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Is Your Church Struggling?

ORMOND BEACH – My church is struggling financially.  It is a major denomination and the word is that most of the churches in that denomination are in the same boat.  Further I’m told, other denominations are suffering too and it’s because of the ECONOMY!We just went through a significant reduction in staff and one casualty was one of the associate pastors.  In a major denomination, it is very difficult to downsize an ordained minister even more so than it is to find and hire one.  In addition to the affected clergy agreeing to the terms of termination of the employment contract, the church leadership has to be in sync (even if a large minority is opposed), the next higher level of bureaucracy has to be involved, and the membership has to approve it at a called membership meeting by a majority vote.  What’s even more painful is when you call the meeting on a Sunday morning just before the service where most people attend; even though that’s the best time to get most people there.  I guess the worship service right after the meeting is supposed to heal.  But the net result is that many walk away, never to be heard from again.

I have discussed this “walking away” with many folks and reminded or cautioned them that problems within churches will always exist at some level depending…

Why are we “struggling” financially?  Since joining this church in 2004 as a serious member and the only one I’ve joined seriously since leaving Catholicism in high school, it has declined along a steady path in membership and giving.  Recently, I asked myself if it is because I joined.  Seems a lot of things are that way lately but let’s assume that it’s NOT ME okay?  As a student and veteran of all kinds of organizations, I know that the only reason for existence of churches is the mission.  You may be aware that being “on a mission” can be graded from half-hearted, to average, to enthusiastic or anywhere along a line describing the amount of fervor or passion.

To escape the half-hearted or average effort toward the mission, which is where we are as a group, there must be a leader who is passionate about the mission.  Now it can’t be a passion for our Savior alone or a passion for teaching alone.  He/she must speak of passion for the mission which is “making disciples” in our case and it encompasses all other passions.  He/she must encourage buy-in by the membership of a vision with concrete goals radiating from that vision and members having one or more goals to grab onto and work.  You might say, well duh?  But how do you do that?  The major denominations now appear to have a glaring lack of leadership toward their mission with the exception of the new Pope and even he is not in as much control as you might think.  Witness Notre Dame and the invitation for a man to speak at commencement who is totally outside the teachings of Rome on abortion to the point that it’s embarrassing to Catholics.  My own denomination is often referred to as the “frozen chosen.”  Glaring also in my denomination is a disdain for traditional leadership concepts for some reason.  Adding insult to injury and very evidently, pastors are ordained without ever studying such concepts and I mean all the way up to the doctorate level.

I could be wrong, but I truly believe that leadership with passion for the mission is the cure for struggling organizations REGARDLESS OF THE ECONOMY!  In my defense, there are some churches that are doing very well in this economy in spite of economic conditions thank you very much. So really the struggle is against half-hearted and average which can be overcome.  When it is, I can rest assured that it’s not just because I joined up.

-Bill Bramer

Retired Naval Officer

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