Why Churches Don’t Grow: #4 Complexity is Constricting

This week we’ll be wrapping up a series of blog posts about the 5 key contributors that lead to 80% of churches in America being stuck or in decline. These key contributors have been observed repeatedly in our work with churches at the Unstuck Group. And while churches get stuck and decline for all kinds of reasons, these 5 key contributors are more often than not to blame.

If you lead well enough, partnering with the Holy Spirit, over an extended period of time and your church grows then eventually you’re going to be leading a less nimble and more complex organization than you ever intended. It’s exciting when you’re adding staff, adding ministries, building buildings, and more and more people are showing up. But it’s not as exciting when things get really complex and the fun stops and growth begins to slow down. You know complexity is constricting growth when you experience the following:

1. Decision-Making Slows Down

Complexity can slow decision-making, and when decision-making slows progress slows and momentum fades. Structures that supported you and helped you when you were smaller in size can actually be a lid to growth later. For instance I commonly see smaller churches have a Staff Team that implements day-to-day ministry, an Elder Board that is supposed to be thinking about the future and living at a 30,000 foot view, and a Board of Directors that is responsible for the physical assets of the church property, finances, and often times HR as well. While that structure can serve you well when the church is smaller it becomes a nightmare to try and get everyone on the same page and make decisions in a timely manner as the church grows.

2. Unable to Set and Meet Goals

Another symptom that complexity is constricting growth is the inability to set and meet goals in a timely manner. If you’re unable to agree upon what the next steps are you’ve got a complexity issue. If there’s a gap between goals that are agreed to and then what’s actually acted upon and accomplished, you’ve got a complexity issue.

3. Cross Communication

When team members receive a different set of instructions from different leaders on the team there is a complexity issue. Mixed messages and conflicting sets of instructions can be frustrating to a team and are a symptom that complexity is constricting growth at your church.

4. Confusion

When people don’t know what to do next complexity is constricting growth. Clarity not only combats confusion but is the antidote to complexity. Putting the right systems in place help provide clarity as to what we need to do next to get where we want to go.

5. Running in Quicksand

Ever feel like you were running in quicksand? Ever feel like you’re expending a lot of energy but you’re just not getting anywhere? Not only are you stuck but it’s actually getting worse, you’re sinking. It’s possible to have so many systems and policies in place that the complexity of it all kills you. Policies are not the goal. The vision is the goal. All of your structures, policies and systems should be designed to get you there. If they don’t, then get rid of them.

Photo Credit: abbey*christine via Compfight cc

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