Carol Howard Merritt writing in Christian Century discusses when clergy do not always need to take the blame for church decline:
One afternoon when I was completely stressed out about some criticism I received from my congregation, another minister took me to lunch. She asked me about the history of the congregation and helped me sort out some of their past traumas. Then she drew a clear line between their painful stories, the distrust that formed in the community, and the complaints about me.
After her analysis, she gave me an assignment. She told me to look in the mirror every morning before work and say, “This is not about me.”
It was true that the criticisms seemed have a direct tie to things that happened in the past. But I couldn’t quite practice the exercise–partly because I’m too quick to accept blame, and partly because I want to have the humility to acknowledge when I’m wrong. But, there was another reason I didn’t want to relinquish the responsibility. I also knew that if the criticisms weren’t “about me,” then I wouldn’t have as much power to change the situation and make it better.
Right now, there are a lot of pastors who ought to be looking in the mirror and chanting “it’s not all about me.” For many mainline congregations, our church cultures flourished in the early 1960s. They were often formed by and geared toward the “greatest generation” or the “builders.” We were often white and upper-middle class.