Content is written by Rev. Mike Hunter, CCA
There’s a General Assembly resolution (GA 1717) of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that celebrates how 60% of 975 new church starts in the past five years are still going. We should celebrate that and we should all learn from it, but it made me think: I wonder if those numbers are good and truly worth celebrating.
So, let’s compare: 60% of hospitality industry (restaurants, etc.) fail in the first 3 years. 8 out of 10 entrepreneurial business fail in the first 18 months.
Disciples, compared to real world similarities, you are doing well!
But it begs the question why do they fail. The answers according to a Forbes Magazine article are helpful. They fail for 5 reasons and the church should listen in, too.
- Not really in touch with its customer base. The wrong idea in the wrong place. The product doesn’t match potential customer demographic, etc. Just because we build it, they won’t automatically come.
- No differentiation in the market. No measurable unique factor. Mike Vance, long time director of Disney University, said the storyboard to new business and organizations must have something unique. Church growth consultant Kennon Callahan used to ask the question: If your church went away tonight, what would be missing in the community? We don’t need the same church on every corner!
- Failure to communicate value in a clear and compelling fashion. We have the greatest news in the history of the world. We struggle at times to tell it in relational and relevant ways. Unique mission shared and marketed in inspirational ways, taking advantage of social media, etc. Would help us. Look at Mark Macdonald’s work Be Known for Something and insert your church’s unique mission and method. And if it’s not unique, reread #2.
- Leadership breakdown at the top. John Maxwell says often that everything rises and falls on leadership. We spend the least amount of training and education of leadership and leadership dynamics. Sadly, many clergy and lay leaders lack leadership skills or training. Faithful is important, but faithful isn’t enough.
- Inability to nail a profitable business model with proven revenue streams. Worthiness alone is not a criterion for action. That’s hard for churches to hear. They want to focus on so many worthy things and they rightly quote scripture when they do. But church can’t be all things to all people and the good work of matching the right model with the right vision will capture the hearts and resources of the right people.
Church can fail if we focus on anything narrowly, including hospitality. Failure rates of the industry do apply to church and we could learn lessons here of why to start or not start new congregations. Spirit and mission are better sustainers than buildings, menus, style and trends. Those have an 80% failure rate.
 Five reasons 8 out of 10 Businesses Fail, Eric T. Wagner, Forbes Magazine