Monday, May 25, 2015

Two Secrets To Growing A Church

9 ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ Matthew 22:9 (NASB95)
     Our family was entertaining new acquaintances for dinner. Before they arrived we told our three-year-old, Reggie, to be on his best behavior. When he questioned us, we explained, "We're having special company for dinner. You'll like them."
     Reggie, scrubbed and mannerly, joined us at the dinner table. Immediately after the blessing, he said in a loud voice, "Would you please pass the company? My mom says I will really like them." – Betty Bishop, Hampton, Florida. Christian Reader, "Kids of the Kingdom."
While never an expert on the subject, I have long been interested in the topic of church growth. I have read many of the books written both by researchers and scholars, and by those who have managed to grow large, successful churches. I have worked with more than one church that experienced measurable success in growing from a small handful to a much larger congregation. I have a personal friend who earned his Ph.D. in church growth who used to often call to talk about what we were doing, and I’m sure he used some of the insights I shared with him to become a recognized expert in the field. I say all that, not to brag, but to let you know that I think I know at least a few things about what goes into growing a church.

I have also come to some conclusions about why churches do not grow. One of the biggest reasons is that churches do not want to grow, and worse, they actually resist growing.

I know it sounds strange, but I’m convinced it is true. One of the fastest growing churches I’ve worked with had this problem. We started with 55 people, counting my wife, our two children, and myself. In about two years, we grew to around 200, having baptized more than 70 people. But one day, that original 50 or so folks woke up and realized, “It’s not our church anymore!” There were more new people than we had started with, and the new people had now become the leaders and the ones deciding on the direction of the church and how we did things. That realization in the minds of the original group was the beginning of the end. We moved within the next year, and with two years after that, the church was back to almost exactly the original 55 people.

For a church to really grow, it cannot be afraid to grow, and it must be willing to bring new leadership on board, new ideas, new projects. It’s not that the original group must be replaced, but the original group must be willing to adapt and move with the “newness” happening in the church.

I have also come to believe that there is one thing that all growing churches have in common. You can find all sorts of variables in growing churches that differ from one church to another, but a small number seems to remain common to all of them.

For example, all growing churches are churches where the members bring people to church. Show me a church where that doesn’t happen, I’ll show you a church that doesn’t grow. Show me a church where the members consistently and constantly bring friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc., to worship with them, I’ll show you a church that grows.

In fact, this might be, at leas in my mind, the single most important factor to make a church grow. Members must bring in the new growth. That’s exactly what happened in the church I wrote about above. We grew because our members brought people to church.

The challenge to us is obvious. First, we need to be aware that we might be afraid to grow, or that we’re resisting growth. Second, we need to realize that if our church is going to grow, we have to bring people to church. Those two factors, one negative and one positive, just might do wonders if we handle them correctly.

That first one requires some deep soul-searching and a willingness in our current membership to change. The second requires some purposeful action from our members to bring visitors.