Making it on a Pastor’s Pay: Four Attempts at Fairness

By Franklin Dumond

A prayer on behalf of a pastor was short and direct, “Lord you keep him humble; we’ll keep him poor.”a pastor's pay package must be fair to both parties

Even if this prayer was never prayed, the result in the local church has often been the same.  Sometimes this result was unintentional, but the method to determine fairness was the actual culprit.  I have seen four attempts to create fairness when it comes to pastor’s salaries.  Some fit that description better than others, but they are as follows:

1.  What is the average income for the church?  On the surface this seems like the most reasonable approach since it is based on the incomes for the families in the church.  Beneath the surface, however, the fairness may be lost if:

  • the salary package does not properly account for benefits that are also given to wage earners in the congregation
  • the report from the congregation is incomplete
  • the congregation includes a large number of retirees who have a smaller, retirement income that is adequate for their status as mortgage-free home owners
  • the pastor is an entry level pastor but the average income is substantially above entry level income.  (Here the fairness to the church is lost since they would be paying more than necessary.  In the other cases, the fairness to the pastor is lost since he is being paid less that should be expected.)

2.  What does it cost to live in our community?  What a church needs to do to make this method work is to find the value of a respectable middle-class home in their area, factor in any student loan debt the pastor may have, loan on a vehicle, etc.  They should then figure out what kind of salary the pastor needs to make to qualify for the mortgage on that home.

3.  What can we afford? While this may be the actual bottom line issue for most churches “What do we choose to afford?” may be the real question.  Church budgets should generally allocate 40-65% of income for employee costs.

4.  What is the professional equivalency in our community?  The suggestion is that a church should look at a secular profession that is most similar to pastoral work and pay accordingly.  Most of the time, this will be a high school classroom teacher.  Local school districts will have salary scales developed based on educational level and tenure.  So when the church looks up the education level of its pastor along with his years of experience in full time ministry, a community-based standard of pay will be in hand.

If the pastor manages a number of staff, then pay him as a building principal would be paid according to the school district salary schedule.

Of all the systems reviewed, this last one seems the most fair to all concerned.  All pastors (not just senior pastors) receive a decent middle-class salary that directly compares to salaries being paid in their community.  All pastors are compensated in accord with their education and experience with proper benefit packages.  Those pastors who pastor larger churches are compensated in line with their expanded responsibilities.

The New Testament calls for fairness in pastoral salaries by insisting that “The worker deserves his wages.” (I Timothy 5:17 NIV)

This article is part three (read part 1 here, and part 2 here) of a six part series by Dr. Franklin Dumond, Director of Congregational Ministries, on understanding and planning for a pastor’s salary.  Check back over the next few weeks (or subscribe using the box to the right) to learn more about the process and intricacies of paying your pastor.

The Go Project

By Carl Nichols

In January, when our team (myself, Brandon Petty, and Vince Daniel) was appointed to help navigate the future of National Missions, it was obvious that we needed a clear direction for the next few years.  Before developing any plan or outlining any goals publicly, we had to look hard at the state of affairs in National Missions.  With this in mind we began to develop, and are still developing, healthy systems that enable us to plant churches better and faster.  We also paid off a loan against some endowments almost two years ahead of schedule.  We are now in a more stable place than we have been in the six years I have been involved in the movement.

At this point, the question became: “What are legitimate goals that stretch us to work hard and trust God?”  It was in answer to this question that the Go Project was birthed.  The Go Project is a five year initiative that officially begins in 2015 to launch 15 healthy churches in the next five years.  We recently hosted our first assessment and will share details of our first Go Project plant in Bonita Springs, FL in the very near future.

I shared some numbers at Summit this year and wanted to take a moment to share once again.  Take a look at the five year impact of the Go Project on our General Baptist Movement.

If we take the average attendance, salvations, baptisms, and Unified Giving numbers of our five most recent church plants, and spread them over 15 more new churches in the next five years:

  • 8,922 more people will be attending worship services in a General Baptist church
  • 6,278 more people will receive Christ
  • 2,688 more people will be baptized
  • $278,400 more a year to Unified Giving

This is so exciting for the Kingdom of God and the future of our movement. We take our call to serve General Baptists seriously, and we believe if we can make this happen, we can help be a catalyst for the greatest days of our movement in the years to come. If you know someone who would be interested in planting a church, our next assessment will be held in the spring of 2015 in the Atlanta area.

On behalf of the National Missions Advisory Team, it has been a great experience working alongside our Executive Director, and I believe the best days of our movement are yet to come.

A special offering will be received October 26th in our General Baptist churches.  If you would like to give on National Mission Sunday, your support will help fund the Go Project.  You can give online at, by phone at 573-785-7746, or by mail at 100 Stinson Drive Poplar Bluff, MO 63901.  Be sure to designate your gift to the Go Project. 

Making it on a Pastor’s Pay: Four Factors in a Salary Package

By Franklin Dumond

One of the major costs in a church’s budget is the cost of employees. Since most churches only have one employee, the major cost in these church budgets will be the cost of the pastor’s salary package. As a rule of thumb 40-65% of a church budget should be spent on employees. These percentages will seem entirely too high for many businessmen who keep employee costs to 10-20% of operations. These percentages will seem too low for many school administrators since education budgets often spend 80-90% of total budgets on employees.

At the heart of the matter is a basic question that, when answered, will guide the process to a fair conclusion. How do you compute a salary package?

1. Is the pastor a self-employed, independent contractor or an employee of the church? calculating a pastor's salary includes considering 4 factors


An interim pastor, a guest speaker or an evangelist function as self-employed contractors with limited oversight from the church and a great deal of flexibility about scheduling their limited services. A permanent pastor—whether bi-vocational or fully funded—is an employee of the church by all the standard descriptions of employees. Self-employed contractors receive a 1099 report of payments made to them. Pastors as employees receive a W-2 with a detailed list of income, tax payments, retirement contributions and housing benefits.


2. What benefits will the church provide?

In the United States, some benefits paid on behalf of employees are legally required of the employer. Others have become cultural expectations. Still others have been developed to attract and hold quality employees.

A church would be wise to develop benefits for its employees that address:

  • self-employment tax  This can be an added line item in the budget, but remember: it is not part of the pastor’s take-home pay!
  • vacation schedule  Should additional days of vacation be earned by employees based on length of tenure?
  • health insurance  This is a very BIG issue in light of the affordable care act. Individual health insurance is increasingly expensive. Many pastoral spouses subsidize the church by providing family coverage through their workplace. As a rule of thumb, health insurance premiums are not taxable income if the church pays the insurance company directly. However, if the same premiums are paid directly to the pastor they are probably taxable income.
  • professional expenses  What the church will and will not cover as professional expenses must be determined in advance and in writing to avoid misunderstanding, conflict and tax problems.
  • retirement  The General Baptist Pension Program provides a strategy of employee contributions with employer contributions in a self-managed portfolio that is available to all General Baptist church employees.  For more information on the Pension Program, click here.


3. Will housing be part of the package?

Many churches provide a parsonage. Others use a housing allowance. Each has its benefits and its pitfalls. Housing in rural communities or small towns is often at a premium. In those cases a parsonage is advantageous. On the other hand, every year spent in a parsonage is one less year’s equity in a home!


4. What about continuing education?

Although it could be included in the benefit list above, Continuing Education merits a separate paragraph. Currently, General Baptist Ministries provides conference and event packages that provide quality continuing education through the Mission & Ministry Summit and the General Baptist Minister’s Conference. Additionally, young leaders have access to the Leverage Conference and Youth Pastors can find specialized training opportunities and networking through the National Youth Conference.

The built-in difficulty for most oversight committees that develop church salary packages is that they have never seen the true cost of having an employee. The weekly pay stub received by most employees will have a list of tax deductions and other contributions but it will not include a behind-the-scenes look at what an employer contributes.

Unfortunately, church budgets often look only at the bottom line of total cost for an employee to determine if that is a fair wage when in actual fact a salary package is very different from take home pay.

The New Testament is pretty clear about salary packages for teaching pastors:

“The elders who do good work as leaders should be considered worthy of receiving double pay, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”  1 Timothy 5:17 (GNT)

This article is part two (read part 1 here)of a six part series by Dr. Franklin Dumond, Director of Congregational Ministries, on understanding and planning for a pastor’s salary.  Check back over the next few weeks (or subscribe using the box to the right) to learn more about the process and intricacies of paying your pastor.

Making it on a Pastor’s Pay: Six Terms Everyone Needs to Learn

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

Every fall thousands of committed believers serving on the finance teams and budget committees of Bible believing churches wrestle with plans for the next year’s budget.  Salary for church personnel is a large factor in most of these discussions since the combined salary line items can easily account for 40%-65% of the total budget.  Pastor search teams confront similar issues as they work on behalf of the church to present not only a prospective new pastor but to also explain the salary package.

Learning some vocabulary

  1. Base salary  This would be similar to the regular income of an employee.deciding on a salary for your pastor can become very complicated. In our society this is often computed on an hourly rate.
  2. Housing  Currently, IRS regulations allow pastors to exclude housing costs from income that is subject to federal income tax.  However, housing may be a housing allowance or the rental value of a parsonage. Housing is subject to self-employment tax.
  3. Self-employment Tax  For Social Security purposes pastors are considered self-employed.  This means that their income, including housing, is subject to self-employment tax at the rate of 15.3%.  Computed on a separate form as part of the 1040 income tax return, a small credit is allowed to offset some of the costs of self-employment tax.
  4. Professional Expenses  Pastors generally incur some costs to undertake their ministry.  These would often include the cost of a cell phone plan, travel on behalf of the church, office expenses, professional dues and continuing education.  Since full time pastors are employees of the church, not contract employees, these are actually costs of the church not personal costs of the pastor.
  5. Matching Contribution  Employers in the United States are required to contribute 7.65% of each employee’s salary to their individual Social Security accounts.  Employees are also required to contribute 7.65% of their salaries to their individual Social Security accounts.  Churches may provide an extra salary line item to address Social Security taxes.  When this is done, it increases the pastor’s taxable income but it is a fair approach in our culture.  A church may not withhold self-employment/social security taxes from the pastor but may, as a courtesy, withhold additional income taxes to offset the self-employment tax if requested by the pastor on his W-4.
  6. Take-home Pay  This is the amount left after deductions for federal, state and local income taxes have been made.  Other deductions for retirement and health care may also be included here.  As most of us know take-home pay is much lower than total income!

Jesus reminded his hearers of the importance of careful planning:

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it?  If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish.  Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’  Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other?  And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?”  Luke 14:28-32 The Message

Church budgets and pastor’s salaries demand the same care.

This article is part one of a six part series by Dr. Franklin Dumond, Director of Congregational Ministries, on understanding and planning for a pastor’s salary.  Check back over the next few weeks (or subscribe using the box to the right) to learn more about the process and intricacies of paying your pastor.


Life in Saipan

Lori and Robbie Myers are missionaries on the island of Saipan. 

Lori and Robbie Myers with their son, Reagan

Lori and Robbie Myers serve General Baptists on the island of Saipan along with their son, Reagan.

Needless to say, there’s been a bit of a learning curve this past year as we have gotten used to life on this island.  Some things have just made sense and haven’t taken too much adjustment.  Others, however, have gone on my ‘Believe It or Not!” list, and I thought I would share a few of those experiences with our friends and supporters back home.

First, there’s the thing that we had to adjust to early and often, because it hit us right away and continues to affect us most days.  Saipan is an island, and the main industry (overwhelmingly) is travel.  Vacationers tend not to look at their watches much-there is such a thing as “island time” and we are on it!  This is a multi-layered reality.  First and foremost, it affects the demeanor of the people who live here.  The majority of islanders are so pleasant and wear a smile 99% of the time.  I LOVE that about the people here!  On the other hand, if you are a stickler for people being on time, this might not be the place for you!  With my fibromyalgia pain making me take extra time to get ready most days, this is a terrific development!  Events start when they start, people arrive when they arrive.  I love island time and island people!

However, there are things here that make me realize how very spoiled I was all my life without realizing it.  Some of these things I will never take for granted again.  For example, who enjoys a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles?  No one!  This might make you feel better about your next trip, though:  When we arrived in Saipan last year, one of the first things we needed to do was get driver’s licenses.  Many things are discounted if you are a local resident, and after I saw the grocery and other prices, we wanted that as soon as possible.  We were sent to the courthouse, where we waited in line to go through security and a metal detector.  Once we got through, we went to the appropriate office, paid, and got a receipt.  Then we went to another building-which was unmarked-where we were to show our receipt, surrender our Missouri licenses, and get our new ones.  However, you just have to hope you get there are the right time of day, because they have to close periodically to let their copy machine cool down!

Living in a place that is so diverse is exciting in many ways.  I love making friends from so many parts of the world, and learning about their customs.  There is such a variety to food here, too.  There are Chamorran, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, (and more!) cuisines available.  Along with my severe fibromyalgia, I have unfortunately developed almost superhuman senses of taste and smell, so I cannot enjoy it quite as much as I once would have.  Buying groceries and eating out in restaurants each present their own challenges.

Packaging and presentation in the grocery stores are also different.  It seems no part of an animal goes unused.  You have the option of chicken beaks and feet in packs.  Also, beef intestine, entire beef tongues (which are huge), pig heads, pork intestines, hooves, fish heads-it all took some time to get used to.  I also had to adjust to the plastic drawstring bags (with the drawstring end not fully closed) of pork chops, short ribs, etc.  That would never get by at Kroger!

I have to cook according to what’s available.  Expiration dates are only suggestions here, it seems.  The produce selection is often made up of things they would have culled from most U.S. grocery stores.  The first two or three times I shopped for groceries, I left the store crying because I couldn’t find much that I recognized, and when I did find something, I couldn’t afford it!  The $10 gallon of milk, $7 orange juice, and $30 bag of frozen chicken breasts was daunting!

But eventually, I figured out how to shop here, what to look for, and which stores to shop at for certain items.  It often means I shop every day or every other day, and visit four or five places instead of buying everything from socks and nightgowns, to chicken and lettuce, to deck chairs and Christmas decorations from Walmart!

There are so many more new experiences and differences we have had to adjust to, but the best thing is that we have met so many wonderful people who have big hearts!  Yes, it’s been difficult at times, being so far away from our family and friends, but I am so grateful to God for His perfect plan for our lives and for our part in His kingdom.  I did not expect any of this at my stage of life.  What a loving, amazing God we serve!  I cannot wait until next summer, when we are back in the states on furlough and can share more of our experiences and ministry here on the island of Saipan.

10 Solutions for Growth Restricting Habits

By Franklin Dumond

While churches fail to grow for a number of reasons there are several habits that restrict growth.  Habits that restrict growth, unlike obstacles that restrict growth, can be broken or relearned without official action by the congregation.  That is to say that these habits are learned behaviors not required performance mandated in the bylaws.  Culture can be changed without a vote but new ways of thinking and acting take time to develop.Certain church habits can restrict the growth of your congregation.

I recently broke down 10 habits that can hold congregations back from reaching new people.  You can reread that article here.  Today, I will lay out some easy solutions to help change these patterns of behavior and open your church up to new growth.

  1. Seating patterns To encourage regular attenders to move forward from the back rows church leaders may:
    • rope off the back few pews. (Note: this doesn’t work too well since it is surprising how agile back row sitters are when it comes to jumping over those ropes!)
    • encourage new seating patterns on special days. The tried and true adage “Park in the back, sit in the front, move to the middle” often captures attention.
    • spend time explaining the importance of changing seating patterns. If someone is to give up a favored seat it will generally be because they see the larger vision of a room that looks comfortably full, space for new folks, etc. Make partners and allies rather than adversaries.
    • ask a few people to help by changing seats.
  2. Announcements   Announcements, if needed should NEVER be used at the beginning or middle of a worship service. Use them at the end of the service. Restrict them to those that apply to everyone and limit them to 60 seconds.
  3. Proofing Song lyrics and bulletin files that will be saved and reused must have scheduled times for proofing and correction. Enlist a team to help identify and write down needed changes.
  4. Guest Friendly Atmosphere If it is confusing or boring to the first time guest then it should not be said or done. Using a Mystery Worshipper approach might be necessary to gain a real insight into how things look to outsiders.
  5. Décor Most church décor should be simplified and include fewer flowers, ornaments, and pastels.  Those things tend to target women and make men feel like they may not belong in that congregation.
  6. Too many hats by too few people This may require limiting serving opportunities.  Your leadership may also need to consider that some things that have always be done can no longer be done effectively.
  7. Solo rather than team ministry Divide tasks into four parts and start sharing the load. Rotate tasks over the course of a month. Every member should be involved in ministry.
  8. Status Quo Intentionally choose what the church does. It’s okay to do what has always been done, if it is effective. It’s not okay to do something new just for newness’ sake if it will not be effective for your congregation or community.
  9. Dust, clutter, decay Spring Cleaning and Fall Workday can help cut down on the amount of clutter sitting around, as well as be an intentional effort to give the building a good cleaning..
  10. Loss of Celebration in Worship Start and end with the same praise chorus, making sure it is lively, singable and memorable.

What do you think? Have you noticed ways to help congregations change the habits that restrict growth?  Click ‘Leave a Comment’ at the top of this article to share your thoughts and experiences with us!

Shining Lights

From Faith Home

Faith Home was founded with the vision of raising up children with the love of Christ so they can go out into the world and be a light to their country.  We continue to see the hope of Christ ignite in the children here, as many are now living out that vision in their place in the world outside.

Here are a few examples of how our Faith Home young adults are shining lights in their workplaces, just as God intended them to be.


A couple of people that work with Odalin cam to visit Faith Home recently, to see the place where she grew up.  One shared how she met Odalin:  “I saw her at work and thought to myself, ‘there is something different about this girl.’  It was as if she had a light within here that made me want to know her more.  The more I got to know her, the more I was impressed and inspired.  I wanted to see the place she grew up, and that taught her how to be this amazing young woman.

 Jose RicardoJose Ricardo

During a visit to the workplace of Jose Ricardo, his boss asked us if we had any more young men like Jose.  He said Jose is an excellent, honest worker who is a joy to work with.  Jose is currently active in a local church where he loves to sing in the band.  He has grown into a very responsible young man with a passion for telling others about Christ.

BelyBely Karina

Bely has proven herself to be such an honest and responsible employee that her boss entrusts her with the keys to open and close the beauty shop everyday and handle the money.  Bely currently lives in San Manuel where she attends a local church.  She visits Faith Home often to help the Faith Home drama group she started last year.  She is an amazing Christian example to the rest of the children.

What is Faith Home to me?

By Odalin

The day I sat in the green van, I had no idea where they were taking me.  The man (David Kelle) was driving and I desperately wanted to know where we were going.  When we finally got there and got out of the van I didn’t know that it was going to start a marvelous chapter of my life.  My life completely changed at that moment.

The day we arrived at Faith Home, there were only 3 other children there, besides my brothers and sisters and I.  I was 5 years old at the time and only thought about toys, food, and playing jokes on others.

Days later, I was very sick and the doctors didn’t think that I would live through the night, but we have a marvelous God who gave me another opportunity at life and allowed  me to live.  Each day when I got up and went to devotions, I saw Martha Kelle walking with all of our medicine and I received a kiss each morning before I left for school.  I knew I was loved.

I grew more each day, studying and living in a safe place where I ate well, praised God, and enjoyed the company of many other children.

Now I am 20 years old and have left Faith Home.  I live in San Pedro.  Now I see why the house parents and missionaries corrected me when I didn’t obey or did things wrong.  They wanted to prepare me for this part of my life.  I am thankful for that.

I never imagined that God would give me the great opportunity to grow up in a place like Faith Home.  I am thankful to God and all of the people that He used and is still using in that place.  God chose me before I was born-and not just me, but all of the children who are still in Faith Home or have left to complete His purpose in their lives.  It doesn’t matter what our past is.  What matters is what our future will be with Christ.

This place is not only an orphanage for children, it is a place that transforms lives and gives hope.  This is Faith Home to me.

I don’t usually share my thoughts, but God tells us to share and not hide the marvelous things that He has done for us.


Updates from the Mission Field

Read the articles below to catch up on what is happening in General Baptist missions, both internationally and here at home.

By Carl Nichols

Last month, National Missions hosted our first in-house assessment for future church planters, and boy, did we learn a lot!  I speak for the entire advisory team when I say we are so excited about the future!  We will soon be releasing an update with an introduction to our newest church planter slated to plant in Bonita Springs, FL in late 2015 or early 2016.

October 26th will be National Missions Sunday, and we will be receiving an offering.  All of this offering will help fund the Go Project to launch 15 churches in the next five years, like our newest plant in Bonita Springs.  (To read more about the Go Project, click here)  Thank you so much for your faith in our team. Keep your eyes open in the coming weeks for more information and updates.


From Jessey and Brittany Vemula, missionaries in India

This is a personal story of an Indian woman who was brought to Christ through the work of the Lydia Sewing Center in Siddipet.  This year’s Ed Steven’s Day offering is helping make stories like Pushpa’s a reality in India by funding not only the sewing center, but mission work out in the community, and food and clothing distributions also. 

Pushpa is an India woman from Irkod village, which is eleven kilometers from Siddipet.  She was brought up in a Hindu family.  Pushpa, who is 25 years old, has three older siblings.  She joined the Lydia Sewing Center at the beginning of this year.  She had to walk the 11 kilometers from her hometown to train, and was rarely afforded the opportunity to travel by rickshaw.  There are devotions every morning at the Lydia Sewing Center, and after hearing these, she decided to give her life to Christ.  However, when she chose to become a Christian her life here became much harder.

update from India

Pushpa with Alan Motley, short term mission trip participant, this past summer.

Pushpa started attending church, and even told her siblings about Christ. They came to church with her and also became believers.  However, their father was not pleased with this.  He told them that if they didn’t come back to Hinduism, they would not get their share of the Mango orchard he owned.  Pushpa and her siblings stood strong and refused to convert back to Hinduism.  Since they refused, their father signed over the property to his nephew.

Pushpa and her siblings pray for their father’s conversion daily.  As her pastor, Jessey has conducted prayer meetings and talked with the father, but to no avail.  Pushpa and her siblings, however, remain faithful to God in this time of hopelessness.  The situation is helped by the fact that Pushpa received free training at the Lydia Sewing Center and received a sewing machine.  She and her family are using the sewing machine to bring in extra money.  She is very thankful for the help she received from the Lydia Sewing Center.  Currently, she is preparing to follow Christ’s example in baptism.  Please remember our sister Pushpa and her siblings in your prayer.  Most importantly, pray for their parents who have yet to accept Christ into their hearts and lives.

Turnaround Denominations Continued

A few weeks ago I discussed Turnaround Denominations, and I shared some thoughts about what is required to be one. The idea came from Thom Rainer’s 2010 book entitled, Breakout Churches.

I strongly believe that General Baptist churches who are plateaued or declining can become healthy and growing, but the objective of a Turnaround Denomination cannot be achieved in isolation by only a few churches. For an entire denomination to be turned around, more and more churches must take on the heart of Jesus. Seeing the world as Jesus does is the best thing any church can do. Dan Spader, in his 4 Chair Discipling book, points out that our God is a missionary God, and Jesus Christ is a missionary Savior.

We see this missionary concept in the Bible over and over again. When Jesus saw a multitude of people, he was moved with compassion.  In other words, he was overcome with concern for them because he realized they were lost and searching, like sheep without their shepherd. This is what having a heart for the lost looks like. We see a wonderful example of this in John 4 when Jesus went out of his way to have a conversation with a woman who was spiritually lost and living in an entire community that was spiritually lost. In this passage Jesus challenged his disciples to lift up their eyes. He was telling them, “Look around you. What do you see? Do you see the same lost, sin-sick, dying people that I see?”

If churches as well as entire denominations are going to turn around, members must develop the same heart for the lost Jesus had.  We must stop looking down at our own feet, for to do so can minimize our ability to navigate peripheral obstructions in our Christian journey.  Looking down teaches us to be consumed exclusively with how things affect us. Instead, we must look up and around, as Christ instructed his disciples, to see those who are lost and in need of a Savior. That means we must look at those within our immediate vicinity — to our family, friends, and co-workers – understanding that they may never take that step of faith unless someone first begins looking for them or seeking them out.

But Jesus not only said for his disciples to look around or lift up their eyes and see the lost, but to actually have a spiritual conversation with them. If we do not tell them about Jesus, how else can they hear?

Taking the initiative to lift up our eyes and see the lost and then tell the lost the story of Jesus must go hand-in-hand with the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will guide us to those we need to see and with whom we need to speak. If we fail to take on the heart of Christ, our churches will remain inward-focused, dying organizations, instead of churches that are vibrant and alive, with a passion for looking outward into our communities, spreading salt and projecting light into this world.  If enough people turn around, then churches will turn around.  If enough churches turn around, an entire denomination will turn around!

Be on the lookout for my next installment about becoming a Turnaround Denomination.

10 Growth Restricting Habits

By Franklin Dumond

While churches fail to grow for a number of reasons there are several habits that restrict growth. Habits that restrict growth, unlike obstacles that restrict growth, can be broken or relearned without official action by the congregation. That is to say that these habits are learned behaviors, not requirements mandated in the bylaws. Culture can be changed without a vote but new ways of thinking and acting take time to develop.Certain church habits can restrict the growth of your congregation.

Habits that often restrict growth include:

  1. Seating patterns. When the congregation huddles in the back one-third of the auditorium it not only emphasizes emptiness it also takes all the best seats that would often be preferred by visitors.
  2. Announcements. Need to be reduced or eliminated if a printed bulletin is being used. Announcements on the screen should run before and after worship not during. Verbal announcements should be limited to features that impact everyone. In a smaller church most information that cannot be written or projected can be transmitted by word of mouth. Announcements, if needed, should NEVER be used at the beginning or in the middle of a worship service.
  3. Proofing. The tendency these days to use projection systems and word processors that save files for future use introduces the need to be especially vigilant regarding errors. Errors in lyrics where words are misspelled or misused, or when stanzas do not match what is being sung, cannot be corrected just by saving the file for next time.
  4. Guest Friendly Atmosphere. Everything must be filtered through what a first time guest would expect/experience. If it is confusing or boring to the first time guest then it should not be said or done.
  5. Décor. Most church décor should be simplified and targeted more toward men with fewer flowers, ornaments, and pastels.
  6. Too many hats by too few people. Often willing volunteers are few and far between. Capable volunteers may then take on too many responsibilities, leaving them tired and frustrated while not providing a place for new folks to serve.
  7. Solo rather than team ministry. Capable volunteers forge ahead knowing it is easier to do it yourself. This results in solo ministry rather than team development and thus long term service by the same volunteers.
  8. Status Quo. Doing what we’ve always done out of habit (because we’ve always done it) rather than doing what we’ve always done because it works is a habit that restricts growth.
  9. Dust, clutter, decay. We get accustomed to dust, clutter, and decay but fresh eyes see it and often avoid return visits.
  10. Loss of Celebration in Worship. Where there is no celebration in worship a sense of duty and obligation makes growth unlikely.

In a follow-up post, I will suggest a few solutions for church leaders to use to change these habits.  (You can read those solutions here.)

What do you think? What habits have you noticed in congregations that restrict their growth potential?