Getting more precise numbers wasn’t going to fix the obvious problems or identify the undiscovered ones.
Numbers matter, because people matter.
If we keep track of them correctly, the right numbers can give us a lot of helpful information about a church and its ministries.
For many years, I kept track of church attendance numbers very carefully. As the church grew, I calculated growth patterns, percentages, demographics, you name it. I found that counting wasn’t just important and helpful, it was fun. When we were growing.
Then we stopped growing.
Soon we started shrinking.
And we kept shrinking. No matter what we did to correct the downward slide.
Eventually we lost about two-thirds of the congregation from its peak size. I don’t know the exact numbers we dropped down to because I stopped counting. But we ended up much smaller than when the growth spurt had started.
I felt guilty about the decline. And I felt guilty that I didn’t keep attendance records any more. But I just couldn’t look at the numbers.
I didn’t need attendance records to tell me what my eyes could see.Knowing the Numbers Doesn’t Fix the Problems
Some of the challenges were obvious, including demographic shifts and limited facilities – all exacerbated by my own underdeveloped management skills. So we worked to correct what we could. But many of the problems remained a mystery.
Keeping accurate records can help you see problems early and tweak issues before they get out of hand. Sometimes. But when the whole thing is going up in flames, knowing the precise temperature of the fire doesn’t help put it out.
That was the case at our church during that difficult season. Getting more precise numbers wasn’t going to fix the obvious problems or identify the undiscovered ones.
So we stopped counting and did what we could to ...
Churches that resist change have a harder time when change is needed. Churches that regularly make smaller transitions hone their transition skills.
Six months ago today, our church made our biggest transition in a quarter century.
After being the lead pastor for 25 years, I stepped aside so that Gary Garcia (the youth pastor who has been with me for that entire time) could take my position, while I became the teaching pastor.
I wrote about this transition before, during and immediately after it happened, but the six month point seems like a good time to report on how things are going so far.
How is the church doing? How have they accepted the new pastor? How do we work together now that the lines of authority have shifted?
In a word, it’s working great. On every level.
The church is solid. No one has left due to the transition. Worship, fellowship and ministry are stronger than ever. New leaders are stepping in to their roles. The facility is being upgraded.
The new lead pastor has been completely embraced by the congregation. New people have been added. He, I and the rest of the leadership team are working together smoothly in our new roles.
In addition to the essential factor that we all believe this transition was and is God’s plan for me, the church and its new lead pastor, there are six factors key that are helping this work, and that can help any church navigate necessary changes:1. Timing
Every major life change has a window of opportunity, like the hand-off zone in a relay race, in which a transition can happen best. Move too early and people feel pushed, too late and you’ve missed the momentum and lost some of your innovators and self-starters.
Our church has gone through several major transitions during my 25 years as lead pastor. By doing so, we’ve developed the skills needed to make bigger changes, including getting the timing right. Developing ...
People want to give. God wants to provide. Our churches need to be places worthy of those gifts and that provision.
There’s a scandal going on in the church today.
It is one of the biggest scandals in church history, yet it remains invisible to most of us.
No, it’s not the sexual sins of some of our leaders. It’s not the physical, emotional and spiritual abuse of church members, or the cover-up of those sins. It’s not the self-righteous legalism on one side, or the moral compromise on the other. It’s not even our tendency to quarrel and back-stab each other.
Those scandals are horrifying, for sure. Many of them have been well-documented and need to be exposed to the light of day even more.
The scandal I’m talking about has flown under the radar for a long time – centuries, actually. It’s so common we seldom think of it as the sin it is, or how badly it hurts people and tarnishes the reputation of the church in the eyes of those affected by it.
The most widespread sin of the modern-day church is poor stewardship.
Too many churches are mishandling the money that has been entrusted to us. Many churches are enslaved by unsustainable debt. More churches close their doors every year because they are unable to pay their bills than for any other reason – maybe more than all other reasons combined.
No, this is not just a giving problem. Or a bookkeeping issue. It’s sin. And it is a scandal.
But it remains a virtually unknown and invisible scandal.
Here’s one small example of it.Bad Stewardship Hurts Real People – And Our Testimony
“They won’t rent to you because you’re a church.”
With those words, the whispered voice on the other end of the phone confirmed what I had suspected. For months I’d been trying to rent a property for our church to meet in on Sundays, ...
What’s the greatest hindrance to effective church planting?
What’s the greatest hindrance to effective church planting?
You might expect to get varied answers to this question from church planting theorists, strategists, and practitioners, but among those consistently participating in this conversation one comment bubbles to the top almost every time: A scarcity of prepared leaders.
This wasn’t true in the not-too-distant past. As networks and denominations fanned the fires of church planting fervor, the early adopters were quick to launch out and start new churches. There was once a substantial pond of would-be church planters from which to fish, and numerous groups threw their lines in the water and caught strings of quality leaders.
For example, Chris Railey, Senior Director of Leadership and Church Development for the Assemblies of God, reports that they planted 406 churches three years ago and the North American Mission Board’s Send Network saw a similar rise in church planting in 2014, with 985 new church planted.
So, what’s the problem?
To many, all looked good. But there was a problem that most didn’t foresee over the horizon. It soon became obvious that ready-made, pre-prepared church planters were becoming a difficult fish to catch. The pool of church planters was becoming fished out and no one was stocking the pond.
The years that followed were met with diminishing or plateaued results among even the most aggressive denominations or networks.
No amount of altered strategy or focused resourcing can make up for a lack of pre-prepared leaders to plant the churches that North America so desperately needs.
Which prompts the question: How many churches do we need? Currently, there are approximately 4,000 churches being planted across North America ...