Is Leadership a Question of Growth or Control?

The church has been on the front lines of some of the greatest humanitarian crises of the past few decades. The church has 2.3 billion people worldwide and is the biggest institution on the planet.

You might look at those numbers and ask yourself, “Why isn’t the church making a bigger impact in the world?”

I believe one reason is because the most creative people in our congregations must go outside of the church to start new ministries.

Why are they doing this?
Because the church wants to control them.

Instead of working within a church, many of these leaders form a 501(c)(3) to tackle the pressing issues of their communities. Today, there are tens of thousands of nonprofits in America doing what the church did for generations. We’ve structured these ministries right out of the church.

To broaden the ministry impact of your church, you will need to make the difficult choice to give up control.

You can choose control, or you can choose growth. But you can’t choose both.

Choosing growth over control means looking for ways to say yes when someone wants to start a new ministry. I believe most churches need to make it easier for people to start and serve in ministries, but this doesn’t mean I don’t believe there should be standards. I simply believe we shouldn’t bury new ministries with procedures and policies, or committees.

At Saddleback, anyone can start a ministry as long as:

1. They don’t expect the staff to run it. I call this the “You’re it” principle. When someone suggests we start a new ministry at Saddleback, I tell them, “Great. You’re it!”

You’re looking for people to own the ministries they’re suggesting; you’re not looking for people who expect someone else to do it. If a person has an idea for a ministry but doesn’t want to lead it, ask them to pray for God to inspire someone else to lead it. You won’t have a ministry without a minister.

2. It fits our church’s goals, strategy, and culture. Some ministries just won’t fit. If someone wanted to start a political ministry at Saddleback, it wouldn’t fit our culture or strategy. It’s not that we don’t believe elections are important. It’s just that a political ministry doesn’t fit our culture. You can give your people freedom without giving them a free pass.

3. It doesn’t harm the witness of the church. Failure happens in ministry. I don’t want to say no to a ministry just because it might fail. That’s choosing control over growth. In fact, a church without failure probably has too much control.

But failure that damages your church’s witness is a problem. It would confuse the people we’re trying to reach about what we believe and who we are. We can’t let that happen.

4. They don’t do any fund-raising for the ministry. We don’t allow any independent fund-raising for ministries at Saddleback. You simply don’t want every ministry in your church sending out appeal letters to your members. It’s chaos, and it’ll wear out your congregation.

You can’t have a unified church without a unified budget. You’ll have the best-marketed ministries getting the most funding, rather than the worthiest ones.

A huge reason why Saddleback has grown through the years is that we allow people to be as creative as they want to be when starting new ministries.

I could tell you story after story about the ministries started at Saddleback. Most of our 800 ministries weren’t started by staff members. They were started by people who saw a need and had a creative idea to meet it.

Celebrate Recovery® is probably our best and most well-known example. No one on staff started it. Instead, we received a 13-page letter by John Baker, a layman in our church. He told us about his own journey with alcoholism and his vision to start a Christ-centered recovery ministry.

Today that ministry reaches far beyond Saddleback. There are more than 35,000 churches around the world with Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery step studies have helped more than 5 million people worldwide.

All of that has happened because God inspired a layman to start a ministry in a church where we choose growth over control.

What could happen if your church did the same?

Questions for Self-Evaluation

  • Do you have more volunteers now than you did a year ago? Why or why not?
  • How many volunteer-led ministries does your church have?
  • Do your volunteer leaders have the freedom to fail? When was the last time that happened?
  • If a volunteer wanted to start a ministry, how long would it take? Have you defined a simple process?
  • Specifically, how is your church caring for—not just equipping—your leaders?

> Read more from Rick.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Keys to Cultivating an Environment of Growth

When it comes to faith, it’s our job as leaders to make what is intangible and supernatural, practical and assessable. That’s not easy.

In a rapidly changing culture where the Bible is an option to as many as it is the inerrant Word of God, it’s challenging to create an environment of abiding faith in Jesus.

An environment that cultivates faith is rooted in the gospel, evangelism, and prayer. Ultimately it champions and results in life change.

The idea is to create an environment where people in all stages of a relationship with God, sense a grace-filled invitation to pursue faith. From agnostic (even atheist) to those who have been to church but have become disenfranchised and have fallen away.

It also includes mature Christians who have faith but desire greater faith. For example, maybe moving their prayer life from routine to believing for a miracle. Again, it’s not easy to reach this diverse of a crowd all at the same time.

The process of spiritual understanding and maturation is not a fast one. We lead toward “decisions” and that is good, but in the end, process and practices grow faith one day at a time over a lifetime.

It’s not wise to try to shortcut this process. That’s not a lack of evangelistic zeal; it’s a realization that faith can’t be rushed. Allow the Holy Spirit to move and give him the time and space required.

Cultivating a faith environment:

1) Communicate hope.

Developing faith is difficult for people in a culture that does not intuitively trust God or is at least inconsistent in their trust of God.

Let them know that even though you fully believe and trust God, there are times of uncertainty. Yet at the same time, you know that God is present, active, faithful and loves you unconditionally.

This helps establish your credibility to then communicate your hope and faith in their better future.

Essentially, your faith rubs off! It’s contagious. They see you as real and begin to believe they can experience hope for a better future too. (This is obviously not limited to a Sunday morning worship experience.)

2) Demonstrate acceptance and lean into the Gospel.

Faith is at the center of the four gospel accounts, along with love.

One of the most recognizable verses of all time is John 3:16..

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

The foundation of the gospel is unconditional love. Only faith (belief) is required.

The next verse is not quoted nearly as often but is vitally instructive in this process.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17

God accepts each person as they are, and it’s our great privilege and responsibility to do the same in our churches. It’s only after initially trusting God that there is an appropriate challenge to grow in their faith.

3) Make faith challenges doable.

For those that experience the miraculous early on in their faith development, that’s great, but that may not be the pattern over decades to come. Therefore, a consistent and steady pursuit of faith is often best over the long haul.

What can you believe God will do? That’s a helpful question. That’s not the same as, “What do you believe God can do?” The first reveals a person’s faith, the second reveals a person’s understanding of who God is.

You know God can do anything, because of your knowledge and relationship with Him. In short, your maturity. There are many in your church who cannot yet grasp this concept.

For example, can they trust Him with their marriage, their money, or their job? Anyone of those can be overwhelming.

This isn’t about dumbing down God to our level; it’s about helping believers rise to understand and embrace the fullness of God.

4) Emphasize do’s over don’ts.

It’s true that the Scriptures contain numerous things we should not do, and we can’t ignore that instruction. However, a steady diet of mostly “thou shall not’s”, defeats faith and discourages progress.

First, in the natural realm, the person gives up on their ability to live up to the standards of a growing faith and Christian maturity.

Second, they can become discouraged that a Christian lifestyle is just not achievable, even with God’s help.

A balance of admonition and encouragement is important, but the presence and power of the Holy Spirit has a way of increasing what is pleasing to God, and slowly eliminating the things that break His heart.

5) Tell stories that inspire faith.

Few things are more inspiring than real stories of people engaging their faith.

Tell stories and show video interviews of people trusting God with their money, trusting God with their time (serving), and of course salvation.

Baptism stories are among my favorites. In one minute, you catch a glimpse of someone’s early faith story. There is nothing more powerful, more captivating, or that cultivates faith better than a fresh conversion story followed by a live baptism!

And when you also add in stories of marriages that have been restored, addictions that have been broken, and physical sickness that has been healed, faith increases for nearly everyone.


This is not a comprehensive list, but it can serve as a helpful guideline or conversation starter to evaluate if your church environment is what you want it to be.

It’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of ministry, and you may risk missing the heart of your purpose. I hope that this post may help you process the very thing you are passionate about!

> Read more from Dan.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

These Kinds of Slow Growth are Actually Healthier

Every church has a pace built into the culture of its people. Some churches move more slowly. Some move more quickly. While most established churches likely need to pick up the pace, a slow pace does not necessarily mean the church is complacent.

Complacent churches are self-satisfied and are unwilling to address problems. Unfortunately, far too many churches are complacent. But don’t confuse complacency with a slow pace. Some congregations are willing to move forward; it just takes them a little longer. A few factors may influence the slow pace of a church.

The community may move at a slower pace. The church is simply reflecting the greater culture of the community. For example, rural communities tend to change less quickly. A church that moves too quickly in a slow-moving farming community may actually become less relevant.

A slow pace may point to stability, not entrenchment. It’s hard to move rapidly and also be stable. Slow-moving stability can be better for some church cultures. The downside of this pattern is it can create ruts of entrenchment, but it doesn’t have to be the case. When used strategically, stability can advance discipleship, sacrificial giving, and equipping—none of which point to complacency.

Leaders may guide the church methodically. Not every leader is designed to push forward with intensity. Not every church needs a hard-charging pastor full of ambition and ideas. Some church leaders plod thoughtfully, with intention and strategy. Plodding leaders are not complacent leaders.

The season of a church may necessitate a slower pace. When a church needs to heal, it almost always needs to slow down. A church may go through months, if not years, of a slower pace. This intentional slowdown may be the opposite of complacency. It could be the problem is the fast pace.

Passion is not always fast. Restoring an antique car takes time. It’s a painstaking process. The slowness of the restoration process is a sign of passion, not complacency or apathy. The same principle applies to the church. Pastors who revitalize churches may move slowly, but it’s an indicator of their passion and love for the church, not a mark of complacency.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming all slow-moving churches are complacent. In fact, many established churches require plodding leaders who are willing to take the time to revitalize them. These pastors are passionate, not complacent.

> Read more from Sam.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Rainer III

Sam serves as lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research, and he is the co-founder/co-owner of Rainer Publishing. His desire is to provide answers for better church health. Sam is author of the book, Obstacles in the Established Church, and the co-author of the book, Essential Church. He is an editorial advisor/contributor at Church Executive magazine. He has also served as a consulting editor at Outreach magazine. He has written over 150 articles on church health for numerous publications, and he is a frequent conference speaker. Before submitting to the call of ministry, Sam worked in a procurement consulting role for Fortune 1000 companies. Sam holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from the University of South Carolina, an M.A. in Missiology from Southern Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The 3-Step Formula for Multiplication

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”  2 Timothy 2:2

What qualifies someone to teach others? Advanced biblical training?  Theological degrees? Titles?

Anyone can teach.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  Acts 4:13

One of the major reasons why we are not seeing multiplication in our churches is because we are teaching people to do what we think they need to do instead of what we ourselves are doing.

STEP 1: Figure Out What You Are Doing

Recently, in an effort to equip our preachers to write sermon series, I had to sit down and figure out the process I followed to write sermon series.  Something I had been doing for years needed to be translated so that someone else could do what I had been doing.  That is, if I wanted to share the wealth.

STEP 2: Name It

Put down the process in terms that someone can understand.

STEP 3: Share It

Give it away.  Paul tells young Timothy to “entrust it” to reliable people.  Let others try.  Show them what you wrote down.  Better yet, show them, let them watch you.  Then, let them try, and you watch.

Here’s the thing I’m learning about multiplication:  everything can be taught using this 3-step Formula.

Here’s a rapid-fire-off-the-top-of-my-head list:  Managing finances (at church and at home), praying out loud, having a “quiet time”, engaging in conversations with strangers, riding a bike, choosing healthy foods at the grocery store, exercising, setting the table (at church and at home), cleaning up after dinner (at church and at home), reading the Bible, preaching, teaching, running a backyard VBS, video editing, worship leading, being able to recognize how God is working, prayer walking, serving in the community, sales, cooking…

Now, an assignment:  Name one area in your leadership (at church or at home) today that you would like to give away/ share with someone else.  Once you’ve identified it, try out the three step formula.

1) Figure out what you are doing.

2) Name it.

3) Share it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer

I am Jeff Meyer, and I start fires. Ever since that basketball game in college when I came off the bench and lit a spark for my team, I have carried the nickname "Fire Meyer." (Until that point in my career my jersey #22 never saw the floor in an actual game. Perhaps the #22 was a symbol of my life calling: 2 Timothy 2:2?) I live to see sparks ignited and connections made. I long to see the church wake up and live. I long to see Jesus-followers display passionate commitment to Jesus. Jesus' invitation to follow Him was an adventure of epic proportions. Can we recapture that today? I long to see communities transformed into healthy places of wholeness. I believe that communities are transformed when Jesus-followers are stoked and respond. Perhaps you've heard it said that the church is the hope of the world. I believe that a responsive Jesus-follower is the hope of the world. "Igniting connections" is my way of setting off some inspirational sparks; sparks that ignite a passionate response to the call of Jesus.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Keys to Unleashing Your Church’s Growth Potential

Have you ever been to the circus and wondered how one small rope tied around the leg of a huge elephant can keep it from moving? When elephants are young, their handlers use the same size rope tied to their leg, with the other end tied to a rod buried deep in the ground. At that age, since they are still small, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow larger, the elephants become conditioned to believe that when they feel the rope around their leg, they cannot get away, so they never try to break free. Because they believe they can’t, they remain right where they are. They’re going nowhere.

Unfortunately, that same mindset is keeping some churches from experiencing the growth potential that many church leaders long for. When a church starts out, the lack of resources keeps most churches on a tight leash. However, as the church grows, many leaders fail to take the time to think strategically through the growth. Eventually, this leaves the church leader feeling a lot like the 5 ton elephant, realizing their potential, but unable to go anywhere.

If your church is stuck in a place where you can’t seem to break through to reach the vision you have for your church, here are three keys for moving forward:

1. Set aside time to evaluate where you are in relation to your expanding vision.

As your church grows, you have to be intentional about continually asking if what you’re doing is right and best. If you don’t understand the important ministry metrics to measure and keep the results of your ministry in front of you, you’ll never have the guarantee that what you’re doing is working.

 2. Develop an understanding for how your processes and systems work. 

While focusing on the weekend experience is very important, it’s not enough to engage people in real relationships and authentic community. None of this just happens; there must be a method behind what you want to accomplish. Having an understanding for how your processes and systems work can help you make the right adjustments as your ministries continue to grow.

3. Don’t be afraid to test your limits.

Unlike the elephant, you know you have an opportunity to break free. While getting from where you are to where you want to be might take time, you’ll never get there unless you take the first step. The key is understanding what steps to take and how far you should step out.

These are just a few of the ideas covered by Carl Adams in his eBook Is Your Church an Elephant?If you want to understand how your church can break free from the leash that’s keeping you from running wild and how technology helps cut your free, you can download the eBook here.

 Has your church reached a place where you feel tied up? What are you doing to break free?

Read more from Church Community Builder here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Church Community Builder

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Four Ways Your Church Can Break Attendance Barriers

Almost anytime I mention numbers related to church life, I anticipate some responses about the value of numbers and congregations. In the 1980s, this type of discussion came primarily from more liberal churches that weren’t growing. Some of these leaders felt that declining membership and attendance was likely a sign of health. The members who really cared about the church were the ones who remained. They could make the biggest difference without the more nominal members remaining as obstacles.

Today, it is not unusual for me to hear from more conservative church leaders that declining church numbers may be a good sign because it is an indication that the numbers reflect true regenerate members. But, for the purpose of this brief article, let’s assume that attendance growth is a positive indicator. Presumably more people are hearing the gospel and being discipled when a church is growing.

It is in that context that I hear almost every week from church leaders whose churches seem stuck at some level of attendance: 100, 200, 500, 800, and so on. I even got a call a year ago from a church where the pastor was concerned that attendance was stuck at 7,000!

After 25 years of consulting and researching local congregations, I have found four common approaches churches take to break attendance barriers regardless of size. There are certainly more than four possibilities, but allow me to evaluate these four more common approaches.

1. Create new groups.

These groups may be home groups, small groups that meet in coffee houses, Sunday school classes, ministry groups, and others. Church leaders are intentional about creating groups on an ongoing basis. They typically have goals for the number of groups they start.

Evaluation: Frankly, I have seen great success with this strategy (and recently wrote about this strategy). I would speculate that as many as eight out of ten churches that strategically create new groups grow to new attendance levels. The mystery to me is why most churches don’t have this strategy.

2. Create new worship services.

A church moves from one service to two, or from two to three, or even more. The move is typically precipitated by one or more services running out of space.

Evaluation: Most of the time the new service does aid the church in breaking attendance barriers. But, keep in mind, the church was most likely growing already until it ran out of space. The new service simply takes the lid off so the church can continue to grow. I would caution a church, however, about moving to an additional worship service if it’s not already in a growth mode. The worship center can seem vacuous if one non-growing group is split into two non-growing groups.

3. Create new venues.

This principle is similar to adding worship services, but the church uses a different facility for the new service. That new facility may actually be a new campus. It may be an ethnic service meeting in the church facilities in a different room than the worship center. It may be a merged church from another location. The possibilities are many.

Evaluation: The results thus far are positive. As a church adds a new venue, there is a natural increase in attendance. The multi-campus form of this new venue is growing in use and popularity with mostly good results. We are still a few years away from being able to measure the mid-term impact of new venues on growth. I would be willing to speculate that the results will be very positive.

4. Have a major event.

The church’s strategy is to have one or more events that will create sufficient excitement for members to invite those who aren’t attending church. That event may be tied to a major holiday such as Easter, Fourth of July, or Christmas. It may be tied to a significant tradition in a church. The plan is to get people to attend who would not regularly attend.

Evaluation: I have studied a few hundred churches that use the big event as their major growth strategy, and the results are not good. Attendance tends to rise for a few weeks on and after the event, but then it settles down to previous patterns. Churches can spend a lot of money on big events, but I hardly ever see a church break an attendance barrier consistently, even with those large amounts of resources dedicated to it.

What successful approaches have you seen to break attendance barriers? What do you think of these approaches I have highlighted? Why do churches not create new groups regularly and strategically when it has proven to be the most effective method for growth and for breaking attendance barriers?

Read more from Thom here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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COMMENTS

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Wes — 07/11/13 10:11 am

Thank you for sharing this wonderful article. It is both interesting and timely for our congregation. We are a congregation that has hovered around the 600 attendance mark for many years. Our worship center was at about 80% capacity (but it had been for a long time). We finally made the decision to split into two services. The problem was, however, that we were not already in the growth mode. We created two non-growing services. We moved back to one service for the summer, because of the travel schedules of so many folks, but now we are wondering how to proceed. Should we create a smaller simulcast service within our existing building instead of going back to a second service? Should we explore off campus venues? We are struggling with these questions right now. In other words, we are butting up against that ceiling, and we are searching for a way through.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Measuring Ministry Progress in Your Church, Part 2: Attendance

Numbers matter to God, because people matter to God.

 

In a previous post I introduced the importance of measuring progress in ministry. Today we look at the measurement of attendance.

Measuring weekly attendance at church is the perhaps the easiest measurement to make, because it’s as easy as doing a head count.

From week to week, you can see if more or less people are coming to church, and compare these numbers over time.

Although there is a reluctance in some circles to talk about attendance numbers, more people coming to church and hearing the gospel is a good thing. (Perhaps this speaks more to the Australian culture than other cultures, but a church that is growing doesn’t feel to be ashamed, nor do others need to assume that a church that is growing has compromised and ceased preaching the gospel).

As Perry Noble explains:

“Every number has a name, every name has a story, every story matters to God.”

Numbers matter to God, because people matter to God. You only need to look at the parable of the lost sheep to see that individuals matter to God (and particularly those who are lost).

Of course, small attendance in and of itself doesn’t indicate a problem. Likewise, declining attending church doesn’t necessarily raise alarm bells – perhaps you’re preaching the gospel more clearly and it’s offending people and they’re leaving.

Why aren’t more people coming to church?

However, if fewer people are coming to church, it’s worth asking the question – why?

  • Has the church stopped praying for growth and for people to be saved?
  • Have people stopped inviting their friends?
  • Is the preacher getting lazy and preparing poorly?
  • Is the preaching addressing only a certain group of people (I recall a pastor at a previous church who only gave illustrations about his children – not great when the majority of the church were teenagers!).
  • Is the church building so full that people don’t think there’s room for them?.

There are good questions to ask when attendance starts to decline.

3 reasons to be cautious about increased attendance

On the flip side, increasing numbers in attendance need to be viewed with caution for at least 3 reasons:

  1. Transfer growth. Church attendance can increase as Christians migrate from another church. There are good reasons for church migration (moved to the area, no kids ministry in their church, etc.), but if this is the primary reason a church is growing, it’s not healthy. At the heart of church growth should be new people (the unchurched and the dechurched) coming to hear the good news about Jesus. An increase in attendance because of transfer growth isn’t necessarily a reason to celebrate.
  2. Back door departures. The number of people in attendance needs to be considered along with the number of people leaving. If attendance levels are high, but there is also a large number of people leaving the church, the church is obviously attracting new people, but failing to keep them (or attracting at the expense of longer-term members). In this case, an increase in attendance isn’t necessarily a reason to celebrate either, if the back door is just as wide as the front door.
  3. Frequency of attendance. Similar to the point above, attendance levels can be increasing if lots of new people are coming, but this must be considered along with the frequency with which members are attending church. On average, are members coming more regularly – 2 out of 4 Sundays, 3 out of 4 Sundays, or even 4 out of 4 Sundays? Or are they attending less frequently? High attendance from newcomers can mask a problem of members not being committed to church.

That said, attendance is a great starting measurement, and one that every pastor I have spoken with is using. I suggest breaking down this measure into the following:

  • Measurement #1. The number of adults and children at church this weekend.
  • Measurement #2.  The number of adults and children who attended church this weekend, who aren’t currently attending another church.
  • Measurement #3. The frequency of attendance of members (how many Sundays in a month the average member is at church). To measure this, you need to be using a church member database that enables you to mark the ‘roll’ each week. We use Elvanto at Church by the Bridge.
  • Measurement #4. The number of people who were attending, but aren’t any more (i.e. have been officially removed from the church roll).
  • Measurement #5. The number of unidentified regular attenders. This is helpful for putting on the agenda follow up of people who have been coming for a while, but who are unknown and not yet connected.

Reviewing these numbers over time is more helpful than comparing from week to week. Like political polls, the numbers go up and down, but its the trends over time that are worth looking at.

As Al Stewart explains:

“You don’t grow week to week, you grow year by year…comparing the same months of different years, will give you a proper picture of what is happening”.

Read Part 1 of this series here.

Read more from Steve here.

 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Kryger

Steve Kryger

I don’t deserve it, but I’ve been redeemed by Jesus. I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for all God has done for me, and it’s my privilege to serve Him. I am the Executive Pastor at Church by the Bridge in Kirribilli, Australia. Prior to serving at Church by the Bridge, I worked as a marketing manager in Canberra, as well as a social media specialist.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

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