14 Church Growth and Leadership Lies We Need to Stop Believing

Nevermore StencilPeople have the frustrating tendency to believe statements that reinforce our previous opinions, even if those statements are obviously false. OK, let’s call them what they are – lies.

We think they must be true if they validate our prejudices, so we tend to be less rigorous in our fact-checking than we normally would be.

Christians are not immune to this. Neither are Christian leaders. And we seem to be especially susceptible to this when it comes to church growth. We believe what we want to believe. Facts are secondary.

I’ve been reading books and attending seminars on church growth and leadership for decades. In the year since starting this blog, I’ve been monitoring church growth and leadership blogs as well. In that time I’ve kept an informal, imperfect list of some of the lies that tend to come up regularly.

This is not to say that church leaders are liars. You can pass on a lie and not be a liar if you truly believe it to be the truth. I think that’s what happens in almost 100% of these cases. But that’s why we need to be careful. A lie that’s sincerely believed is still a lie.

I’ll offer 14 of these lies today, with minimal or no comment. I’ll leave the commenting to you.

I hope these will serve as a reminder to all of us, myself included, to always be vigilant in the statements we choose to believe – especially statements that reinforce our own world view.


1. If it can’t be measured it doesn’t matter

I’ve commented on this idea ad nauseum, so today I’ll let church media maven, Phil Cooke take this one, from a recent blog post entitled Start Doing Things That Make No Sense.

The older I get the more I realize the really important things in life can’t be measured, scheduled, or budgeted. Certainly we shouldn’t toss measurement or schedules out totally, but never forget that measuring, budgeting, or scheduling is for “things” – not for “values.”

Amen, Phil.


2. Numbers don’t matter at all

See above quote for an idea of where numbers do matter. 


3. Small churches can’t do outreach as well as big ones


4. Big churches can’t be as friendly as small ones


5. Changing our programs will change our church’s health and culture

Jim Powell addresses this fallacy brilliantly and helpfully in his new book, Dirt Matters.


6. Increased attendance is the best indicator of ministry success


7. Decreasing church attendance is always from a failure of leadership


8. Decreasing church attendance is not a concern

It may not be the need for panic that many claim it to be. But it is a warning sign that should never be ignored.


9. Bivocational ministry is rare

Not even close to true. Full-time ministry is much more rare than bivocational ministry is.


10. Bivocational ministry is less valuable than full-time ministry

Who’s going to break this news to the Apostle Paul?


11. It’s easier to pastor a Small Church than a big one


12. It’s easier to pastor a big church than a small one

Each has their own challenges and rewards. There’s no place for envy or pity from either end of the size spectrum.


13. The size of our crowd matters more than the quality of our content

No one says this out loud, of course. But what other conclusion can we draw? Books and blogs posts about increasing the size of our crowd are written and read exponentially more often than books and blogs about increasing the quality of our content.


And the grand-daddy whopper of them all…

14. A healthy Small Church will always become a big church

Check out lies #15 & #16 in Two More Church Growth & Leadership Lies: The Church is American and White

So what do you think? Have you come across any church growth or leadership lies you can add to this list?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Nevermore Stencil photo from kvanhorn • Flickr • Creative Commons)

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10 thoughts on “14 Church Growth and Leadership Lies We Need to Stop Believing”

  1. Constance McIntosh

    I am so encouraged by everything that is written here. Thank you, Karl, for being such a great minister to all of us ‘little pastors’. I’ve been sharing this with others in my Facebook clergy group and I get great responses from my colleagues, like “I needed this today.” Amen!

    1. Constance, that makes my day! I’m so happy that I can be an encouragement to you and your colleagues. What’s your Facebook group called? I’d love to check it out.

  2. Here’s another for the list: Small churches drain membership/resources/money that rightfully “belong” to big churches.

  3. I agree but I despise the term Bi Vocational it sounds like we either have 2 equal positions or one is better, more important than the other. I prefer the term as used in scripture as tent makers like Paul who had a vocation besides his calling. of spreading the gospel. Ywet in the church we plan retreats and convention thru the week which hinders those who are tent makers from attending. On most secula rwork places there are limted time off of either vacation or personal days for most Pastors this is needed for funerals and surgeries

    1. Bill, I like the term tentmaker, too. But I don’t have an issue with bivocational, so I use them interchangeably. I agree about the challenge of midweek conferences for bivo– tentmakers ;). That’s why I held my workshop on a Saturday, and I encourage Saturdays for other ministries that invite me to speak.

  4. Phil Cook’s post title (“Start Doing Things That Make No Sense”) reminds me of a symposium I took from Eugene Peterson back in the day. He titled it “The Unnecessary Pastor.” What he was talking about was that the most effective pastors he knew devoted much time to doing things that “the organizational world” deemed unnecessary – things like praying, having serendipitous conversations simply because someone wanted to talk, or going outside his study and playing with kids rather than telling them to be quiet so he could study. I think he may have turned it into a book. -e.

  5. Pingback: RT @KarlVaters: 14 Church Growth and Leadership Li… | The Richard W. Hendricks Experience

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