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Leadership, Leadership, Start Here
Has your church stopped growing? Is it plateaued? Is it in decline? Carey Nieuwhof suggests you ask yourself some tough questions. 1. Is your sense of mission white hot? Effective, growing churches have a white hot sense of mission that is all consuming.  Many times churches that have stopped growing have lost the urgency of their mission. 2. Are you focused on unchurched people or yourselves? Carey talks about the gravitational pull of any church being toward insiders, not outsiders. To address this, you need to base your decisions and focus on who you want to reach, not who you want to keep. 3.  Has your strategy or approach become dated? What got you here won’t necessarily get you there. Maybe your strategy has sopped be effective. 4. Are you on top of the constant change in our culture? Everything’s changing. Rapidly. Are you relating to the people you are trying to reach? 5. When was the last time you personally invited someone to church? Yeouch. Carey says: If almost no one at your church knows any unchurched people, it’s no mystery why your church isn’t growing. Read more here. Thoughts? todd
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Leadership, Leadership, Start Here

Karl Vater has an interesting article at Christian Today today on “How to Tell if a Small Church is Strategic or Stuck).

One of his points is that some churches are ‘small for a while’.  Vater writes:

This is the spot most small church pastors think they’re in. I know I did. For over two decades in three different churches I thought serious growth was just around the corner. It was a long corner.

As it turned out, my church was small for much more than a while (it still is), so we started being intentional about it.

But some small churches are only small for a while. The problem is, no one knows how long that will last. So here’s my suggestion.

While you’re a small church, be a great small church. Don’t put all your energy into growth. Work on health. It’s better to become a healthy church that grows than an unhealthy one that grows, right?

If your church is small right now, but is being healthy during the time you’re small, you’re not stuck, you’re strategic.

Most churches in America are small.

There are 300,000 churches in America.  If every person in America went to church this Sunday, each church would only have just over 1000 people in attendance.

That’s a LOT of churches.

And a LOT of small churches.

I agree with Vater that most pastors think their church will only be small for a while.

And most never turn the corner from small to ‘larger’ (whatever that means).

We’ve equated small churches many time with words like unhealthy, stagnant, dying, or stuck.

And we sure have our share of those kinds of churches.

But we also have a bunch of churches that are healthy, pastored by a guy (or gal) that feels guilty that their church is small.

That’s too bad.

Small isn’t necessarily bad, as Vater says, if you’re healthy.

And that’s the problem for many of us (myself included) many times.

Can a church remain small and truly be ‘healthy’?

If people are consistently being introduced to Jesus, shouldn’t the numbers grow?

And if people are being discipled to be more like Jesus, shouldn’t that spark some semblance of evangelism and growth?

In many churches, growth is happening, but the numbers don’t show it.  More people are simply moving away than moving in. Sometime you have to grow 20% to grow 10% on paper. The growth chart looks to be stagnant.

On the other side, some churches are so inwardly focused on growing deep that they ignore that world they are called to reach. They think they’re healthy… and I would tend to differ.

So… how do you describe a healthy church?  What makes a church healthy?

And have you spent time feeling guilty just because your church is ‘small’?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

todd

SOURCE:  Read more from Karl Vater here at Christianity Today

 
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Leadership, Leadership, Start Here
Casey Graham has some very important insight for fast-growing churches.  Here are two dangers you’ll want to watch out for… Danger 1: The belief we will always grow fast Reality: Most churches growth rate will slow down, stop or even go backwards at some point Why is this dangerous? The leaders become intoxicated with growth and start to hire and acquire like the growth will never stop.  I see a lot of leaders bet the farm on that new facility that will “pay for itself” or load the staff with high salary superstars.  Another common mistake we see leaders make is the lack of accountability for staff budgets and spending.  We also see a lot of churches that have millions of dollars coming in annually but they can’t make payroll if the church didn’t meet this weekend. Danger 2:  The belief that because we have plenty we must have a generous church Reality: Fast growth can cover up the truth about the churches holistic generosity Why is this dangerous? When churches are growing fast, the growth can cover up the healthy.  When growing fast we see giving units start to go up quickly!  Just because we have a lot of giving people doesn’t mean they are developing consistent Biblical generosity.  This usually doesn’t show up until the growth slows down.  When the growth starts to wane we will be tempted to microwave people into generous people. OK… those are the two dangers.  What can you do to avoid these dangers? Is your church growing quickly?  Have you thought about these two danger areas that Casey points out?  What will you do when/if the dramatic growth stops?  And, what steps are you taking to be sure that your fast growing church is actually developing consistent Biblical givers? I’d love to hear your thoughts… todd  
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Controversy
See what you think of this quote by Tim Suttle:
The church’s job is not to grow, multiply, or expand. The church’s job is not to take back the culture for Jesus. The church’s job is not even to survive. The church’s job is to be the church—to be the faithful people of God who organize their common life together in such a way that they image God to all creation. Sadly, most American churches do not image God so much as they image American story of bigger, better, stronger, higher, and faster. The story of God is quite different. This story says the last will be first and the first will be last. Authentically Christian leadership does not embrace success as a worthy objective. Instead the Christian leader must embrace the way of descent, and the cruciform life of dying to self and others. The American way is up. The Jesus way is down.
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Bud Brown shares some metrics that he thinks would make megachurches much more visitor friendly.  See if you agree.  He writes: Mega-church staff and pastors are trapped in a dilemma created by the Church Growth movement – the assumption that bigger is better and that attendance inevitably produces spiritual maturity. This perspective on the disciple making process inevitably leads to metrics like attendance, income, visitor returns and so forth. In time the relentless demands of schedules, logistics, and buildings become the vision; keeping the machine running smoothly becomes the mission, and it happens with no one noticing. Inevitably,  attending a mega-church is like going to Walmart the day after Thanksgiving – it is a madhouse! I’ve seen this from the inside so I have an idea of more appropriate metrics that will move a mega-church in the direction of becoming genuinely engaging, warm and welcoming: How many first time visitors did the greeters meet at the door to the auditorium? To how many regular attendees did the official greeter introduce the new guests? How many first time visitors were greeted by a staff member (Other than children’s and youth pastors all of them should circulate in the auditorium before and after services) How many prayer requests did staff collect from visitors? What is the lag time between a first visit and contact by a non-paid member of the church? (forget the pastor’s welcome letter; it’s nothing more than useless chatter these days) Is a pastor or high ranking staff member actually available meet guests after every service? How often is the hospitality team coached on technique and process? How often does the church employ a “secret shopper” guest to give impartial evaluation of the hospitality? Does the church have a welcoming team at every entrance? How many times did a welcome team members escort a new guest from the entrance to the main welcome center? Is the congregation regularly instructed that members waiting for the service to begin should greet one a number of people and not chat with one person at length? How effective is the enfolding process in moving first time guests into regular fellowship in small groups, connecting them with staff members and insuring that their spiritual needs are met or at least prayed for? What is the percentage rate? Finally, what percentage of first-time guests eventually become regular attenders who are engaged in service through the church? via Can megachurches be church visitor friendly? — Transition Ministries Group. What do YOU think?  Do you think it’s easier or harder for a larger church to be visitor friendly?
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David Murrow writes a piece entitled “Church Growth:  It’s All About the Pastor” over at the Church for Men website.  See if you agree with his thinking: Can I be brutally honest? When it comes to church attendance, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver good sermons. If a pastor is good at his job the church grows. If he’s bad at his job the church shrinks. Sounds unspiritual – but it’s true. It shouldn’t be this way – but it is. Each week is a referendum on the pastor’s ability to deliver an inspiring sermon. Admit it – you’ve gotten into the car with your spouse and begun critiquing the sermon before you’re out of the church parking lot. Or you’ve been asked, “How was church?” What do you talk about? The sermon. Let’s be real: Protestants judge the quality of a worship service largely by the power of the sermon to move them. Nothing else comes close. This is why the right minister can cause a church to sink or soar. I liken it to a football team: an NFL squad has 53 men, but the team’s fortunes rise and fall on the talents of one man – the quarterback. If he can deliver lots of touchdowns, the team wins. If he can’t, the team loses. Granted, the signal-caller must have good players around him, but as the Denver Broncos are seeing this year, a great QB means everything. The same is true with church attendance. When it comes to numbers, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver engaging sermons. Preaching is everything. It pains me to write these words. In an ideal world, what SHOULD matter is prayer, the presence of the Spirit, the love of the people for one another and the church’s ministry in the community. In that ideal world a church should be able to take out one preacher and install another without a hiccup. And while we’re at it, why does the size of a church even matter? Jesus would choose a church of 12 sold-out disciples over a church of 12,000 passive pew-sitters any day. We can argue these points until Christ returns, but this blog post is about attendance. Numbers. And when it comes to putting men in pews, nothing matters more than pastoral quality. Every other consideration pales in comparison. // read more here… What do you think?  Does it ALL really come down to the ability of the pastor’s preaching skills? I’d love to hear your input…  leave a comment below… Todd
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Leadership
Mars Hill has a tremendous problem. They’ve seen phenominal growth in numbers… in fact they’ve grown 50% in the past year (over 5,000 people). That includes a 12% increase in attendance SINCE LAST WEEK. SINCE LAST WEEK. Church-wide… they are at 82% capacity during 36 weekend services at 14 different locations. Jesus has definitely stepped on the gas. Add to that, 551 small groups (with 60 new groups added this month). Whether you’re a fan of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill or not… something big is happening there. And the stress and pressure from a pure administrative side must be extremely difficult. How about today, instead of criticism and uttering things that make us sound like jealous idiots, we actually take time to thank God for what he is doing at Mars Hill and other churches across the country. The big churches, the tiny churches. The churches with imperfect leaders and flawed followers. The churches that are growing gangbusters and those that are fighting for existence. For your church; and mine. For yourself as a leader; and the guy down the street also entrusted with God’s children. Let’s pray for those for whom God has ‘stepped on the gas’.  And if we’re on empty, let’s pray that God would fill us and that we’ll be ready when and IF he decides to gun it a little. Just a few thoughts today… You can read more here…
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Leadership
Warren Bird writes: Nine out of ten congregations say they want to add more members. That’s one of the important findings of a research group I’m part of that conducted a huge survey known as FACT – for Faith Communities Today 2010 survey. But more than learning that churches want to grow, we found a bunch of factors strongly related to growth. Here’s the analysis of more than 7,000 local houses of worship compiled by C. Kirk Hadaway, Church Officer for Congregational Research, The Episcopal Church, and one of the leaders of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership which sponsors the FACT series of research studies. What Correlates With Growth? Location is important. Congregations located in the downtown or central city neighborhoods of metropolitan areas were more likely to grow in recent years. Those in newer suburbs were also likely to grow. This is a significant change from a similar study completed in 2005 when the newer suburbs were more likely to be the location of growing congregations than central city neighborhoods. Congregations located in the South are also more likely to grow than those located in other parts of the country. New congregations are more likely to grow than are those with a longer history. The majority of new congregations started since 1992 have had significant increases in the number of active participants. This growth advantage does not last forever. “After 15 to 20 years the window of opportunity closes.” If a congregation has a significant percentage of ethnic minorities or is predominantly made up of an ethnic minority it is more likely to grow. Youth is a key factor. Congregations in which people over 50 make up 30 percent or less of the active participants are most likely to have growth. A clear sense of mission and purpose is “one of the strongest correlates of growth.” There is also a strong relationship between growth and the sense that the congregation is “spiritually vital and alive.” What other growth plates are there?  You can read more from Warren here at the Leadership Network website.  And you can follow Warren on Twitter @warrenbird. What have you seen as your biggest “Growth Edges”?
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Trends
In the last ten years, the nation’s largest churches have doubled… In 2000, the 100 largest churches in the United States all had average weekly attendance of 4,000 people or more. In 2010, only churches with average weekly attendance of 8,000 or more made the 100 largest churches list, according to megachurch researcher John N. Vaughan. via BibleBeltBlogger Thoughts? My initial thought:  Instead of throwing stones at churches that are doubling, wouldn’t it be great if most churches doubled in size in the next ten years? Todd
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Trends
My friend Kent Shaffer hits a great point over at the Church Relevance blog:  What is most interesting about these lists is no longer the data itself but rather how many churches are choosing to no longer take part in these studies. Kent continues:  “From a research perspective, this nonparticipation is sad. But theologically speaking, the reasons many churches choose to not broadcast their numbers are quite noble. Many nonparticipating churches just don’t want to negatively affect other churches. And, of course others, just forget to report their numbers to the researchers.” I agree.  I think there’s one other possible reason that some churches aren’t reporting their numbers this year.  I think… just possibly… that some churches may not have reported their numbers because their numbers are down. I mean, who wants to go from the 5th largest church in America to 8th? When this whole list thing started a few years back, it was fun.  It was interesting.  And, the first list ever presented, was probably the most honest. Human tendency says that the next year, the pressure was on to put up a better number for the list than the year before.  Now years into it, it’s more and more difficult to produce an honest number that looks better the year before’s number.  After all, you have people out there (like Kent!) who actually look at the numbers and compare them to other lists and other years. I’m not saying that churches knowingly fudge their numbers.  Not at all.  I’m just saying that there is an inherent pressure to make your numbers look better than last year’s numbers.  And if you can’t, maybe you don’t participate in the top 100 list. Of course, this is just a theory.  It could be that some of these churches are just taking the more noble approach as Kent suggests, or that they simply forgot to report their numbers. I respect the people who do the research on the list.  I know them, and they are honest researchers and publishers.  Unfortunately for them though, having a top 100 list where a growing number of churches refuse to participate does not help their cause.  You simply can’t have a top 100 list when part of the 100 is not included. What do you think?  Do you look at the top 100 lists?  Are they helpful?  Do you think they’ve run their course?  And do they lose any credibility when not everyone is included? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Todd
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