I’m Minneapolis for month 3 of 6 with the EFCA. They’ve given me and 10 other pastors the opportunity to sit with some great leaders in order to evaluate where our churches are and how to effectively lead them into the future. A more exhaustive look can be found here, here, here, here, & here.
Alright, this session is called Breaking Growth Barriers. And it’s going to be long. So come back when you have time. I’ve tried to break it up under headers for easier reading in one sitting. Also, you can take it bite sized chunks. Now, I know, trust me I know, this topic can be controversial. I don’t want to go there in this blog. Feel free to push back in the comments and ask questions. I’d love to talk through this with ya’ll. But I’m going to resist to go into all of the nuances here. Instead, I’ll take on the role of reporter and simply summarize the discussion we’re having for you to follow. Fair?
A Foundational Assumption of the Session
The leaders of the session and the training is working on the assumption that healthy churches grow numerically. There are periods of plateau and decline, but the trend should be numerical growth.
With the evaluation of church history and of the experience of many church leaders has emerged this term called “growth barriers”. These are places, things, or season where churches get “stuck” or “stalled” in their numerical growth. These barriers can be anything from lack of effective systems, leadership, sin, meeting space, culture shift, and/or inward focus. The most common barrier is 200 people.
I personally have been aware of this term and way of thinking for a decade now. I’ve had tons of questions and dialogue with folks on both sides whether or not this is valid, biblical, or helpful. So, rest assured that I’ve thought deeply on this and continue to think about “growth barriers.” This isn’t new revelation, but I share this with you in order to get you informed.
Next, we’ll address thoughts/tools that “experienced leaders”, who have broken through barriers, have discovered are helpful and useful to pass on those who come to the barriers.
Change Your Focus
Ed Stetzer, a missiologist, who I greatly respect, says that churches that break through growth barriers focused on two groups: leaders and folks who don’t know Jesus. In regards to leadership, if the growth barrier will be overcome, the leadership will either change or be replaced. So, focus your time, energy, and resources on developing godly leaders and reaching unbelievers with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Less time needs to go toward maintaining status quo.
This brings with it the idea that every member needs to be engaged in the work of the ministry. Not just paid staff, not just visible leaders, but everyone. This is deeply rooted biblically. Eph 4 is a slam dunk teaching on this. Many leaders, don’t trust the membership do the ministry and put to much on a select few to do everything.
Hire Additional Staff
Crew is 150. The average size of the American church is 100 folks. Why? This seems to be the number of people one pastor can reasonably lead. Therefore a single staffed church is a bottleneck to growth. Now, obviously, the tension is that most churches of 100 can’t paid two dudes. A healthy rule of thumb is that 50% of the church’s budget should be invested in staff. I don’t know who’s rule or who’s thumb but that’s out there. Crew is just under that 50%. Crew invest about $4k into staff with a budget of a little over $8k.
Again, let me emphasize, there is debate over such things, but the materials and coaches here counsel that a church must take a plunge and hire staff rather than wait until you grow to need it. In their words, “You will never be able to afford additional staff for growth”. But you still staff for growth, not staff when there’s growth. The theory is that bringing on that staff will grow the number of the church that will increase the $$ and then pay for the staff. I think I just felt some of you shudder. Another option is to raise the money for the staff salary above and beyond your budget through saving or a campaign.
Begin Multiple Worship Services
Not sure this applies to Crew and our massive space right now. The corporate worship gathering is the front door for many folks into the church community. So, the space in which corporate worship happens can hinder growth.
A church should consider doing an additional worship service when the following things are 80% full: (1) seating capacity, (2) parking space, (3) kids space. If that’s happening then start another gathering. Also, this should follow hiring additional staff. And both service should have at least 100 in each of them. A great benefit to your current members who serve in kid’s ministry will be that they can serve the church and never miss worship. They can serve in one service and worship in the other.
Manage the Room
Now we’re really going to jack some of you out. This is the layout of the gathering space. I told you this is a pragmatic session. So relax. This greatly affects the “mood” or “vibe” of the room. Here are the tips:
- Set up fewer chairs than you need. You want it to feel full regardless of size. This also can build morale and excitement when you add chairs.
- Curved rows with plenty of space between. This adds warmth and avoids a feeling of institutionalization. It also allows space to move. You don’t want folks squeeze and bump into one another.
Walk through the Facility
Over time, members will become accustomed to negatives about the space. We don’t even notice, the smell, the burned out lights, and the dirty carpet. Newbies will notice and it can communicate poor values.
Pay Attention to the Kid’s Ministry
Families will struggle being a part of a church that doesn’t value their kids. Parents and kids want a worship environment and community that kids want to participate in, equips parents/kids to grow, and are safe. If you reach kids, you reach parents. It’s a exponential investment into people.
Well, there you go. That’s what’s been going on here. We’ll continue to pray, talk through, and plan with this information in front of us. Feel free to comment and give a take. I’d love to know.