Seven habits of highly ineffective churches

1. Elevate mediocrity to a spiritual discipline. Figure out where average falls and aim below there. Doing things with excellence, joy and flair may make someone uncomfortable. God doesn't really expect much anyhow.

2. Take no risks. A successful practice of risk avoidance is often best achieved by sending any and all new ideas to a minimum of four boards or committees who understand it's their role to say no to any new ideas. This process may need to be reinforced by remarks noting how a particular idea might make the church liable, cost money or ruffle feathers.

3. Practice the following evangelism strategy: "If they want us, they know where to find us." Assume that everyone does know where you are and what you are. It also can be helpful if your building looks like a medieval fortress. If you don't have that going for you, encourage ushers and greeters to look like palace guards as they perform their role.

4. Blame early and often. Maintaining dysfunction in a congregation is made easier if scapegoats are regularly identified. In some congregations, ministers make wonderful scapegoats. You may also blame "newcomers," or "people who don't understand how we do things in this church." If all else fails, blame the conference, the denomination or Satan.

5. Always be prepared to make an account of the excuses that are within you. Have an all-purpose excuse such as, "I've just been so busy" (elaborate at great length just how busy you are, implying that no one else is busy). Occasionally try out a creative new excuse, such as, "Our dog ate the printer-ink cartridge and required an emergency appendectomy. He is now very busy, too."

6. Make it clear to all that the job of the pastor(s) and staff is to keep everyone, meaning church members, happy. Think of your church as the "Love Boat" and the pastor as the cruise director and activity planner. The job of clergy and staff members is to keep everyone on board happy. If someone is unhappy, it's a sure sign your pastor is not doing the job.

7. Spend as little money as possible. Even though you may enjoy spending money on personal things like a car or a cruise, you can demonstrate your commitment to modesty and simple lifestyle at church. The very best programs cost nothing. And why would your church building need renovation? If it was good enough for your grandparents, it'll be good enough for your grandchildren.