Many people have asked for my thoughts in the area of church growth. There are several things that must be in place for a church to be able to handle, receive, and maintain successful church growth.
First the church must have a solid vision from the leadership of where they would like to be in the future. The leadership must paint a picture that the people can envision. It must be one that is obtainable and one that everyone can support. A picture of where the church would like to be in one, five, and even ten years is a solid place to start. This should be a rallying point for the congregation. This should be a vision that is exciting and should inspire the members to carry out this mission of the congregation.
The second foundational item should be a mission. This should contain the specifics on how the congregation is going to reach the goals contained within the vision set forth by the leadership. When the congregation is on a mission, they can all pull in the same direction. It should produce a sense of unity and support. It allows the members to spur each other on in service to the Lord. This mission should contain the different ministries in which the church will be involved to make an impact within the community.
The idea is to have each member contributing something, anything toward the mission. These things are truly important to church growth because they reflect the church’s heart. They reflect the church’s attitude toward the lost, the poor, the down-trodden, and the marginalized. These attitudes affect how genuine and authentic our worship is and how genuine and authentic people perceive us when we are attempting to minister to them.
Most people can spot a fake from miles away. If we do not have a truly authentic relationship and desire to serve the Lord, people we will not respond to out outreach efforts. The foundation boils down to the church having a solid identity. They know who they are, where they are going, and have a good idea on how to get there.
Any ideas for events and programs must, therefore, be pliable and moldable in order to fit the congregation’s mission and vision. When these ideas produce solid results as far as generating guests, they must be welcomed into a community of believers. When we create community, growth comes by drawing those guests into that community of believers and turning them into solid disciples of Christ.
Unfortunately there is no “magic bullet” of church growth. Yet, when a congregation has a solid identity and a great focus, growth will be the natural byproduct of community service and outreach.
The last piece of this puzzle is a congregation’s ability to change their fishing nets, the way in which we attempt to reach others. The messages never changes. It is always, always the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But, our times and our culture changes very rapidly, thus our methods of delivering the message must change. To put it in fishing terms, you simply do not fish for catfish the same way you fish for bass or trout or marlin. It is surprising to me how many congregations want to use the same outreach methods that worked in 1955 and are astonished when they do not get the same positive results in 2014 – many times failing completely.
Recently, a congregation in the town in which we live held a tent revival. The event was well publicized. There were radio spots, flyers, banners, and guest speakers that went from congregation to congregation to plug the event. In the 50s and 60s this event may have been too crowded for everyone to get a seat. The event barely had one third of the chairs filled each night. The message did not change. The speakers were very good at delivering the message. The weather was nice. What went wrong? In 2014, we have internet streaming, DVDs, multiple television channels with religious programming, and many other avenues in which people can watch or listen to the message on their own time. Our information and technology flooded culture has become one where relationship trumps the event. People want to be cared for over informed. We must change our methods if we are to see long term success.
“On the one hand we are obligated to remain faithful to the unchanging Word of God. On the other hand we must minister in an ever-changing world.”
“Every church needs to grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through discipleship, stronger through through worship, and larger through evangelism.”
- Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church