Why Do Churches Fail in the First Four Years?

Why Do Churches Fail in the First Four Years?

A staggering 32% of churches fail within the first four years.

So what do congregations do differently to stay alive and thrive?

What lessons can your church learn to keep from closing your doors permanently? 

In this post, we’ll take a look at the most prominent reasons why a church fails.

Based on a survey where 1103 churches from 23 different denominations were tracked over a period of 12 years, the results were based on the following questions:

Reasons why people leave the church

In a recent survey, a total of 3,803 people were asked why the left their church.

Here are the two main reasons why people chose to leave:

  1. Felt forced to leave
  2. Relocated

Relocating to a new town is self-explanatory.

I mean, when you literally leave town, it makes sense that you'll leave your church, too.

But let's take a closer look at the survey results to see why people felt forced to leave:

  • 61% percent left due to being in conflict with another member resulting from gossip or strife that was not properly dealt with.
  • 19% left because they felt they weren’t connected.
  • 18% said the reason for leaving was a lack of solid biblical teaching.

From these results, we can see there are two explanations.

First, people felt forced to leave when there was direct conflict. They had an unresolved problem with another church member or with someone from their church's staff.

Second, people felt forced to leave by indirect means. Said another way, there were not in direct conflict with someone. Instead, they felt like they had to leave because they didn't have any connections or they possessed a different conviction about biblical teaching.

Is your church aligned?

From this survey, they also unearthed some other interesting insight.

They asked church members what was most important in church leadership and church leaders were asked what they prioritized.

Here's what they found: 

What church members consider essential in church leadership:

  • 78% felt that effective biblical teaching is crucial.
  • 65% pointed to representing the kindness of the church to kids and youth.
  • 61% said modeling authenticity and Christ-like character is essential.
  • 59% felt guiding and supporting their members in need is key.
  • 45% said good organization and programming is important.
  • 36% felt having a clear vision for the church is crucial.
  • 28% said leading the church in a godly direction should be the focus.
  • 27% felt the ability to develop confidence within the church is key.
  • 23% said that promoting contentment and harmony is important.
  • 21% valued hospitality and connecting more than the presentation.
  • 16% believed that changes needed in church needed to be done.
  • 15% valued the importance of encouraging the church in effective stewardship.

What church leaders prioritized:

  • A convincing vision to unite the church
  • Developing confidence within the church
  • Harmony and contentment among the members
  • Encouraging the church in effective stewardship
  • Leading the church in a godly direction
  • Offering caring and helpful guidance to members in need
  • Representing the kindness of the church to youth and kids.
  • Carrying out effective organization and programming.
  • Bringing about change needed in the church
  • Teaching the Bible more effectively
  • Modeling faith and Christ-like character authentically.

From these results, we observe a disconnect between what church members consider important compared to what church leaders value as essential, which is more often than not the reason why churches fail. No congregation can succeed when they are misaligned.

Is your church healthy?

In Philippians 2:2, we discover what a healthy church should look like:

"... by being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose.”

With a church management software, you can effectively track and measure the health of your congregation.

Getting the right tool and system in place is the first step to take in becoming a church that is united in one mind, spirit, and purpose.


Why Do Churches Fail in the First Four Years?