in the front window?
  • No Sacrificial Giving to Next Generation // Who is going to pass on the message of Jesus to the next generation, if not you and your leadership? If you can’t identify the areas where you prefer the next generation over your own generation, you might be creeping toward your demise. Does your senior leadership team actively support and resource ministries with younger generations?
  • Never Say No // A sure sign that a church has lost its way is when it loses its ability to discern what activities push it toward its mission and which don’t. The end result is a church with a lot of activity but no progress. Busyness does not equal effectiveness. Churches with clear vision are defined more by what they avoid doing than what they choose to do. When was the last time your leadership decided against a good idea to pursue the great one?
  • Form Over Function // Organizations that have lost their grip on making a difference become more concerned with the “how” of ministry rather than “why.” Policies, procedures and past practice drive the activity of the church rather than the mission you are called to. This is a delicate balance because systems help churches grow … but if they become the obsession of leaders, they will destroy your organization. Are you more concerned with the wineskin than the wine?
  • Lack Faith-Based Risks // Churches that make an impact are taking risks … actual risks. They put stuff on the line to accomplish what they believe God is calling them to. They step out in trust and ask God to give them clarity for the next steps. When was the last time your pulse quickened because of something you risked as a church?
  • You Don’t Eat Your Own Dog Food // If the staff of the church wouldn’t attend if they weren’t getting paid, it’s a sure sign something is seriously wrong. Why are you taking money from a church that you don’t love? What does that say about you?
  • Narrow Donor Base // On a practical note: if there is a very small donor pool funding the mission of the church, it’s a sign of the church’s inability to engage a broader community. Why hasn’t your church been able to connect with more than a handful of donors? 


  1. One other important lesson to be learned: If a church fails to be a spiritual place where people and I mean all people come to seek forgiveness, love, mercy, kindness and justice, then it is no church at all; a social organization.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.