I will begin this series by looking at the 10 characteristics of staying churches. What does a Staying Church look like? Some of these may hit rather close to home.
1. The budget of a staying church reflects an inward focus. It has been said that you can look at person’s checkbook and calendar and determine what has their heart. The same is true for churches. Churches budget money according to a value system. The budget of a staying church reflects an unspoken desire to keep the membership comfortable and happy. Their budgets are heavier in fellowship and ministries that essentially take place within the walls of the building and lighter in the areas of evangelism and missions. In times of financial struggle, staying churches often make cuts to ministries, programs, and expenditures that keep the membership comfortable last. In his book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Dr. Thom Rainer noted that an inward focus was a symptom of dying churches. Speaking to the choices available when cutting budgets, he observed:
…most cuts were made to ministries and programs with outward foci. So a particular ministry to the community is no longer essential. Funds to reach beyond the church are no longer available. The decision is justified by declining receipts. Fair enough. But notice that the outreach and community ministries are the first to go. Not those ministries for church members.
2. Staying churches see the protection and preservation of the church building as more important than building the church. I believe it is fair to say that one of the largest expenditures in most churches is the maintenance and upkeep of their facilities and grounds. Because of this huge monetary investment, staying churches fiercely guard the building from anything that would bring it harm. An unhealthy attachment to the physical building can hurt the effectiveness of the church’s outreach and missions ministry. Let me offer an example. Think about children for a moment. Children are messy. Children spill things. Children write on the wall and run in the hallway. To prevent all of this from happening and to keep them from “hurting” the building, staying churches decide to be less aggressive in pursuing families. Buildings should be viewed as places of ministry and not a ministry themselves.