Mission Article: Errors in Thinking That Stunt Church Growth

By  Charles Stone September 23, 2019

Watch out for these “thinkholes” taken from Will Mancini’s book, ‘Church Unique.’

My first degree, industrial engineering, taught me to think systematically, which has in turn benefited my pastoral leadership. Since then I’ve read many books on church planning and been certified through Ministry Advantage and Auxano, two strategic planning/pastoral coaching organizations. I’ve also led three churches where I’ve served through a year-long strategic planning process. So, I’m well versed and trained in the church visioning/planning process.

Yet, of all the books I’ve read on strategic planning, Will Mancini’s book, Church Unique is the best. In his chapter called “Lost on the Way to Your Own DNA,” he lists subtle thinking patterns that can hinder church growth. He calls these patterns “thinkholes.” I’ve listed them here with brief definitions.


1. The ministry treadmill: busyness eliminates time for reflection.
Leads to just adding more programs.

2. The competency trap: presumption that past methods will continue to work decreases appetite for learning.
Leads to just working harder.

3. The need based slippery slope: consumerism removes the need for discernment.
Leads to trying to make people happy.

4. The cultural whirlpool 1: BuzzChurch—innovation short circuits self-awareness.
Leads to just trying to be cutting edge.

5. The cultural whirlpool 2: StuckChurch—change outpaces the discipline for learning.
Leads to glorifying the past.

6. The conference maze: success increases the temptation to copycat.
Leads to simply modeling best practices.

7. The denominational rut: resources disregard local uniqueness.
Leads to just protecting theology.


Charles Stone is lead pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada. He is the author of six books including his most recent, Every Pastor’s First 180 Days: How to Start and Stay Strong in a New Church Job (Equip Press, 2019).