What’s behind declining church attendance? One researcher thinks he may have discovered a pattern among congregations that have been losing members and stopped growing. Thom S. Rainer, the CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, has posted an interesting new piece, in which he explains that after 25 years of researching churches, a notable factor has emerged in “declining churches”: They are too inwardly focused.
The ministries are only for the members. The budgetary funds are used almost exclusively to meet the needs of the members. The times of worship and worship styles are geared primarily for the members. Conflict takes place when members don’t get things their way. You get the picture.
Though the piece doesn’t give exact numbers correlating “inward focus” (which would be sort of difficult to quantify) and drop-offs in attendance, Rainer is an expert on church growth in the U.S. From 1990 - 2005, his consulting group provided growth insights to more than 500 churches and Christian organizations, and he’s written more than 20 books on the topic.
However he also identifies a few interesting warning signs, that show if an “inward focus” is taking over (“The past becomes the hero”; “Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires”; “There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community”; etc), so problems can be corrected and identified.