Five Challenges to Healthy Church Growth

Every year another two million American adults become less receptive to the gospel, and less receptive to churches.

Every year.

That is one of the nuggets I took from the Pew Research work on the “Nones” when they first released the data in 2012. Pew has continued to follow the religious commitment level of Americans. From 2007 to 2014, over 12 million American adults have moved from a high level of religious commitment to a low level of commitment. They just skipped the medium level of commitment altogether.

Cultural Christianity is dying.

One no longer has to be a Christian or in a church to be accepted by society. That relatively easy pool of prospective attendees for our churches is disappearing.

But most churches keep doing what they’ve always done.

As a consequence, they are reaching fewer. They are declining.

Why?

The answer to that question is too complex for a simple blog post, but let me provide five high-level responses for now.

  1. Church members are not being intentionally relational with those who are not in church. The old way of church outreach was more transactional; today it requires the development of relationships. Most church members will not take that step. Many don’t know how to take that step.
  2. Many churches are stuck in the past. While we never compromise the gospel and the Word, our methodologies must reflect an awareness of our culture, and a willingness to be missionaries to that culture. Sadly, too many church members are unwilling to make changes. Church, for them, is about their needs and their preferences.
  3. Church members are not regularly inviting people to church. Yes, it can be that simple. Many of the religiously unaffiliated will come to church if we invite them. But it’s difficult for them to respond to an invitation if they never get one.
  4. Many church members fail to act like Christians on social media. Unbelievers are watching us on Facebook and Twitter. And many of us are more likely to show our rear ends than Christian love. Social media is where the unchurched reside. And they constantly see our petty quarrels, our venomous politics, and our self-serving attitudes. Look at this blog post about what non-Christians think about us. I wrote it in 2013, but the comments still come in from unbelievers.
  5. If they come to church, they only have a mediocre experience. The religiously unaffiliated do visit our churches from time to time. But, more often than not, they see our holy huddles and our lukewarm greetings. Most will not return.

Growth is indeed more difficult in most of our churches today. We no longer have the large pool of cultural Christians from which to draw. But we can reach them. We must reach them.

We will have to treat our membership in our churches as missionaries to the community instead of country club membership. Biblical membership is not about getting our perks, privileges, and preferences. It’s about sacrificing self for the gospel.

Then, and only then, will we see our churches start growing again.


Knowing how to grow a church shouldn’t be a mystery. But the busyness of ministry, combined with the clutter of church growth ideas, leaves many pastors with more questions than answers. As a result, progress is slow, people are scattered, and the work of ministry feels less meaningful than you thought it would. Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about a process that leads to growth.


> Read more from Thom.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior 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. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How to Grow a Healthy Church

You know when a church is not healthy as an organization. You will identify things like:

  • Poor communication
  • Low morale
  • High conflict
  • Limited results
  • Foggy Vision

We know that healthy organizations reflect the opposite kind of list.

So far, this is not complicated.

But building a healthy organization is a challenging and complex task, that requires enormous effort and fierce focus.

The key to any healthy organization is based on the foundation of two things held in a cooperative tension.

  1. The senior leadership wakes up every day thinking about what’s best for the team.
  1. The team wakes up every day thinking about what’s best for the organization.

This is easy to comprehend and very difficult to achieve. There’s an obvious unspoken tension here. I’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, please absorb this same principle again, but this time in reverse. The tension becomes very clear.

  1. If the senior leadership wakes up every day, focusing only on the good of the organization, (hit the numbers, success at all costs, staff are expendable, etc.) the staff won’t want to stay there very long.
  1. If the team wakes up every day, focusing only on what’s good for them, (what do I get?, what will you do for me today?, make my load lighter, etc.) the senior leadership won’t want them to stay very long.

The tension is obvious.

And this is why healthy organizations, including churches, are rarer than we would expect.

The tension held in these two principles only works when based on trust, and fails when either one attempts to take more than it gives.

I’ve never seen an organization pull this off without tremendous effort and commitment.

Here’s what it looks like to accomplish healthy organizational results, acknowledging the need to tend to both sides of the equation.

  1. The senior leaders invest tremendous effort and energy into thinking about how to invest in, care for, and develop the staff. While at the same time, paying fierce attention to their fiduciary responsibilities to lead the organization well.
  1. The team invests tremendous effort and energy into producing mission-focused results for the organization. While at the same time, paying attention to their own needs, dreams, and desires.

You can see why I call this a “cooperative tension.” The minute cooperation and trust breakdown, this doesn’t work, and organizational health begins to erode.

It’s a lot like a marriage.

It’s easy to repeat the vows, and hard to live them out.

If a husband devotes himself to serve his wife, and his wife devotes herself to serve the husband – guaranteed marital bliss! Piece of cake, right?! Of course not, it’s extremely challenging and takes tons of work and commitment.

If you wake up asking “What’s in it for me?” and “What do I get?”, your marriage will be, at best, a disappointing relationship.

Leadership in your church, especially among the staff and key leaders, is much the same.

So, if you are the senior pastor or on the senior/executive staff, how hard do you work to make sure the team is taken care of, while you lead the organization well?

If you are on the team, how hard do you work to deliver results that help the organization (church) make progress, while you remain honest about your own dreams and desires?

The powerful truth is that you get to decide how healthy your organization becomes.

It’s up to you.


Want to know more about developing a healthy organization? Connect with an Auxano Navigator.


> Read more from Dan.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

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.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

10 Steps You Know You Should Be Taking to Grow Your Church – But Aren’t

What if I gave you a list of ten things that any church could do that would bring almost immediate renewal and growth?

Would you be interested in the list?

Most would be.

So here it is:

  1. Simplify your structure by putting the authority to make most decisions related to the practice of ministry in the hands of those with responsibility. Translation: let your leaders lead.
  2. Hire young, platform young, program young. Why? You attract who you platform, and most churches are growing old.
  3. Become more contemporary in terms of music and graphics, décor and topics, website and signage. It’s 2015. Really. You can check.
  4. Stop preaching and start communicating. There’s a difference.
  5. Shift the outreach focus away from the already convinced toward those who are not. It’s called the Great Commission.
  6. Prioritize your children’s ministry in terms of money and staffing, square footage and resources. Do you really not know, after all this time, that the children’s ministry is your most important ministry for outreach and growth?
  7. It’s the weekend, stupid.”
  8. Help everyone find their spiritual gifts and then help them channel those gifts toward ministry.
  9. Target men. Get the man, you tend to get the family.
  10. Proclaim the full counsel of God without compromise or dilution. All you get with a watered-down message is a watered-down church. And a watered-down church has nothing to offer the world it does not already have.

Now, what if I told you that the vast majority of churches already know this list. Not only do they know the list, they would agree with most if not all of it.

But they refuse to act on it.

It’s true.

And the reason tends to be the same, in church after church, around the world: they don’t want to change.

Which brings up another list.

It’s the list of the seven last words of the church:

“We never did it that way before.”

> Read more from James Emery White.


 Would you like to know more how to take steps to help your church grow? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Josh — 05/02/17 4:21 am

Every home descriminates towards the young. That is how healthy families work :)

Willie Harper — 12/28/15 5:29 pm

It's not about growing a church its about getting people truly saved. our yes or the gospel is so weak today because we are not telling sharing complete truth. I don't need to know about building a church that's God's job. We all need to come together and face the facts of truth concerning salvation but nobody is interested everyone have their own little safety net and satisfied with fragmented truth. I'm sick of the church world and all of its philosophical theology that opposed complete truth. Jesus is coming soon and that will settle it all one lord one faith one baptism. Acts 2:38-47. That's how the church began and steel should be today but men have changed it and the church world suffers

Marcos — 12/09/15 7:28 pm

Niiiice. Intentional age discrimination at church.

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why Your Church Should Think Twice Before Going Multi-Site

The multi-site revolution is the biggest thing to happen to the broader church movement in my almost 20 years of ministry. I’ve personally been involved in the launch of 12 campuses—working on 2 more as we speak!—and I’ve coached a bunch of other leaders through the process.I’ve written a lot on the multi-site movement and I’m genuinely a fan of this approach to multiplication.

However, you might want to think twice before attempting this approach to multiplication at your church. Avoid going multi-site if the following applies to your church:

  • You want to spur growth. // Going multi-site takes whatever is presently happening at your church and magnifies it. If your church is in decline, going multi-site won’t turn that around … it will probably push it further into decline. Take time to uncover why your church isn’t growing and focus on that before making the step towards multi-site. First nail it … then scale it.
  • Empty seats at prime time. // When was the last time your “prime time” service was packed to the roof? A building bursting with people provides the relational dynamics needed when casting vision for launching your services. Years ago, I heard an early multi-site pioneer say that if you didn’t have 7 weekend services at your original campus, you shouldn’t go multi-site. Although that is extreme, the core idea is correct. If you don’t have full services, it’s difficult to convince people to head to a new location.
  • Fuzziness on why people invite friends. // When launching your first campus, you’ll need to decide what to export to the new location. If there isn’t organizational clarity on what is most important, it will be difficult to make that transition smoothly. It doesn’t matter as much what leaders think needs to be exported—it matters what people in the church think is great about your church. Work hard to replicate that well.
  • Leaders who don’t build systems. // There are some church leaders who look down on documentation and repeatable processes because they see them as less spiritual. Those leaders have a harder time making the transition to multi-site because the entire ministry is built on systems. You need people in your leadership who can care for people through structuring a nurturing environment and not just by meeting one on one with people. Leaders need to be able to scale their influence through building a systematic approach to ministry
  • Ego-driven leaders. // If you are the sort of leader who needs to get credit for everything that happens, don’t go multi-site. If you are the sort of leader who needs every team to look to you for direction and answers, multi-site is not for you. One of the great paradoxes of multi-site is that it is often criticized because it elevates a few leaders over a larger number of communities. My experience is that leaders who thrive in multi-site are people who can empower, defer and encourage a wide variety of leaders. They give up control to allow their ministry to multiply. Think hard before you make this step: Are you willing to draw in other leaders and release the ministry over to them?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on why churches should avoid going multi-site! Join the discussion in the comments section below.

> Read more from Rich.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Process >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Lessons Our Family Vegetable Garden Taught Me About Nurturing Growth in Church

Our family project for the summer revolved around the first-ever backyard garden. Neither my wife nor I profess to have a green thumb, in fact we can kill aloe plants in our family… and those things grow in the desert. With the help of our neighbors, who’s backyard garden should really just be called their “backyarden,” we struck out on a new endeavor. Aside from the obvious and direct lessons in nurturing and patience, many of the experiences our family had in growing a healthy, vegetable-raising backyard garden also resonate with growing a healthy, disciple-raising local church congregation. Here are five things that our family vegetable garden taught me about nurturing growth in churches:

1. Create and Cultivate the Plot. Although in the last few weeks of cucumber domination, our garden left it’s carefully constructed confines, the effort and energy spent in defining, even creating the boundaries directly impacted successful harvesting. Effort was made to construct sides, elevate the planting base and truck in soil containing nutrients and growth agents. Hard work went into culling weeds and grass and tilling the existing clay for deep root growth beyond what was imported. This base became a successful source of healthy growth and created a far greater yield than the same about of area in our yard otherwise would have.

In the same way, churches with effective boundaries, centered on who God has uniquely called them to become, have a better chance at healthy growth and ripe disciples. It is hard work, and not exactly measurable at first, to define boundaries and enrich the existing culture in most churches. Every organization naturally drifts toward complexity, and without deep intervention and removal of roots of past experience, managing the organization can overshadow making the disciples. A strong, defined foundation doesn’t ensure health, but health is much harder to achieve without it.

2. Don’t Avoid the Manure. The “nutrients” and “growth” agents from #1 above were manure. Stinky, smelly messy poop, that when treated in the right environment, produces big, fat vegetables. As I compared notes with other rookie gardeners who did not have as productive a yield, it became clear that our efforts to wallow in the manure, shoveling it, so to speak, were not unrewarded. Crap is critical to growth.

Crap isn’t any less stinky or more fun to handle in the church than it is in the garden. But growth can occur when we deal with it, instead of following initial survival instincts of avoidance or minimalization. It happens, and given the right conditions, only in God’s brilliant design, could conflict, pain and error ever produce growth.

3. Over Planting Affects Everything. Looking back, the biggest rookie mistake we made was to over-plant. We had the right intentions, and at the local garden center, our excitement of what could-be overruled the realities of what our plot could sustain. The summer had hardly begun before tomato plants began outgrowing their wire-basket boundaries and competing for resources. In fact, trying to reverse-engineer structures to support widely fantastic, yet counter productive tomato plant growth, took the majority of our gardening time and energy. And that was before our “3 seed” cucumber experiment started working and consuming every square inch of available space. Evidently cucumbers are a vine. Our green bell peppers didn’t stand a chance, and as it turns out we like green bell peppers more than cucumbers or tomatoes.

In my work as a strategic outsider for churches and ministry organizations, we like to say that “success assaults clarity.” Great programatic intentions left unchecked do not take long to compete for finite financial resources and limited square footage. The excitment of what could be quickly becomes excruciating as we try to sustain growth and success. It doesn’t take long for ministry growth in one area, or every area, to be counter-productive to overall organizational health.A clear and aligned  strategy for disciple development minimizes the ongoing headaches usually found within the the instinctive “just start something” approach to ministry. Just because you could start a new ministry or launch another program, rarely means you should.

4. Benefits of Growth Reach Far. Hands-down, our favorite part of this year’s garden was the opportunity to share with our friends and family. At one point we ate dinner with our neighbors and everything but the meat contained something from the backyard, which our dog appreciated. We also ate more fresh food and even pickled some of the banana and jalapeño peppers, storing up extras for fresh summer salsa in late winter days. A few months of intentional effort impacted every other part of the year in ways that we didn’t know possible.

It goes without saying that God can do more with our obedience and intentional focus on the Gospel than we could ever ask for or imagine. Growth in the church is more than attendance or budget, and the influence of disciples making disciples extends beyond the walls to impact families and communities beyond our programatic intentions.

5. Growth is All God. With our best efforts, all we can really ever do is cultivate local conditions, as growth in a garden, or a church, is all God. From the very design of plants or people, God has set forth His plan for growth and development. Our highest level of participation really comes down to obedience to His Word and heeding the direction of the Holy Spirit.We can water, but He provides the rain and sunlight. We can turn the soil, but He grows the roots. We can build the plot, but He grows the plant. We can start the class, but He brings the insight. We can teach the passage, but He implants the application.

We are looking forward to next summer’s garden, and even plan to add an additional plot, just for the cucumbers.

>> Read more from Bryan

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

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.
Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Church Community Builder

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Understanding Megachurches, Part 1: Growth

One of the more popular series last year on the blog dealt with the question “Can Megachurches be Missional?” It was part of a continuing– and important– dialogue within the Christian world.

Several people have written and researched at length the trends found in megachurches. Whether it is our LifeWay Research/Outreach Magazine list of the 100 Largest Churches in America or John Vaughan’s helpful research, Elmer Towns’ articles for Christian Life, or what Warren Bird and Scott Thumma are researching, megachurches are of interest to many.

The fact is that many practices found in smaller churches trickle down from larger ones, but also because we are a numbers-oriented culture– we want our church to grow, so we try to copy what the growing churches are doing.

While imitation is often the greatest form of flattery and many copy their methods, their terminology, and their programs, megachurches tend to face scrutiny– some fair and some unfair. In the process, several unhelpful things are said about them either out of jealousy or ignorance. One piece of misinformation spread about megachurches is that they are a dying breed.

I have heard this over and over again– that the megachurch is dying out. That people are wising up and getting into organic churches. That the mindless robots who blindly follow a the charlatan megachurch pastor have seen the light. The day of the megachurch is done.

One problem: the claims are just not true (and some of it is quite insulting to many passionate believers who attend megachurches who actually have higher levels of involvement and service according to the best research).

Facts are our friends– and we need some here. And the fact that Christians are choosing megachurches– and megachurches are thriving– is not a matter of debate, it is simply a matter of math. (This is not to say that there are issues to consider, but it is helpful to get this fact straight.)

So, the number of megachurches is not declining. Recent analysis from Scott Thumma and Warren Bird show the opposite, actually. There are more megachurches every year, not less. And, they have exploded in number in the last few decades.

megachurches-in-the-us

You are entitled to your opinion about megachurches, but not to your own facts. The fact is, they are not going away. Instead, they keep coming.

The graphic might show a slowdown in the last two years from the explosive growth (from explosive to electric?) we saw over the past decade, but Warren and I don’t think so (yet). Two years does not make a trend, and the trend is quite remarkable when it comes of the number of megachurches.

For example:

  • The number of megachurches in America has nearly doubled during every decade over the last half century.
  • In 1960, there was 1 megachurch for every 7.5 million Americans. In 2010, there was one for every 200,000 Americans.
  • There are as many megachurches today in the greater Nashville area as there were in the entire country in 1960.

Now, I don’t think that every megachurch is good– I assure you, I think some are quite terrible and fulfill every stereotype out there. Yet, there are also some great ones, and for that I am thankful. I want to understand them more and, when possible, to encourage them on their journey.

We are actually considering some learning communities (with D.Min. credit available) for megachurch pastors who want a peer group to considering that question. More soon on that, but for now… you have the facts.

For more information on megachurches and many of the stats cited in this article, visit Leadership Network’s megachurch resource page.

Read more from Ed here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Avoiding an Organizational Growth Cap at Your Church

When I consider companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon, the one constant I think of is change. Interestingly, after I typed that first sentence, I Googled “Most Innovative Companies” and found Fast’s list for 2012. How close do you think I got to their list? See for yourself HERE. But, don’t be impressed with my guesswork. You could have done the same thing, because it’s obvious to us that these companies are all about change.

Then I think of churches I know…some of the most growing, Kingdom-impacting churches I know are also the most innovative…the most open to continual change. I think of LifeChurch.tv, for example. Not only have they impacted many with their vision for multi-site/video venues, but they’ve also helped us discover or been a part of YouVersion and Open, a resource website for churches and ministries. I also think of Andy Stanley’s North Point and how their version of doing church and Andy’s preaching style has impacted so many others. Both LifeChurch and North Point appear to be a culture of change. From what I read about their culture, change is continually being introduced.

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that either of the church models is the right one for every church. Neither are they the exact right model for the church I pastor. I am interested in church growth. I do like to see progress. I do want to avoid capping Kingdom growth.

I am suggesting that there may be something about growth we can learn from the two examples…business and church. My personal experience, and watching other organizations succeed, has led me to believe that there is something about continual change that produces continual growth.

In fact, I wonder if:

The level of growth an organization can experience may be determined by its level of tolerance or resistance to change.

I’m still processing that thought.

Read more from Ron here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ron Edmondson

Ron Edmondson

As pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church a church leader and the planter of two churches, I am passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. I thrive on assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. My specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to my role as a pastor, as I have time, I consult with church and ministry leaders. (For more information about these services, click HERE.)

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

What’s the Deal with the Church Growth Movement, Part 3

In my last post I highlighted three negative unintentional outcomes of the Church Growth Movement. I champion missiologists like Donald McGavran, Win Arn, and others who wanted a missiological focus. I don’t blame them for all of the negative outcomes of Church Growth thinking. Our American consumer-driven culture, as well as an unhealthy obsession with success, has resulted in a formula-based approach to God’s mission. The movement became less missiological and more Americanized, particularly under the leadership of Peter Wagner.

The obsession with formulas and numerical results pre-dates McGavran and Arn, but it might help to see the history. A Mississippi clothing salesman, Arthur Flake, designed an approach to reaching people in the early 1920’s. His five principles became known as “Flake’s Formula.” The short version of the formula was enlarge, enlist, train, provide space, and go after people. Many denominations experienced incredible results through Sunday School, much of which is credited to Flake’s influence. He taught, among other things, that is you get __ leaders, you will get __ new attendees– and he was right. New leaders tend to gather new folks– that’s why we start new small groups.

So, if I think Flake was right, why bring him up? Well, the questions about Flake’s Formula are not questions about Arthur Flake. Neither are my questions about his lasting impact on adult Sunday School work in countless churches since the 1920’s. The danger is when we misappropriate ideas and the successful practices of others to become driven primarily by formulas. Often our desire to be successful can overshadow the mission of God in our community. Our obsession… our scorecard must always must be shaped by a desire to see lives transformed by the power of Christ, not just to run certain mathematical formulas to grow.

So, it’s hardly new in the Church Growth Movement (launched in the 50s, after Flake’s ideas). However, then soon the Church Growth Movement expanded and the formulas flourished. As I see it, the focus of many in the Church Growth Movement was more on formulas than on faithfulness.

Yet, formulas themselves are not the problem, nor are methods, but methodological mania is. When formulas ruled the day, soon everyone had a new formula to sell. Formulas became the focus and experts flew the country focusing on steps, formulas, and guaranteed results.

Two things happened. First, the formulas over-promised and under-delivered. In a sense, the movement lost much of its credibility because many tried the formulas and did not have the fruit– I would say because they did not have the evangelistic passion seen in the movement’s founders. In other words, Church Growth formulas without evangelistic passion leads to frustration and failure– as it should.

Second, the formulas became too much of a focus. You see, ultimately, I think that many in the Church Growth Movement lost their way because they confused tools with goals. The formulas became the goals, which is why the Church Growth Movement was embraced by people and movements that no longer believed in, for example, conversions (so central in McGarvan’s thinking). You did not need to believe in conversions, you just needed to implement these formulas, and your religious organization would grow.

So, where do we go today? Why do I believe that you should still value the movement?

Well, for one example, formulas still matter. You should shoot for 80% involvement of your church in small groups, for example, and 60% of your church serving, etc. That’s part of the reason why I am thankful for the Church Growth Movement (and you should be as well). Actually, I will explain next time why you are greatly influenced by it without knowing it– and you should be glad.

Before the Church Growth Movement, many people did not care if they church was growing, if it was reaching converts, and if people were involved and serving. It may sound strong to say that many did not care, but it was often accurate. Before the Church Growth Movement, things like the “remnant mentality” kept many thinking that they should just pray and preach and leave strategic thinking up to God. Thankfully, most don’t think that way today (though, regrettably, I still find it in some places, particularly among the most theologically minded, who are turned off by pragmatism.)

However, formulas are our servants and not our masters. We do research (and create formulas) from a theological grid with a missiological focus. That’s something that many of the early thinkers of the movement did, and some have tried to keep that focus throughout. For example, Gary McIntosh has both worked in the field, but also brought critical thinking about how to see the Church Growth Movement in his book Evaluating the Church Growth Movement.

So, feel free to share your comments, criticism, and disagreements in the comments. I will post one more installment in this series that will focus on the things we have learned from the movement and why it still matters.

Read previous parts of this series here: Part 1; Part 2.

Read more from Ed here.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Gary Westra — 04/15/14 8:40 pm

I love Ed's writings and heart. I am frustrated by these articles, however. Much of the missiological basis of the Church Growth Movement are not mentioned, and the origination of the formulas are not substantiated. Also, the Movement via Wagner, started mentioning the importance of health over 3o years ago. I wish these articles were better researched and less sweeping in their generalizations. Things like E1, E2, E3 evangelism, group multiplication, relational networks, faith, health, and the care to measure the right things are largely missing here. Perhaps Ed has earned the right to generalize, but I still was disappointed. But keep researching Ed! Ed and Thom have continued on in the spirit of the movement by doing quality research, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

What’s the Deal with the Church Growth Movement, Part 2

As I continue my series about the Church Growth Movement I want to look at three ways the Church Growth Movement evolved. As I said previously, it is easy to take issue with something that was birthed in the 60’s (Volkswagen vans and the Beatles were not all bad). But the misapplication of the principles always happens when you get beyond the headwaters of a movement. Although the Church Growth Movement was well intended, all the results have not been good. Here are three ways the Church Growth Movement evolved that was not helpful to mission of God in North America.

1) Americanization of the Movement – When the movement became americanized, there were consequences. Some Church Growth leaders sounded like sales consultants. Some reminded me of greatest pitchman in history, the late Billy Mayes. I see him swinging his arms passionately, in his blue denim shirt, pitching the power of Oxiclean. A money back guarantee was included, of course. Some (certainly not all) Church Growth leaders, as with good pitchmen, address a pain point. The pain point that birthed the Church Growth Movement was “Are you tired of the lack of results at growing your church in spite of your best efforts?” The answer, it appears, was better plans.

To be honest, we Americans are guilty of turning anything good into a business. The Church Growth movement is no exception. In The Church Between Gospel and Culture, Richard Halverson wrote, “When the Greeks got the gospel they turned it into a philosophy, when the Romans got it they turned it into a government, when the Europeans got it they turned it into a culture; when the Americans got it they turned it into an enterprise.” An unfortunate by-product of the Church Growth Movement is that growing God’s church can be as simple as 1-2-3 with guaranteed results. I call it methodological mania. Some in the Church Growth Movement lost their way when they became more driven by methodological mania than by a central focus on mission.

2) A New Kind of Mission Station Mentality – I have heard the church called a mission outpost in a positive sense. I agree the church is a mission outpost if you are describing a place from which missionaries are sent across the street and around the world. But McGavran took issue with an approach to the mission of God that resulted in missionary isolationism. Another unintended dark side of Church Growth is that it produced another mission station mentality. Our best hopes focused on making the church so attractive that even a lost person would want to come inside to discover Jesus. What happened however, for the most part, is that we made the church become a great place to be for Christians or a “warehousing effect.” With all our best intentions we must guard against, yes, that’s right, guard against making our church “the place to be.” We must avoid “come and see” mentality that tempts our people to “do life” at church 24/7.

The church can never become the place where I live, work, and play. My neighborhood is where real people live. I am not sent by God to a church facility, ever how convenient and impressive it may be. I am sent away from the church gathered to my tribe and household with the Good News of the Gospel. That is where transformational movements take place that engage every man, woman, and child with the Gospel. So, too many in church growth focused on the barn, rather than how we might live on mission among the white fields. When focusing too much on the barn, we sometimes forget that the wheat will not harvest itself.

3) A Sociological Phenomenon – Much of Church Growth theory was based on sociology– and sociology is not a bad thing. We use sociology in missiology because we can understand social structures. For example, in missiology, we understand the sociological realities of the people are are trying to reach. We know, for example, that some cultures see family in a certain way and we take that into account.

Thus, the focus became (at times) focused on using sociological tools and realities to reach people. As such, evangelism was mistakenly depersonalized by making it the responsibility of the institutional church as it engaged its society rather than individuals who were reaching and serving others. Bricks, mortar, and programs do not take away my responsibility to be a living epistle in my neighborhood through word and deed. The end result was, as I see it, too much sociology and not enough focus on the mission itself.

Now, it is important to note that all three of these problems were caused, in some ways, by reactions to the issues before them. For example, I believe that the missio dei movement (1950-1970) gave birth to the Church Growth Movement (1960-1990) which gave birth a the missional church movement (1990-today). Though I do not have the space here to unpack that all here, I think it is important to note that most of the Church Growth proponents, were asking questions about how best to reach more people for Jesus when many in the mainline traditions had lost that focus (when the missio dei became so overwhelmingly focused on societal transformation– see an earlier blog post here).

In my next post I will conclude my series by telling you how the Kingdom of God has gained because of the Church Growth Movement.

Read Part 1 of this series here; read Part 3 here.

Read more from Ed here.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.