What’s Broken in Church?

August 9, 2006 by

Watch Seth Godin riff on what’s broken (watching a Seth Godin riff is as good as reading one!). It all comes from the site This is Broken, which has loads more great examples. Seth offers up a few reasons why things may be broken:

  1. Not my job – It wasn’t someone’s job to fix it, so they didn’t.
  2. I didn’t know – Someone didn’t know it was even broken, which is probably the scariest (do you use your own stuff?).
  3. I’m not a fish – The person who designed it never uses it.
  4. Broken on purpose – This is kind of the odd category for something that’s supposed to be broken.

So what’s broken in church?

It’s worth pointing out that Godin makes the distinction that ‘broken’ is subjective. If I think it’s broken, it’s broken.

When someone walks into your church for the first time, what’s broken? It could be anything from the ingrained church lingo (narthex, sacristy or undercroft are not good terms to use when telling somewhere how to get somewhere in the church building) to the automaton stand up/sit down that happens as if on telekinetic cue, leaving a visitor standing when they should be sittig or vice-versa.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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11 Responses to “What’s Broken in Church?”

  • joel
    August 9, 2006

    Great thoughts. How should this be communicated to an older congregation? Any ideas?

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  • Matt
    August 9, 2006

    First of all, I love Seth Godin’s work. He has a way of pointing things out that you never realized, but you can fix. He makes a lot of money from this, but the most common solution to all the challenges that he points out is this: Listen.
    Take the time to listen to those that you are serving. Or putting yourself in the position of those that you serve. In “Creating Customer Evangelists”, Ben O’Connell and Jackie Huba write about how Mark Cuban sits in the cheap seats with the fans to get their opinions and form some of his own. Perhaps a Pastor could let another on his staff do the service while he sits with everybody and sees what they see? Ask the older congregation what they think? It would probably mean quite a bit to them that he cares enough to put himself in that position. It would be a challenge, but worth it.
    I think that’s how you suck less.
    BTW, love the post. Keep up the good work!

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  • RC of strangeculture
    August 9, 2006

    What’s broken at my church…
    it looks like were a cult would congregate and it’s considering being elder-led solely with out any full on head teaching pastor.
    Personally, I love the building (for now) and hope the vision of trully being elder-led is fruitful.
    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

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  • Benjamin Sternke
    August 10, 2006

    I love to apply Seth Godin’s work to the church. We can learn a lot. I think what’s “broken” in a lot of churches is the fact that they become very insular, and thus totally unaware of how they come across to the new people coming through their doors. They adopt “insider” language, like you mentioned, and they become less and less concerned about how newcomers interact with their building, programs, and people.

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  • James Higginbotham
    August 11, 2006

    I believe that church service is broken. Leaders complain that they can’t recruit volunteers, and volunteers complain that they are overworked and suffering burnout.
    I have a passion to educate staff and lay leaders to fix the broken volunteer system that exists within churches today through my blog. I believe that this begins from the bottom-up, through lay leaders and volunteers. These are the ones that should strive to create a process for their ministry where love for their fellow volunteers comes before getting tasks accomplished. Once that environment is created, the tasks get done.

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  • Brian
    August 14, 2006

    Thomas Bandy’s book “The Uncommon Lectionary” says that the church is too much about “accommodation.” I think he’s right on. He says that if our focus is about keeping our members happy, more than it is about making new disciples, our chuch has chosen accommodation over relevance. This is a particular thorn at my church…the long time members seem to carry the greatest influence.
    What’s broken in churches mostly is that many have become social clubs with privleges extended to the long standing members–whereas Jesus told us to go out and make disciples of the nations!

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  • Preston Burt
    August 14, 2006

    I’m looking at this week’s poll and I notice that “the outreach (or lack thereof)” is pulling ahead as the leader so far. I have to agree that lack of outreach is broken in a church. There are too many people suffering from complacency and inaction. 20% of the church population does 80% of the work. Worshipping God is part of being a Christian, but so is ministering and seeking the lost.

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  • Dirk
    August 17, 2006

    You can think about a church being “broken” in another way – the way in which we all have to be broken in order to turn to Christ for our salvation. A friend has a blog called BCC is Broken that launched after an ugly split at our church in Nashville, TN. It has good words about brokeness and where to look for healing.

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  • Daren
    August 17, 2006

    At a meeting last night one of our team put it well: “We’re not meeting the relational needs of new people.” We nail it with the music, speaking, and a lot of the programming, but it can be pretty tough to find a friend here! Oops.

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  • Christine Sander
    August 18, 2006

    Any interest to join? Greetings from the green fields of Normandy. C.S.

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  • Carl
    August 29, 2006

    Were all the members of my church walking like Jesus Christ, every newcomer would end up invited to lunch after church, every child would feel safe and have fun, and discipleship would be intentional and sacrificial (ie make time to reach out and deal with NEW people).
    But people are broken, therefore so are churches. Although good programs and systems are important and useful, it’s really a matter of discipleship. Someone doing the above, and then discipling others to do the same.
    No program can replace the reproduction of life onto life in this way. No fancy meetings, no “assimulation tactics” can replace taking a core group of people, modeling to them how to DO it (not “training”, but LIVING it), and then having them reproduce.
    DO what? Pray before the meeting. Prepare to take people after the meeting to lunch, or ask them to your house later in the week, learning LISTENING SKILLS (rarely taught in churches, sadly).
    It’s not top-down, but bottom-up, as the leaders fulfil Ephesians 4 and train the PEOPLE to do the work of the ministry. Then the facility and the rest becomes just a side issue, helps for the real work.
    When one person does it, then works with 12 other people to sucessfully love people in the same way, the world can change…again.

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