I think being in seminary has caused me to think about things that are odd. Or maybe that all stems from eating paint when I was a kid or something (anybody else take all their stuffed animals outside and line them up as spectators to watch a grueling football game...played by myself, where I was the qb, running back, widereceiver and defense?)
Anyways, here's something I have been meandering around lately. Church Growth.
Guys who ate more paint than I did spend their whole lives studying and writing about this phenomenon. My mentor gave me some info from a conference he attended so I have highlighted some of the points from that conference as well as some of my own thoughts on the topic below.
The commonly held growth barriers in churches are 75, 200, 400, 1000, 2500. There are reasons for this such as group dynamic, leadership style and congregation mindset. For instance if you are in a church of 75 or 200, you might have high expectations of the pastor to offer care and visitation to all the people in the church. In a larger church, that becomes impossible and the call to pastoral care falls on the congregation (It should fall on the congregation regardless, but that's another post).
So typically a church hits a barrier and they flatline or plateau. They either make the necessary adaptations and grow or they stay stagnant until the other side of the plateau arrives. So how do we break through barriers? I'm glad you asked. Here's 5 keys that I think make this happen.
1. The Church Must WANT to grow
If a church likes the familial structure of a small church, then there is no chance of breaking growth barriers and increasing the size of the church. There is probably a place for familial churches, but generally, conversion is rare in a place like this and eventually the church will fizzle out. If the early church is any indication, numbers should be added to the church. Even if the pastor wants growth, the people have to want it and be willing to abandon the "way we've always done it" to make that happen.
2. The Role of the Pastor MUST Change
Generally speaking, this is how I have heard the role of the pastor differentiated between sizes of churches.
A.Shepherd (takes care of all the people)
B.Rancher (Oversees the work being done on the ranch and steps in where needed. Remains hands on)
C.Executive (I know I know...we've gone from the farm to the city...I don't write the stuff.) The Executive makes sure that the Ministry is happening and the church is functioning well in all areas...steps in where necessary.
D. CEO The CEO makes sure that the Vision is being enacted and coaches the key leaders to make sure they are doing what is necessary to succeed. In general the CEO does very little actual ministry but empowers the masses to do the ministry.
Some growth stunts because pastors are uncomfortable with adapting to a new model.
3. Leadership Training Must Be a Key Initiative
Teachers must be taught to teach effectively.
Ministry leaders must be empowered to empower their teams
Staff must be trained and focused on the vision and mission of the church.
Untrained and Immature leadership is like giving car keys to a 3 year old and expecting good results.
4. Staff must adapt from 'Doers' to 'Builders'
Coaches don't typically play in the game do they? They have to see the big picture and be able to effectively empower the teams to win. This is easier said than done, but a valuable lesson for staff is to let their key players fail. Bailing them out everytime they don't execute is not helpful in their growth as a leader.
5. Effective Small Group Ministry Must be the NORM
If the pastors are to be relieved from their role as primary care givers to the people, then things have to change. The pastor's time needs to be guarded so that they can deliver the Word of God on Sunday Mornings and catalyze leaders to bring about the vision of the church. Where will the care for the people come from then? It comes from small groups. If I am plugged into a small group of 8-12 believers who are intimately involved in my life, then when I have a surgery or a death of a loved one, a loss of a job, etc. I will be cared for. Discipleship takes place in this context more than any other. Too many Christians think that hearing the Word of God on Sunday mornings is sufficient for growth. This is not the case...it happens in intimate, authentic community.
Well there ya have it...5 Keys to Breaking Growth Barriers. I'm curious, if you are in a church, which of these 5 is going well or going...not so well? Are you stuck at a barrier?