Signs of a Declining Church

Signs of a Declining Church Blog PostSometimes in church life, decline is not a topic of discussion that pastors or even church members want to discuss. It adds a dark feeling to the conversation, because decline is not the intent or desire of any member or church leader. No one wakes up each day stating “I love that my church is declining. I cannot wait to discuss the decline of our church with other people.” This is not the intent of any church leader or member which is why I believe many churches are unaware that they are in decline. If you are unsure where your church is at, I would encourage you to evaluate it, and have discussions about it. This is the first step to change.

So, here are the signs that I have noticed in my brief study of churches:

  1. Prayer is a low priority – When prayer becomes a low priority, the church is in decline. Everything should be prayed over. Prayer meetings should be a regular part of the church’s calendar. The staff should be actively praying together. One writer says that “a church that makes prayer a low priority makes God a low priority.”
  2. College students are leaving – One may argue that this is churches across the board, and I would tend to agree, but if the dropout rate of college students is great, I would encourage you to evaluate what needs to change to engage more college students. They are the future of your church.
  3. Decisions are made to please the older members – Every church must consider the counsel of the elderly. This is not just a thought, but a Biblical mandate, but if each decision you make is to appease the older generation, your church is in decline. This includes decisions upon standards of the environment of the church, technology, music style, and outreach. There is coming a day when the people you are pleasing will be gone, and if you have not made decisions to engage the younger generation, they will all be gone by the time you realize you need to engage them.
  4. There are few outreach minded events on the calendar – If your budget is spent predominantly on the church members, your church may be in decline. The church needs to start intentionally planning its budget and its calendar to reach their city.
  5. The church is afraid to give leadership to the Youth – When I say youth, I am talking about teens, college students, and young adults. If the average age of your deacon board is 50+, your church is likely in decline because that states that you do not value the opinion of your young families. Look at the age of your staff, your deacons, your Sunday school teachers, etc. This will immediately tell you whose opinions you value most.

So, where does a church go from here if they find themselves in decline? Although these are necessary signs to evaluate, they provide little value. Let me encourage churches who find themselves in decline to slowly make the necessary steps in order to change its culture from decline to on the rise. These steps may include to engage some younger families in a leadership role. It may be to higher a new innovative staff member. A sermon series may birth out of these steps. Some programs need to stop and some need to be added. Maybe a step is opening up your calendar for some outreach minded events. Whatever it is, do not die a slow death, but seek to make your church rise instead of decline.

Published by Josh Evans

Josh is the connections pastor of the Oakleaf campus of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. Before that, Josh had been a mentor and pastor to students for 10 years. Josh is passionate about empowering church leaders to make a difference. Josh and his wife Abby have two children. You can connect further with Josh on this blog or send him a direct email at

5 thoughts on “Signs of a Declining Church

  1. All five points are valid and I might add three more. In two churches that I have worked with recently these three are the overriding issues. 1. The community itself has grown old and declined. 2. Church members have grown old, while their offspring have moved to modern suburbs. 3. The economy has declined leaving the few who are still working with lower wages and higher costs thus having less to give to the church.

  2. I agree with your comments and those of Jim Price. I think that part of the problem is not incorporating youth in the next generation of the church, and that is specifically making some young people at least part of the church administration and ministry team. Having said that, I am not in favor of turning the reins over to change our basic doctrines and practices. To “modernize” the church is not necessarily good. The old ways are usually those ways indicated by Scripture, and while we can change a lot in our churches to appeal to people, we cannot sacrifice those essential elements which are part of the biblical command and example. Discerning between the two is a great task, and most pastors don’t seem to want to do that, and so they are just we will continue on with the traditions set by those before us. Sad.

    1. Agree. Teenagers are leaving because they are not being used. A good book to read is “The Millennials” by Thom Rainer. The book talks about how that generation want to be a part of something big. They are not going to sit on the sidelines like so many of our churches have resorted them to.

      Thanks for the input!


  3. Churches are not going to survive under its current brick and mortar business model in our growing instant everything generation. Based on much of the list, the overall sense I see is that church is just not a value-added place to go. It’s hard for a church to compete with people who are connected to others 24/7 through texting and instant messaging and who have games and movies at their fingertip to play and watch when ever they want. Yes I dumped my cable TV for internet and Netflix. I communicate with other Christians and discuss topics as this through blogs rather than going to church. We are all connected to God through prayer and Him to us through the Holy Spirit and the bible any time of day. If people really want to hear sermons, there are thousands online. What the church needs to do is connect people together through todays methods of communication and encourage and teach people this way rather than the strong push to gather into a building like that is the only way gathering can be done. The sad thing is that the big pressure in the push to get people out to church is they need funding for the overhead costs so what I suggest may not happen very fast and may be something someone who left the institutional church would start; someone whose livelihood is not dependent on peoples giving. I am one of the de-churched who left the Sunday routine to have a simpler relationship with God outside, anytime, anywhere and communicate with other Christians in this blogging manner.

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