Preference Centered vs Purpose Centered Churches

I’ve just returned from the Congregational Development Conference in St. Louis and my head is just about to bust with all the new thoughts running through it.  So, in the next several weeks, I’m going to try and unpack some of the things that are bouncing around up there. 

Believe it or not, 90% of all United Methodist Churches are either plateaued or declining.  Less than 10% of our churches are growing more than 5% in worship attendance each year.  Why is that?  I’m sure there are many reasons but one of the main reasons is that most of these churches are Preference Centered rather than Purpose Centered.  Here is a list of what the two types of churches look like…


  • Most every decision made is made on the preferences on a small group of folks who have the political clout to get their way.
  • In an on-going predictable cycle of conflict
  • Have “winners” and “losers”
  • If you are a part of a church that has an ongoing conflict, the church is very preference driven. 
  • Focus on the comfort and preference of the members rather than the Kingdom.


  • Most every decision is made on our best, most prayerful, thoughtful discernment driven by asking “How do we best live out the mission of Christ?”
  • These churches tend to be collaborative
  • The best thinking gets on the table, prayed over and then go in the best direction
  • Not about anyone getting their way.  It’s about discovering the best way (God’s Way)
  • Has an open and safe environment to put the best ideas on the table
  • Is developing a special maturity to remain focused on the purpose of the church.

So, take a look at your church.  Is it Preference Centered or Purpose Centered?

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