Churches stop growing or they plateau for several reasons, too many for one blog post. So I’m tackling them in a series of posts featuring growth barriers for churches I have encountered during years of strategic consulting. I’m calling these posts “Churches Won’t Grow When.” While some of the issues that keep churches from growing can be classified as communication barriers, in my experience, the most debilitating ones are leadership and systematic mistakes that will derail growth or even kill a congregation. Interestingly, these apply to business and ministries as well. Your church will stop growing when its leader put his or her interests before what’s best for the congregation. I call it the superstar syndrome.
I have seen this one play out time and time again. These are gifted communicators who are able to draw large crowds but can never get past making personal sacrifices for the sake of the organization. The superstar pastor bent is to grow the congregation to serve his need for a larger audience–not because a larger audience means a deeper reach for the gospel, even though that’s how they frame the strategy.
I’m not saying that all gifted communicators, pastors of growing churches, or popular leaders fit in this category. While we should never judge a leader’s motive, we can and should consider his or her decisions. Given the chance, the superstar will take the spotlight every time. They will justify unreasonable time away and expense on the premises that “what’s best for me is best for the church.” They will say “yes” to opportunities that tax the church’s staff and volunteers because it might given them more exposure. They will leverage the church for their personal interests given the chance.
Great people don’t stay around the superstar for long. High-capacity volunteers and top notch staff eventually figure out that the superstar only truly cares about himself and will abandon ship. After all he seldom gives credit to the rest of the staff because, well you’ve guessed it, it’s all about him.
So the church led by the superstar grows and implodes, or it attracts a lot of people but can’t keep many of them long term. One of the signs your church might be led by a superstar pastor is staff and leadership turn over. If you’re always seeing lots of new faces but not many familiar ones, or the church seems to always be on the verge of a breakthrough but never quite there, you might just be led by a superstar.
Have you been around the superstar pastor? What happened?