Five Ways To Move Off A Plateau

Five Ways To Move Off A Plateau

For Pastors Only (But you can take a peek, too!)


If you're a church leader, you are well-acquainted with times of slow- or no-growth. Times when things have plateaued. Times of discouragement. Times even of decline. We’re all dealing with these things in one way, shape, or form during these COVID-19 days, aren’t we?

Does it have to be this way? Pastor, is your work small and struggling? Church planter, does it feel like the plant is taking forever to gain traction?

Here are some principles I have found effective when I face those times.

1.  Take the long-term view. Don't look at your measurables week-to-week. Look at your measurables month-to-month and from one six-month period to another. It's also good to look at percentage growth, not just numerical growth. In a church of eighty, one family on vacation can cause a ten percent decline! So, don't freak out week-to-week. Take a longer view.

2.  Set realistic goals. If there were two baptisms this year, one hundred and two next year may not be a realistic goal. But if God gives you that goal: DO IT! In a church that you are trying to turn-around or begin, find areas in which you can grab some easy wins. Change up the worship folder, put some greeters in the parking lot, minister in some new way. Realistic goals, when met, infuse the church with a sense of forward movement.

3.  Target specific areas. When we're small, we can't do it all. Concentrate on your strengths and don't worry too much about your weaknesses right now. Do what you can do well. Target specific areas and go after those areas - and those alone - for the meantime. When they're up and running, choose another area and go for it.

4.  Help members think like "outsiders." Walk into your worship space - whether owned or rented - and ask yourself, "If I were coming here for the first time, would I want to come back? What looks good? What needs to be repaired?" If that hole has been in the drywall for three months now, it's time to fix it! When we don't see with new eyes, we don't notice the things that need repairing. 

Help your people to see things like a newcomer. With fresh vision, help your people to begin asking the questions newcomers are asking: "Does it look like my children will be safe and well-cared for here? Where are the restrooms? Are they clean?" These are major questions newcomers have and churches need to have ready and good answers.

5.  Develop a positive ministry. Too many churches, for too long, have not only a negative image of themselves, they maintain and communicate a negative image of themselves and other local churches. Author Stephen McMullin writes, "There is nothing to be gained by criticizing the status quo of the church. Instead, it's more helpful to focus on how much better things will be once certain changes are made." Be and stay positive.

Now, dear leader, what's one step you can take to begin breaking the plateau? Flowing locks or a chrome dome? The choice is often ours.