Posted on : Wednesday October 3, 2012

By Bob Simpson, BCM/D Associate Executive Director and Editor of BaptistLIFE

Statistics show us that nearly 50 percent of our churches in BCM/D are either plateaued, beginning to decline, or seriously in decline with the prospect of “going out of business;” it’s only a matter of time.

While we champion our church planting movement, we are still very concerned about our existing churches, especially those who are really struggling. Helping those who seek our help requires a high level of intentionality and certain skills honed only in the trenches of ministering to many, many troubled churches.

My friend, colleague, and our resident guru on all things counseling, Dr. Tom Rodgerson, has told us for years that one of the key predictors to success or failure in any relationship is the relative level of anxiety present in that relationship. This is true for churches as well. For example, the higher the anxiety in a local congregation, the lower the communication that occurs. Conversely, the lower the anxiety level, the higher the level of communication. Translated: when anxiety is high, no one is really listening to each other!

Dr. Rodgerson has often quoted to us the work of Dr. Peter Steinke in this area. Steinke’s studies have uncovered ten triggers of congregational anxiety: (1) money, (2) control (who’s going to have it), (3) worship styles, (4) change management, (5) pastor’s leadership style, (6) old vs. new, (7) growth vs. survival, (8) staff/church leader conflicts, (9) internal vs. external focus, and (10) trauma (past or present). These triggers influence the various levels of anxiety that plateaued and declining churches have in common.

Steinke goes on to suggest that the above triggers can manifest themselves in eight symptoms of congregational anxiety: (1) emotional barricading, (2) triangles, (3) secrecy, (4) sabotage, (5) over focus on minor issues, (6) black and white thinking, (7) increase in data, and (8) diagnosis of others.
Every church is different, but there are some common attitudes that can reveal much about the state of an existing church.  For example, you may recognize your church in the following list:

The “Institutional” Church: where the church has lost its way within the forms and programs of ministry. They are just going through the motions having forgotten or abandoned the real purpose for which it exists. They are a “time-warp” church.

The “Good Intentions But No Follow Through” Church:  where the church has good intentions, but has difficulty acting on those intentions and has a hard time embracing an intentional process for making disciples.

The “Us Four And No More” Church:  where the church believes that growth will destroy their “sweet fellowship” and the desire to maintain a “family feel” makes it hard for new people to break into the group. Often this church has a vocal group (or groups) of people who wish to maintain the status quo and are not open to the merit of new ideas that may run counter to they way things have always been done.

The “Tidy” Church:  where the church works hard to keep their buildings and grounds in perfect shape. If growth starts to take place and new families with children begin to “mess up things,” efforts are made to stop “the growth problem.”

The “Chaplaincy” Church:  where the church sees their pastor as the “hired help” resulting in the congregation identifying the needs and problems of the church body and then letting the pastor know that they expect him to spend all his time solving them.

[boxify cols_use =”4″ cols =”8″ position =”right” order =”none” box_spacing =”20″ padding =”20″ background_color =”brown” background_opacity =”10″ border_width =”1″ border_color =”brown” border_style =”solid” ]Thanks so much for the numerous responses we have received about our new BaptistLIFE format. It is obvious to us that we made the right decision to redesign and change the size of our newsjournal. Amazingly, due to new advances in technology, we were able to make this transition without having to increase the cost of production. We are so appreciative of your feedback and your faithful readership of BaptistLIFE![/boxify]

At the BCM/D, we have multiple resources to assist churches with any or all the above.

Our new Church Wellness Center has some excellent tools in its toolbox to assess a church’s overall health. We can assist you with strategic planning, spiritual formation and discipleship, interims between pastors, and many other diagnostic and prescriptive tools.

You may contact the following to begin a dialogue about how we can assist your church with becoming a healthy, reproducing congregation that is fulfilling the Great Commission:

• Randy Millwood: Coordinator, Church Wellness Center,
• Freddy Parker: Church/Minister Relations,
• Bob Simpson:  Associate Executive Director,
• David Lee: Executive Director,