Pastor's Blog

Managing for Decline

Managing for Decline

Pastor Scott - May 16, 2023

Harvard Business School has isolated a point in a company’s lifespan when they are no longer managing for growth but rather managing for decline. It’s when PC’s change the color of their computers or the weight of their batteries for their current customers, while Apple sweeps up the new ones. It’s when Apple Phone adds a second camera lens and then a third one for their current customers, while Android sweeps up the new ones. It’s when churches add a visitation pastor for their senior members or add favorite songs of their worshippers, while the new mission start sweeps up the unchurched in the community.

Are we managing for growth or managing for decline?

That was the question asked at this year’s senior pastors’ conference of the ELCA. It made me stop and ask the question about Christ Lutheran. Here were some of the metrics:


   Managing Decline                                         Managing Growth

1. Explaining the Faith                                 Demonstrating the Faith

2. Homogeneous community                     Multi-ethnic community

3. Seeking comfort                                     Allowing tension

4. Concerns for size                                    Concern for influence

5. Senior Pastor driven                               Team Based Ministry

6. Income from Offerings                           Multiple Streams of income


So, how are we doing?  Are we managing for growth or managing for decline? I believe our service in the community demonstrates our faith vs. merely explaining the complexities of the Trinity, but we have a very homogeneous community.

We have spoken often of living in the messy middle, allowing for the tension to exist between members who disagree, but we have probably focused more on numerical growth than community influence.

I do believe that we give a lot of autonomy and freedom to the various ministry teams without me micromanaging them, and with the various 501c3 ministries, we have done a good job of exploring other income streams.

What was my biggest takeaway from the conference? For the most part, I believe that we check maybe 80% of the boxes as we manage for growth rather than decline. However, we need to make Christ Lutheran a welcoming place for greater diversity. Our children live in a multi-ethnic world. Businesses have whole DEI initiatives. Our communities are growing more and more diverse. In 2025, whites made up 65% of the US population. By 2050, that percentage of whites will be less than 50%. In contrast, the ELCA is still lingering around 96% white; and that hasn’t changed much since the inception in 1987. Judaism is more diverse than the ELCA!

If we are to reflect better the diversity of the body of Christ, it will not happen because of population shifts or immigration trends but through intentional outreach, strategic hiring, and invitation. I do know this, becoming more multi-ethnic will be the most difficult thing this congregation will ever do. More difficult than multiple campuses, building programs and worship changes. I also know how critical this is for Christ Lutheran, for the sake of the Gospel and to manage for growth in a world that is changing rapidly.

Let’s Get This Right,

Pastor Scott