7 Most Common Internal Barriers to Church Growth

Thom Rainer
Thom Rainer

There is rarely a simple explanation for the decline of a church. It is often a complex mix of cultural, theological, attitudinal, and internal issues. In this article, I address the latter issue.

Internal barriers refer to those obstacles that are inherent in the organization and the facilities of the church. They are also called structural barriers. Stated simply, these barriers are self-imposed or self-inflicted.

Some of these barriers are long-standing and difficult to remove. Others, such as a redesigned website, can be accomplished with little pain.

Let’s look at the seven most common internal barriers in churches.

1. Facility Barriers.

We have addressed these barriers several times on this site and on the Rainer on Leadership podcast. The two most common are poor signage and inadequate parking. The former is often more easily addressed than the latter. Other common facility barriers include dirty and cluttered facilities, inadequate worship space, inadequate children’s space, and poor sound and lighting in the worship space.

2. Governance Barriers.

These barriers include restrictive bylaws and policies, a model of church government that is not working as intended, and frequent acrimonious business meetings. I am familiar with a church that had a policy where the executive pastor was on every committee, but the pastor was not. The particular problem was the personnel committee, where the executive pastor abused his authority to prevent the pastor from leading staff or having an influence on any personnel matters. That situation did not end well.

3. Staffing Barriers.

Churches often staff the way they’ve always done it. But times change and needs change. Staffing alignment and job descriptions of the 1990s may be inadequate today. Sometimes the job descriptions can be fine, but the wrong people are in those positions.

Jim Collins, in his classic book Good to Great, uses the metaphor of getting the right people on the bus, and getting the right people in the right seat on the bus. If a church leader is not in a position that matches his or her gifts, abilities, and passions, the church has a structural growth barrier.

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SOURCE: ThomRainer.com
Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.