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Five Areas to Reflect on in Positioning the Church for Growth

by Canon Neal Michell

I was once talking with a preist who said, "I know all the church growth tricks, and they don‘t work here." As I cringed inwardly, outwardly I graciously asked him what church growth things he had tried.

One hears an awful lot about how bad church growth is.

We often stagger between two extremes. We try nothing because we have an aversion to all that church growth stuff that is just crass commercialism with a thin veil of Christianity. Or, we look for the latest program and, when it doesn‘t work, complain that "we tried that church growth stuff, and it doesn‘t work."

I must admit that I have a bias for growth. I believe that the expectation from the New Testament for the church is that it will grow. While I admit that not all growth is good growth, the consistent decline in the Episcopal Church is nothing to brag about, either. Healthy things grow. Sometimes growth does not occur because there are certain unseen ceilings that inhibit the growth which should otherwise be natural to the church.

When it comes to leading a church, there are no easy answers. But, there are some basic things that, if put in place, will position a church for growth. Rather than recommend another program or a book to read or conference to attend, this newsletter describes five areas for church leaders to reflect on how to position your church for healthy growth.

1. Infrastructure. Infrastructure is the underlying structure or features for the effective functioning of a system or organization. For a city, it‘s things like roads and sewer systems. For a church it‘s:

2. Intangibles. Intangibles are those things that you can‘t see on the surface. Intangibles give meaning to both volunteer and paid workers. Awareness of intangibles will foster or deter growth. It marks the difference between "doing things right" and "doing the right things."

3. Basic Goods and Services. Peter Drucker asks, "Who are your stakeholders, and what do they consider of value?" Before you can branch out to "non-generic ministries" your church needs to be providing basic ministry to the congregation. Here are five key systems to work on.

4. Non-generic Ministries. Once the church is satisfied with the competency of its core ministries, it can then branch out to non-generic ministries, where greater growth occurs. Transitional-sized churches and larger must increasingly bring in new constituencies of people based on a variety of felt and real needs.

5. Transitional Issues. It is much easier to grow within a church size than it is to grow to the next level. Thus, growth occurs when we attend to the changes that occur in transition from one size to another. The practices that led to growth at one size may, in fact, deter growth at a larger size. Staff members who were effective when the church was smaller may be ineffective at a larger size, unless they themselves grow with the added complexity of their ministry and staff relationships.


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