Senior Pastors are often the catalyst for growth in a church. But we all have blindspots, and often it’s our blindspots that can stifle the growth in our church.

It’s hard to consider ourselves as the problem, but it’s necessary if we want our churches to keep growing. Set aside time each year to evaluate yourself. Let your board and trusted friends speak into your life and help you identify blindspots that could potentially hinder growth in your church.

Here are five ways pastors can stifle church growth.

#1 – Making it all about the vision.

A clear and compelling vision is critical to church growth. Defining it is one of the first steps to leading a healthy and growing church.

But it’s actually possible to lean on vision too much.  

Tony Morgan says some pastors have a “Moses complex”.  He writes:

There’s a dangerous trend I’m seeing in churches today that embraces this theology of leadership. I refer to it as the “Moses Complex.” In these environments, only the senior pastor can receive a vision from God and it only happens through a Mount Sinai-type experience.

In these types of “vision-is-everything” environments, there are some dangerous outcomes that can hinder healthy growth.

  • Vision can quickly become an idol. Vision is necessary for healthy church growth, but an over-reliance on the vision can ironically keep the church from growing. If everything is about the vision, you’ll wind up with a church committed to a version of some vision, not to a life of faith and following Jesus. Even good things (like vision) can become an idol if they replace the ultimate thing.
  • Everyone who questions the vision can be labeled divisive. When it’s all about the vision, people with legitimate questions are discarded. I know churches where people are shunned because they have legitimate questions or concerns. Yes, there are people who want to control and take over, but that doesn’t mean alternate voices should not be valued. Honor is a two-way street.
  • Respect can become the vehicle for running over people. A strong vision can be a catalyst for growth, but if it’s all about the vision, people sometimes get left behind. This can actually hinder growth.    

Pastors should work hard to clarify and communicate a compelling vision. It’s a critical component of breaking any growth barrier.

But recognize that your vision isn’t divinely inspired and it’s limited or hindered by your personal style, experiences, cultures and beliefs. Vision isn’t everything and you’re not Moses.

#2 – Not Developing Leaders

If everything in your church is dependent on you, you’re leading an unhealthy church. When you do it all yourself, you hinder growth. That’s the issue Moses faced in in Exodus 18.

Moses spent the large portion of his day hearing cases from the people. Instead of leading the nation, he was micro-managing. His father-in-law came for a visit and pointed out the problem:

“When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Jethro didn’t just observe the problem. He recommended a solution: Appoint other people to leadership positions and let go of the reigns.

For Moses to be more effective, he had to be less busy. And for your church to grow in a healthy way, you’re going to have to get out of the way.

For your church to grow in a healthy way, you’re going to have to get out of the way. Click To Tweet

You don’t need to make every decision.

You don’t have to lead every meeting.

You don’t have to visit everyone in need.

To think otherwise is to think like a superhero. That’s not good for your church and it’s not good for you.

It makes you the bottleneck. It keeps you too busy. It keeps others on the sideline.

If you’re acting like a pastor-superhero, you’ll miss incredible opportunities to involve other people and give them the chance to use their gifts.

If you’re acting like a pastor-superhero, you’ll miss incredible opportunities to involve other people and give them the chance to use their gifts. Click To Tweet

When Moses set up a proper leadership system, he was a better leader. But lots of other leaders were empowered to use their gifts.  

That’s a double win.

If you’re the solution to every problem, you’re not helping your church. You’re keeping it from growing.

#3 – Short-Term Thinking

When you’re leading a church, you spend a lot of your time responding to urgent requests. A lot of pastors we know spend time on Monday putting out fires.

Plus, Sunday comes around with amazing regularity.

There are always urgent things to do.

But if you fall into the trap of short-term thinking, you can stunt long-term growth.

Give a ministry to a leader who isn’t ready and you’ll solve an immediate need, but create a long-term problem.

Throw together a special offering to solve a summer giving slump and you’ll survive July but hinder momentum for the fall.

You can preach your way out of a problem without addressing the underling system that created it.

All of that is short-term thinking and it takes various forms.

Short-term thinking will lead you to avoid conflict rather than push your team to grow personally.

Short-term thinking will lead you to opt for the cheap alternative rather than make an investment in the future of your church.

I know there’s a lot on your plate right now, but don’t just solve problems in the short-term and sacrifice future growth and health.

#4 – Saying yes to everything.

Another way pastors hinder growth is by saying yes to too many things.

If you’re a people pleaser, it can be tough to say no. There’s something in your spirit that wants to be fair.

You want to green light the ministry because a leader is fired up about it.

You want to start the program because it really made a different at another church.

You will want to take the meeting and move forward with initiative because it’s a good opportunities.

When you say yes to too many things, the result is a busy church. And busyness doesn’t lead to effectiveness.  

When your church is over-programmed, you’ll suffer the following consequences:

  • Volunteers will be spread to thin.
  • You will settle for mediocrity.
  • Your communication will be confusing.
  • You will mildly disappoint everyone.
  • You will drive yourself to burnout.

Your church will always have more opportunities than time. Your church will always have more ministry than resources. And your church will never be able to be all things to all people.  

Let’s face it.

There are some ministries and programs in your church that deserve an unfair amount of your focus and budget.

Maybe it’s your family ministry. Or your church service. Or your local outreach programs.

The worst thing you can do is try and divide the budget in a way that’s fair or deploy your people evenly across the board.

Pastor, you don’t have to be fair.

With your time.

With your focus.

Or with your budget.

Great pastors and leaders discover where their church can make the most difference and deploy resources there. 

Great pastors and leaders discover where their church can make the most difference and deploy resources there. Click To Tweet

Evaluation Forms is a great tool to help you evaluate six areas in your church that may be hindering growth.

#5 – Not growing personally.

There’s a lot pastors can do to facilitate healthy growth in the church. But the #1 way to make this happen is to look in the mirror.

It’s trendy to start campuses and fun to talk about service times, but the number one barrier to growth in most churches is leadership.

It’s not service times. It’s not starting campuses. It’s not facilities or ministries or programs.

Leadership is the #1 growth barrier churches face.

John Maxwell says there’s something called the law of the lid. It’s irrefutable, he says.

Brian Jones says churches never grow past the leadership level of the senior pastor. Ever.

And based on our experience working with hundreds of pastors, we’d have to agree. When pastors recognize that for the church to grow, they need to grow, things begin to happen.

That’s why investing in your personal growth is never a waste of resources.  

That’s why learning how to lead meetings, develop leaders, and clarify strategy are well-worth your focus.

Nobody is going to force you to put you on the calendar. There are no elders, deacons or church members texting you about the need for personal development. No, you’re going to have to own this one.

So What’s Next?

Feel like your church should be growing, but it’s not?

Ultimately, church growth is up to God. Are we being good stewards of what He’s given us? Are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?

We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. So we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.

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