The following is a summary of Rock Springs Church pastor Dr. Benny Tate’s session from our 2022 Give Conference.
Church growth is important. It plays a vital role in spreading the message of Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission. Ministries flourish under the confident, thoughtful leadership of their pastors, while others struggle, fizzle out, and fail under the leadership of insecure and ill-equipped pastors. In other words, church growth can rise and fall on leadership. In most cases, when a church leader is negatively impacting the growth of their church they have no idea. Here are seven ways you might be hindering the growth of your ministry.
1. A foggy vision
“If it’s misty in the pulpit, it’s foggy in the pews.” – Howard Hendricks
One of the primary responsibilities of a church leader is to cast a clear and compelling vision for their ministry. When a pastor fails to articulate their vision or allows others’ visions to overshadow their own, confusion can arise within the congregation. Don’t make the mistake of letting someone else’s vision be your vision. God gives vision to the leader. Proverbs 29:18 reminds us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” In addition to that, Benny Tate says, “But where there is no vision, people will look for another parish.”
Your congregants need to know where the church is going, and they look to leadership to know where that is. So state your vision clearly, cast it creatively, repeat it constantly, celebrate it regularly, and embrace it personally. Your vision will trickle down your ministry. When your congregation knows where they’re headed, they are more likely to engage and participate to make the vision a reality.
2. Refusing to change
“Yesterday’s home run won’t win today’s game.” – Babe Ruth
Change is an inevitable part of life, and the church should not be an exception. Our salvation is built on the foundation of change. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” In Christ, we are a changed people and are being sanctified every day. We are not meant to stay the same.
Rick Warren said, “There is no growth without change, no change without fear or loss, and no loss without pain.” When leadership changes something in the church and no one gets upset, it’s likely a sign that nothing actually changed. As Benny Tate says, “If you’re leading you’re bleeding.” Your church will stop growing when you’re unwilling to push through the threshold of pain, which can include the loss of members and support.
3. Trying to do it alone
“I’d rather get ten men to do the job than to do the job of ten men.” – Dwight L. Moody
Church leaders who try to shoulder the entire burden of their ministry hinder growth. Delegation is essential for creating a thriving church community. But why is delegation so difficult? We’re fearful of losing authority, the work being done poorly, the work being done better, or depending on others. The reality, however, is quite the opposite. The less you do the more you accomplish, the more you enable others to accomplish, and the more buy in you’ll have from those around you. By discovering, developing, and deploying people’s talents, leaders can build a strong foundation for church health and growth.
4. Not understanding the importance of those closest to you
“Around every leader, there’s a Judas close enough to him to kiss him.” – T.D. Jakes
The success of a leader often depends on the quality of their team. Leaders who do not carefully select and nurture their close circle impede their own growth and that of the church. Surrounding yourself with loyal and trustworthy individuals is crucial. When it comes to your church staff and leadership team, be slow and prayerful when selecting a team member. We see a picture of this when Jesus chose his disciples. Luke 6:12-13 says, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” Those who you surround yourself with will determine where you and your ministry go.
Those who you surround yourself with will determine where you and your ministry go.
5. Stagnant personal growth
“You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where you don’t go.” – Jesse Jackson
Some leaders say they have 30 years of experience, but in reality, they have one year of experience 30 times. Leadership is a continuous journey of growth and development. When church leaders stop investing in their personal spiritual growth, the entire ministry suffers. If you’re going to last as a leader, you must be multidimensional, growing inwardly through prayer and discipline, laterally through serving others, upwardly through humility and accountability, and downwardly through empowering and equipping others. Only by growing personally can leaders effectively lead toward church growth.
Some leaders say they have 30 years of experience, but in reality, they have one year of experience 30 times.
6. Misaligned priorities
“I’ve won the world to God, but I’ve lost my family.” – Billy Sunday
God, family, and ministry should be in proper order. Neglecting your family can lead to broken relationships and personal struggles. No one at home should feel like they’re competing with someone at church. In 2011, Benny Tate visited Billy Graham at his home and asked him, “Dr. Graham, do you have any regrets?” He said, “If I could do it over, I would speak less and study more. I would spend more time with my family. Every day I was absent from my family is gone forever.” Church leaders must ensure a healthy work-life balance to foster church growth.
7. Doubting God’s potential
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” – Ephesians 3:20
Don’t ever underestimate what God wants to do in your life and in your ministry. God has a history of taking nobodies and doing big things. Daniel 11:32 reminds us that “the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.” When Benny Tate first started his church, he had 25 people. He started praying over his church building and pews that there would be growth. He prayed, “God, you did it for others, why can’t you do it for me?” Today, it has over 8,000 members. Dream big and trust in God’s limitless power. If God is for you, who can be against you?
God has a history of taking nobodies and doing big things.
When church leaders are intentional spiritually, personally, and professionally, they will find themselves leading a thriving and healthy church. Remember, God’s power is immeasurable, and when you align yourself with His vision, great things can be accomplished beyond what you can ask or imagine.
To watch Benny Tate’s full session from Give Conference 2022, click here.
Join us at Give Conference 2023 on September 18-19 in Augusta, GA to hear from pastors and leaders like Jack Graham and Mark Rutland on how you can increase giving and engagement within your congregation.