We often quote the stat that 85% of all churches today are in a plateau or decline. That means that only @15% of churches are having any type of measurable growth. This is a disturbing statistic. What about your church? Over the last five years what has happened in the life of your congregation? What are you doing to turn the situation around? Gordon Marcy lists some ideas to move off the plateau. I hope you will lead your church to take some of these growth steps.
Step #1: A readiness to admit past mistakes.
Probably the best example of this is the three-year study at one of America’s largest churches, Willowcreek. Pastor Bill Hybels said, “We made a mistake.” The church published its findings in the book “Reveal: Where Are You?”
I find many churches refusing to study and research their ministry in order to see where they are. So the first thing leaders should do is a thorough evaluation of all ministry. (Note: Kentucky Baptist convention offers a tool to do this called, “Ministry Tool Box.”)
Step #2: A willingness to change.
According to a recent survey of the congregations whose leaders strongly agreed that their congregations were “willing to change to meet new challenges,” 46% experienced the highest levels of attendance growth. There is a connection between growth and willingness to change. New ministries reach new people. New Bible study classes (Sunday School, small groups, discipleship, etc.) reach new people. My experience in consulting churches across our state is that growing churches do new things which usually involves some type of change.
Step #3: More preaching on obedience based discipleship.
Preach and teach challenging messages and raise the bar for membership. This always proves to be effective. One of the largest churches in our state recently did a series that had messages entitled… complete surrender; repentance; denying self; giving everything up; taking up your cross daily; and daily death. These may not seem seeker friendly but these types of messages need to be preached.
Step #4: Cross-generational cooperation.
In a blog post following the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Chuck Lawless reminded young Southern Baptists of how much they were needed and challenged them to be involved in all aspects of SBC life. After the 2009 convention, he called on older Southern Baptists to love and listen to the younger generation; to labor in prayer for them; to continue leading the younger leaders. “They still need us, and we still need them,” Lawless said. Not only is this needed on an associational, state, and national level but also in our churches we need to bridge the generational gap and work together for the Kingdom.
Step #5: Use of consultants is on the rise.
Churches are turning to consultants to help in every area of church life, staffing needs, stewardship and building needs, conflict resolution, vision planning, evangelism training. The Leadership Network attributes the rise of consulting to the complex nature of leading in this time of unprecedented cultural and organizational change.
Step #6: Accelerating use of media and technology.
I don’t know how I did ministry before computers and my smart phone! I think I used a yellow note pad and lots of index cards. Churches should not shun technology but use it to communicate the gospel. Along with traditional media, new media technologies are making it possible for churches to very quickly and with little cost publish and broadcast the gospel. Blogs, websites, webinars, e-mail blasts, twitter, podcasts, texting, facebook, downloading sermons are just a few of the ways churches are leveraging this powerful tool.
The 85% stat can be reversed if we trust the Lord and seek His will for our ministries and stay open to new ideas. “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Proverbs 31:24)
Keep the Son in Your Eyes,