One of the mistakes a pastor can make while leading a growing church is to get fixated on methods. Methods and systems are helpful, in fact they are necessary for sustaining growth in the medium term. However, they are temporary, readily changeable and to be held very lightly. When we use methods to gauge our fruitfulness we can delude ourselves. The mere existence of methods does not guarantee health. The assessment of the health of our church is moving from systems and activities , to fruitfulness . Ie from process to outcomes. Acts 11 shows the apostles looking for “Signs of life” evidence of ” grace”.
2. The following are some indicators we will use to indicate church health.
We have traditionally been allergic to counting anything we do in the fear of becoming proud and boastful. An additional problem is if competition arises between the sites which is a carnal temptation we have wanted to avoid. However there are plenty of new testament precedents for counting people and things born out of love and concern. For example, the parable of the 99 sheep , the twelve baskets, the 5000 new believers added after the preaching of Peter and John, the 120 disciples in the upper room, the 72 who went out two by two, the 3000 new believers added at Pentecost, the 4000 men who were fed, the 5000 men who were fed etc.
We believe that we have now grown to the size that knowing what is happening is imperative to Godly decision making . In addition our dispersion through the region has made the need to know even more important. We believe that the benefits of assessing fruitfulness rather than systems are necessary for us now so that we don’t stumble on in ignorance and presumption. Luke 14 v 28 “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
An accurate assessment of who is getting saved (our version of the 3000 added), as well as our assessment of how much wastage and resources we have (our version of the 12 baskets) , as well as the numbers of people getting lost (our version of the one hundredth sheep) will enable us to make decisions and direct our prayer in a responsible manner. The evils of pride and comparison are heart matters and we believe we aught to be mature enough to avoid both and keep an eye on each other in this regard. Numbers are strictly private and one elder will do the maths rather than each site pastor. This will ensure no comparison between the sites.
The indicators of fruitfulness I will look at include :
- Numbers of “Connect groups” started, and numbers of people attending them.
- Numbers of connect groups closing
- Attendance numbers at our corporate meetings for adults and children
- Number of Salvations ?
- Number of Baptisms ?
- Number Potential leaders trained?
- Numbers of people involved in serving and ministry?
- Financial trends
- Testimonies (good and bad)
- The Operating of gifts in meetings
3. What makes a site grow?
Since we have placed the responsibility of fruitfulness on each set of elders at each site, we need to discuss what makes things grow. The short answer is God ( 1 Cor 3: 5-9). Jesus looks for fruitfulness ( John 15), Jesus is the architect and the builder, but he has co labourers……namely you and I ( 1 Cor 3:9). The following is a list of things that Jesus uses through you and I to build his church. It should be noted when we speak about ‘build’ we mean , both in maturity and numerically.
- Prayer at every level, both private and public.
- Energy , attitude and faith that God is with us, creative and unstoppable.
- Followup on drifting sheep, new sheep, wounded sheep etc
- Kids visible and compelling. An investment in the whole family.
- Alive and compelling worship , where people access/ touch God.
- Involvement =belonging. Involvement serving and ministering in their gift set.
- Events to bring friends to which present the Gospel in a way which has been promised before the event , ie no surprise religiousness
- Baptisms, dedications
- Bus in kids/adults
- Pulpiteering in a way that builds community and family and handles the crowd skilfully.
- Segment the wider community in order to “go and invite”
- Handle visitors skilfully
- Leaders trained and released in connect groups
- Celebrate salvations/ baptisms
- Courses aimed at the lost (Alpha, business, young, divorce care)
- Cyber pastoring.. Facebook, twitter, email – a dedicated pastor to do systematically and by the Spirit
- Engendering Trust is a huge contributor to growth
- A culture of genuine concern and care, hospital visits, bereavement care etc
- Clear growth path evident for each believer. Mature believers need to be challenged
- God in the house. The overarching ingredient is the presence of God.
4. What makes a site shrink?
- Erratic or long meeting length
- Rut, boredom in methodology and content
- Unfriendly culture
- Weirdos in key positions on the Sunday meeting
- Sombre mood , week after week.
- Bullying from pulpit.
- In-house lingo, cliques etc
- Bowing down to “small community mindedness”
- Too ‘in-your-face’ with demands
- Wrong people with the mic
- Atmospherics not thought through
- Kids bored
- Not relational, lack of connection with people in key roles
- Why do 1st timers leave?
- Why do the offended leave?
- Why do minority groups leave?
- Why do leaders/mature believers leave?
- Why those who’ve had crises leave?
- Just a number, no one knows my name
- Theology shallow. Or weired “encounter theology”