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11 of the Most Common Mistakes Churches Make

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LifeWay CEO, church consultant and author Thom Rainer has visited hundreds of churches and published books about the research he’s done on churches. So, what tops his list of 11 of the Most Common Mistakes Churches Make?


Failure to have a informative, easy-to-use website.

Thom explains,

I cringe when I see some churches’ websites. That is now the first place a prospective guest visits when he or she is thinking about attending a church. Websites are incredibly affordable today, and they can be updated easily. A church website should be updated at least once a week. It should be one of high quality. And it should contain good and accurate information for guests and members alike.

Interestingly, #2 and #3 on Thom’s list are also related to online communication:

2) Failure of pastors and staff to be actively involved in social media. That is analogous to a missionary in another land failing to learn how to speak the language of the people.

3) Failure of pastors and staff to understand they represent the church when they are involved in social media. When I see some of the blog posts and Twitter and Facebook communication of pastors and staff, I am often left speechless. Even if it is a personal blog or Twitter or Facebook account (or almost a dozen other social media entrants), church members read them. The community reads them. Pastors and staff: you represent yourself, your church, and, most importantly, Christ. Please be careful with your words.

You can read the mistakes 4-11 here.

I think it’s telling that the first 3 of 11 common mistakes have to do with online communications. It goes to show that churches have a long way to go in this area. We need to continue to teach and encourage pastors, communicators and church leaders to do a better job with their websites and social media.

And those of us who are pastors, communicators, and church leaders, need to continue to lead the way in our own congregations.

What say you?

  • Do you agree with Thom that these are 3 of the most common mistakes churches make? Why or why not?
  • How is your church doing? Is it making these 3 mistakes?

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


    • All of the items he mentioned can be problems at churches. But these are really minor things.

      If you read Christ's condemnations of particular churches in Rev. 2 and 3, none of these things matter. The major problems that churches have today are not much different than then. Too many tolerate sin. Too many allow and promote leaders who sin. Too many do not let the Holy Spirit work in their midst. Too many have left their first love (Christ). If you can't see a difference between the church and the world, there is a problem.

      Maybe it's just been a long week and I'm in a particularly negative mood, but if you look at Christ's ministry when He was around and look at the typical church's ministry today – would He recognize it?

      If we got those big things fixed, we wouldn't have to worry about the little things like parking and visitors wouldn't care if they had to stand.

      • I agree with much of what you've written, but I also think Jesus loved and accepted people as they were and He cared enough to go into the world and speak with the language and concepts people could understand. I wish more Christians and church leaders were more like Jesus online.

    • Of course, the most common mistake is to fail to be the church — as described on the pages of the New Testament — but to be just a religious club. But I won't go into the theological details of that. I believe a common mistake is to ignore the demographics of your community. If your community is long on retirees and short on millennials, for example (as is the case with churches in many smaller, semi-rural communities) it's a mistake to try to go "contemporary" or "seeker-oriented." Staying "traditional" will create a more satisfying worship experience for the constituency you have. And, remember, the percentage of senior citizens in the population is growing, so a church that appeals to older people can grow — whereas if you try to appeal to younger people in a community where seniors are a predominant and influential group, you may lose even some of the people you have.

      • That's a good point. Music is by it's nature cultural, so it helps to worship in the musical style that is engaging and familiar to the culture and demographics of the area.