But when good ideas are framed in a negative list, it stops many discouraged pastors from reading it because they don’t know if they’re going to get beaten up again.
So what’s the answer? Write the same helpful ideas, but reframe them in positive lists, not negative ones.
I’m far more likely to read a post titled ‘10 Helpful Hints for Church Growth’ than ‘10 More Ways You’re Failing as a Pastor.’ (No, that’s not a real title. But it is how those negative titles feel.)
We need a moratorium on ‘Why Your Church Isn’t Growing’ lists for one simple reason: they don’t work. Slapping the hands of your readers for not caring is like yelling at the people who did show up to church because you’re mad at the people who didn’t show up.
Don’t slap our hands, put tools in them. Tools that will work for us now, while we’re small. Tools that promote health and growth. Tools that encourage, inspire and resource us. Tools we can use.
Discouragement: An Obstacle to Church Growth and Health
The best path to church growth is to remove obstacles to church growth. But do you know what one of main obstacles to church growth and health is? Discouraged and demoralized pastors who feel beaten up for things they may not be doing wrong.
Every year thousands of pastors get so discouraged they stop looking for help. For many of them, the discouragement gets so deep they give up and leave the ministry for good. After all, you’re not the only ones telling us how bad a job we’re doing. We hear it from our church members, our denominational officials and mostly, from ourselves.
We know we’re making mistakes. Anyone who thinks they’re not is fooling themselves. And we want to correct our mistakes. But a selfish, petty, uncaring attitude isn’t one of those mistakes.
So the next time you’re tempted to write another ’Why Your Church Isn’t Growing’ list, please consider the faithful, hardworking pastors who aren’t inspired to do better by such lists, but walk away feeling defeated and discouraged by them.
Then give us something positive, encouraging and uplifting. No one can ever get too much of that.
To My Fellow Small Church Pastors
Finally, to my friends, compatriots and fellow-laborers. My fellow small church pastors.