the shape of leadership

Leading From Under 100 to Beyond 250, Part 2

Three ideas to grow on

Donald E Ross on June 26, 2019

To build a church, you must first lay a solid foundation. The same is true of growing a church. To begin with, you need to seek the Lord for a God-sized vision and a team of leaders to help you pursue that vision (see Part 1).

With that foundation in place, you can begin taking some practical steps toward your goal — which shouldn’t be about attendance numbers as much as reaching more people with the good news of Jesus. Here are three ideas to grow on:

1. Look for a mentor outside your church. I tell church leaders to look for mentors who are leading other churches that are two to three times larger than their current congregations. If you are leading a church with an attendance of around 100, seek out someone who is leading a church of 200 or 300. Yes, this requires humility, but it will help you grow as your church grows.

Try to meet six to eight times a year. Your mentor can offer advice on things like financial matters, conflict resolution, board meetings, preaching, recruiting staff members, and a host of other issues that often become more complex as ministries expand.

2. Consider adding another worship service. In smaller churches that begin to grow, the primary argument against moving to multiple services is that it feels like it would split the church. Often, someone uses that very phrase. But that is not the case, any more than a child growing up and moving away splits a family.

Multiple services do change things, but that change doesn’t alter the church’s mission. In fact, multiple services enhance the church’s mission by opening up more opportunities for ministry.

It will change your church’s culture, however, so you may want to test the waters before making the transition. One way to see how multiple services would work in your context is by offering them during high-attendance times, such as Christmas, Easter or Mother’s Day. This also allows you to recruit new volunteers for that day only, and give them a taste of what serving is like without making a long-term commitment.

Step out in faith, and start moving your church forward.

In one church I led into multiple services, we tried a 90-day experiment. Following Labor Day, we set up multiple services for September through December and then had a survey of our experience to decide whether we should continue. By that time, the congregation had become so used to the change that we never went back.

Not everyone agreed with that decision, though. In fact, about 15 percent of the congregation did not want to add a new service. But with 85 percent on board with the change, we kept the schedule — and it helped our church grow. That simple 90-day experiment shifted our church’s culture enough that something new became normal in a short period of time.

Another way to enter into multiple services is to ask people to make a 90-day pledge. We often ask congregants to make missionary or building program pledges. Why not ask them to make time pledges to attend a new service?

The language for such a request could go something like this: “Would you be willing to give up your seat at the 11 a.m. service for the next 90 days and attend the 9 a.m. service instead, so God could bring in a new person to the 11 a.m. service?” (Most first-time guests come to the later service.)

What you’re looking for in this decision to start multiple services is enough people to make a new service viable. Critical mass in a new service is usually about 25 percent of the seating capacity in any auditorium. Anything less than that, and it is difficult to make the change.

3. Consider adding small groups as a growth initiative. Combining small groups with multiple services is an excellent strategy, because multiple services focus on Sunday, and small groups focus on relationally developing ministry throughout the week.

The growing Sunday experience is like a celebration. The bigger you get, the bigger the celebration, and the more people like it. But the challenge of a growing crowd is getting to know people and helping new people develop relationships. After all, relationships are the glue that holds the church together. Small groups excel at this goal.

A good target ratio for small groups is 1 to 10. That is, if you have 65 adults in your congregation, you would need at least seven small groups. But to use small groups as a growth engine, you would need more than that.

Step out in faith, and start moving your church forward. Trust God to expand His kingdom through your congregation.

This is the second installment in a two-part series.

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