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Archive for the ‘How to grow a church’ Category

God gives the growth, so the key church growth strategy is – pray, Pray, PRAY!

from flickr by insearchofbalance

from flickr by insearchofbalance

And at the same time –

– maintain the most important balance in church life – between a church that grows its members, and one that reaches out to those outside the church.

It’s hard. Hardly anyone will complain because the church backs off from outreach, but people feel the effect of a focus away from pastoral care. Hence, most churches spend almost their entire budget – their dollars, their staff time, their gifted people – on growth programs for their own members, not outreach programs. How many churches even have an outreach / evangelism budget?

So how do you maintain a balance. There are 2 keys, it seems to me.

The first is to define the How very carefully, and then have no other programs than these! This means that there will be a cap on the growth programs, so that ministry expansion will be in the area of outreach.

And second, define Christian growth as including outreach, so that there is actually no competition between the 2. At CCIW, we do this by saying that one of the means of grace (how a Christian grows) is extending a gracious witness to unbelievers. This incorporates an impetus to outreach in the what it means to be a growing Christian.

But – and I think this is important – it recognises that there is a gap between a person’s individual witness and the church’s outreach programs. They are distinct things, and shouldn’t be confused or conflated, although clearly they will also be related, in that part of how people extend a gracious witness will be to bring mates / colleagues / relatives to outreach events. But they need to be kept distinct.

So, how’s the balance in your part of the world?

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Strangely, I don’t think vision / mission / strategy is the place to start – but it has to be near the top.

Once you get that a church only does 5 things, it’s time to articulate with laser clarity answers to 2 questions:

  • what is the mission of the church – the what
  • what is the strategy of the church – the how.

These are 2 distinct things. I say that with some fear and trepidation, since in the otherwise spectacularly helpful book Simple Church, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger say they should be the same thing. But I think that’s a mistake. (Not one that is a deal breaker for the rest of the book – we could all do with being much more Simple churches!)

The What (mission) is a statement of what a person will be once all the doing has been done, after they have been reached out to, assimilated, and grown, what are they? What is the goal of all the stuff that the church does? What is it it trying to effect?

At CCIW, we say that that what the whole deal is shooting for is people who are growing more and more into fully devoted children of God, who know, love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, his church and his world, in the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father. That’s our what. You ask us what we’re on about, it’s that.

But there is a second question – the How. Once a person has heard the gospel, come to Christ in faith, and been included in the fellowship of his disciples while we await his return, how do they grow? By what means does someone grow more and more into that particular kind of person?

At CCIW we have answered the How question. It is the 5 ‘means of grace’ – to quote the BCP – that grow a Christian: Corporate worship, a rich devotional life, joyous fellowship, serving in ministry, extending a gracious witness.

The answer to this question is absolutely crucial. Why? Because it seems to me that one of the single most important factors in growing a church is to make sure that the structure of the church’s growth programs reflect precisely the convictions you have about how people grow – otherwise, they simply won’t gain traction.

So, do you know your What and your How? And perhaps more importantly, could I tell your How from the structure of your programs?

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Growing as church is different from planting a church. Without knowing how to grow, church plants soon turn into frustrated plateaued churches.

So, how do churches grow?

First, second and third, it is the Lord who gives the growth. Nothing, not even our prayers alter this basic foundational, sanity-preserving reality. We are in the Lord’s hands, and those are safe hands – they are full of grace and truth.

And at the same time, the truth of the sovereignty of God is distorted if we allow it to disrupt responsibility, creativity and sheer hard work – the Apostle Paul never made that mistake (1 Cor 3.10-17, Eph 4.1-16, Phil 2.12-13, Col 1.28-29).

So, how do we lead churches to growth.

We pray. We pray. We pray.

From flickr by Fi in Eden

From flickr by Fi in Eden

And, it seems to me that the next step is to realise that churches only do 3 things. This is a crucial realisation, since it enables effort to be channelled effectively. What do churches do?

  1. Outreach
  2. Assimilation
  3. Growth of members

That’s it.

There are 2 other factors that are relevant. Communities that gather, by nature have an infrastructure and a superstructure. The infrastructure is the way that resources – money, property, staff in particular – are deployed, and the degree of alignment between that infrastructure and the church’s mission. And the superstructure is the culture – the relational glue that holds the community together.

So, crucial to growing a church is to get the fact that there are only these 5 things going on – outreach, assimilation, growth, undergirded by good deployment of resources, in a culture of grace – and do them well.

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