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5 Ways To Ruin Your Church

Jun 13, 2019 | Blog, Leadership

Gresham Hill

Some churches are thriving and some churches are dying. We live in an age where pastors are trying everything and anything to grow their church. But church growth is rarely achieved via gimmicks and you can even argue that church growth is not the goal.

I grew up in the church. I was a PK and went on to work in a number of churches before starting Reach Your City. Today, our ministry works with thousands of churches. In that time, I’ve discovered that there are hundreds of ways to ruin a church, but for today’s blog, I’ve narrowed it down to five big ones that are often so subtle, church leaders often don’t see it.

Photo by Cassidy Kelley on Unsplash


  1. Neglect the Gospel – The Gospel is the distinctive that we have as followers of Jesus which is why one of the best ways to ruin your church is to rarely mention The Gospel. This will certainly increase legalism in your church body since without the constant reminder of the Gospel, many will assume they are left to their own works to be redeemed. While numbers could grow, you’ll likely see very little authentic fruit and over time, your church will be ruined.
  2. Avoid strong biblical teaching – Churches that preach the Word of God (even the passages that are not as popular in our culture today) can often see slower numerical growth than a church that teaches only from the “happy” passages. These positive, motivational churches are practicing what I like to call the Toys R Us theology where the preaching is all about “turning that frown upside-down.” This kind of preaching can attract large groups of followers that love a great motivational talk and application.  Despite appearing to be a healthy church, they will quickly be swept away by persuasive ideologies more compelling or pragmatic.
  3. Do not prioritize children – A friend of mine went to his first pastorate in New York and stirred up a bit of controversy. He moved the “blue hairs” out of the wing of the church that had traditionally been theirs in order to make a better and more secure place for a bunch of little rug rats. Despite ruffling some feathers, this change did not ruin his church as he saw God quadruple the attendance in a very short time. If you want to ruin your church, giving an average effort to creating a welcoming environment, planning your teaching time, and pouring into children is a great start.
  4. Focus on aesthetics and programs more than community and relationships – An incredible way to ruin a church is to spend more money on the building and programs than on the people. If you can get focused on costly ideas to make your church look amazing over investing in building community, you will ruin your church. If you create a lot of programs that keep everyone busy and happy but spreads your church leadership thin, you’ll ruin your church too.  Your congregation will see your priorities and will quietly lose faith in the direction you’re heading. Community and relationships often only require church leaders to invest extra time (not money).
  5. Create Utter Dependence on God – Church leaders who lack big vision, rarely see improvement in their churches. However, those that cast out an unrealistically big vision, often do.  You see this all the time in growing and active churches.  They cast vision weekly that could seem an impossibly big stretch for most churches, but their faith is that God will provide. If you want to ruin your church, you have three great options: 1) Don’t have a vision at all, 2) Have a very small vision that is simple and easy to achieve (this will give you confidence that you will not fail and can allow you to be a little lazy too), or 3) Have a big vision but share it internally and/or not very often. 

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