Surviving Church Growth Obstacles
If there's one thing I have learned from both attending and speaking at conferences, it's this; when it comes to conversations about our churches with other pastors, the first thing that's brought to the table is, "How many attend?" And we pastors, in our holy humility, usually utter a number, and then wait to see if the other person is impressed or not. This number is usually the attendance from the Easter or Christmas service; or it's the "pastor math" number.
Why are we like this? Well, the answer is simple; and really it is two-fold. First, we live in a society where success is always measured by "more." And secondly, our egos (especially us guys) are normally at stake because we define ourselves by what we are instead of who we are. And for pastors, the success of "what we are" is measured by how many people are in the seats each weekend.
While it's a fact that counting heads is a measurement for church growth, it's not the only measurement. I think we have to be careful, especially as pastors, that "numbers" do not become our god and push us into making fatal mistakes that can hurt our ministry. As pastors, we have to exercise the discipline to keep the main thing the main thing and lead our people well. Here are some thoughts that may help overcome church growth obstacles.
1. The Most Important Number: Remember, the number of people who found Jesus this past Sunday is much more important than the number of people who showed up for services. If people aren't being reached with the gospel, we are failing in our mission as the church.
2. When the Crowd is Low: When you have a low attended weekend and you instantly feel pressured to immediately create some kind of event or campaign to attract people to your church...DON"T! You'll plan poorly; you'll kill your staff; and God will not bless it because it's more about your ego than the Kingdom. Remember, God doesn't push; He leads. If you feel "pushed" it's usually the enemy. Responding to pressure causes us to make quick decisions, which usually leads to wrong decisions. If your overall attendance begins to fall consistently, seek God and seek wise counsel and then you'll plan well.
3. Healthy Growth: Normally (there are exceptions) slow consistent growth is healthy growth. In most cases, when a church grows extremely fast in numbers, her infrastructure and leadership capabilities are still immature, which can cause a ton of issues. Again, there are some exceptions. Be faithful where God has you; remember, God usually grows the shepherd before he grows the fold.
4. The Main Thing: And lastly, don't forget who's in charge of this thing. Here's the growth formula for every church: We plant the seed of the gospel by preaching; we water the seed with teaching and small groups to make disciples; and then, God alone makes it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
Events, strategies, and assimilation are all important factors of growth...but allow God to lead these...and then growth will be much deeper than numerical.