Not long ago, I spent half an hour on the phone with a pastor who was looking for a growth strategy for his church. I could tell early in the conversation that he thought he was missing something, that there was one thing he could do that would send his church into the orbit of growth like the churches he had read about. Frankly, it’s a bit difficult to talk a pastor off of that unrealistic platform. But no such “magic bullet” actually exists.
Virtually every author on church health and growth will tell you that the key to getting to your church to the next level is the congregation’s increased involvement in ministry–no matter what level you’re after. The more people you have who are using their gifts to serve others, the more people you can reach. It’s simple math.
So, I tried to convince the pastor to do what Jesus did–to begin investing in a handful of people who really want to make a difference. Meet together regularly and grow them into disciples. Three to five people is a good place to start (you can’t handle more than that at first). After six months to a year of consistent investment, you will have a core group from which to mobilize leadership. Then start another group, and keep it up.
You see, that’s the pastor’s primary job. He is to equip others, not grow the church. The church will grow as people are growing, but you can’t grow the church by yourself!
Pastors tend to spend all their time on the front lines of ministry–reaching out to the lost, helping the broken, caring for the saints (and trying to keep them happy), and trying to handle the whole overwhelming list of people-need around them. No wonder they have no time for developing leaders!
The better strategy is for the pastor to work toward spending 20% of his time on the front lines and 80% developing leaders and people who can join him. Now you don’t get to that number overnight, but you start with a group of 3-5, pour your heart and some training into them, help them discover their gifts in God’s kingdom, and mobilize them–providing regular times of encouragement and evaluation.
Then DO IT AGAIN!
You don’t need another program to manage, but use Tuesday’s lunch hour or a Friday morning breakfast at a nearby diner time to pull your group together each week, and just build disciples. Some will become leaders, others will be faithful laborers, and nearly all will come to share your heart for serving Christ and impacting your community.
Another benefit of this approach is that as your church begins to grow, you will already be developing leaders. Too often, this is the missing piece for the local church, but you’ll already have a process in place for this critical work.
No, the growth may not come overnight, but if you develop people that growth will come. And, it will come in a healthy manner that you can manage and lead.