Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Church Growth

So, I come to the question of "How do you stay true to Biblical truths when the church down the street grew from 5 - 5000 in the same timeframe by giving away a car and flat-screen TVs?"

Well, it is fairly straight forward -- recognize a couple of things:

1. - Churches have traditionally not been 5000, 6000 and up. There were a few but overall, churches tend towards 150 - 200. This is a size in which the pastor can come to know all the members. It is also a size in which people have an opportunity to be involved in ministry as opposed to being spectators at their own church.

2. - Staying true to Biblical truths has nothing to do with how big your church is. This myth has been propagated and circulated by those within the CGM leadership. It is in their best interest to lead everyone to believe that a healthy church is one that doubles their congregation regularly. This sells conferences, and books on CGM. A healthy church can be very modest in their growth, yet be true to Biblical truths. They can also be modest in their growth (numerically) as they grow spiritually.

When we compare our church to others they will inevitably look either much better or much worse than they truly are. In some small churches, every other church is 'missing it', and 'only we' have it figured out. Bad idea! In other small churches, they believe that they are bound for failure because all the churches around them are growing at a much larger rate. Another bad idea!

Truth be told -- most churches in our country are smaller, and most churches do some things well, and others poorly. Do not compare yourself to the most successful or the least successful church in town - compare yourself to the Biblical admonition that we have.

Remember, what you 'win' them with, you will have to 'keep' them with. If you bring people in by giving away a TV, then next week you will need to give away something better, and you will be stuck in a world of responding to the congregation rather than responding to the Holy Spirit's leading, and the clear direction given us in the Bible.

Stay the course!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Thoughts on Staffing

So, to continue on our series -- "Why Do Small Church Pastors Quit?", I thought I would address staffing. This is a biggie in a small church, but I believe the "desperate" need for staff is based upon a fallacy.

Now, before you respond, understand that I am not saying that staffing issues are not a real concern, but the desperation associated with staffing often is.

Here is the fallacy -- "If I want to be 'successful', I must address EVERYONE'S needs, (or potential needs), right out of the chute."

Watch how you define success!

I know pastors who planted churches and worked feverishly to 'hire' staff for every conceivable position; before they had even thought about the purpose and mission of their church in the selected locale! Now, I will state that all churches exist to be a place for God's people to gather and worship Him corporately -- but why in a specific locale? Is it because there is a dearth of churches in the area? Or maybe, the area has a specific need that a church could bring to the fore, such as a food pantry, and a place where souls would get fed as well. Determine what type of ministries you will have and what your church will look like before rushing out to hire people.

All too often what you end up with in many of the so-called CGM type of churches is a professional staff of employees who deal with the needs of the church -- everything from a pastor of "facilities" (what kind of prayer request might a lavatory bring?) to every specialty ministry under the sun (for example, I know of some places that have a pastor for single men from the ages of 25 - 40).

So, what is a small-church pastor to do? What if he cannot afford to hire a 'heavy-hitter', or someone with a resume that highlights him/her as an up and coming superstar?

Well, here is a novel idea: find someone in the church that has a passion for a ministry and train them up. Now, they will make mistakes, but any pastor who thinks he never made any mistakes is fooling himself. Also realize that you may have to remove people from ministries where they do not work out. Honestly, this is why it is 'easier' to have a professional staff that you can simply fire, as opposed to friends that you love and care about who may have to be removed from their ministry for any number of reasons.

Here is what we have found -- when someone from within the church is involved in ministry, they have a real connection with the other members of the church - they are not employees -- they are not people who are there for the paycheck, but are part and parcel of the family.

Please understand that I am not saying that everyone who is a hired employee will have these issues/attitudes, but it is much more likely to happen when they have very little connection and history with the church and its members. The other issue with a hired staff is that they, like any other human being, may find a better position, and sadly, many today have left churches that needed them, for better, and greener (if you get my meaning), pastures.

I am NOT saying that we should not have any staff -- but I do believe that the Western Church has gone way overboard in this area. They have professional music teams, professional youth and senior pastors, professional sound crews etc. And most times, it is all for the sake of a polished, and all too often, sterile, environment. I believe that a senior pastor should be paid, if possible, as the other positions I mentioned, if these can be managed, but I believe that the people who grow into these roles should, as much as possible, be grown organically, rather than putting a search on Monster.com.

And a small-church pastor should not worry over filling every possible ministry position immediately, work with what you have -- develop your own people, they have a connection to the church and to you. Decide which ministries you NEED, and then work on filling them - the church can grow into other ministries as God provides the skills and workers.

Also, be very careful that you do not take those four people who are volunteer junkies, and work them to death - spread out your ministries amongst people -- we are having a ministry 'fair' at our next potluck, and we are going to highlight the ministries that we have available -- therefore, people who may not know much about the variety of ministries and needs at our church will have a chance to get involved.

I am no expert on staffing, or church growth -- but I do know that the church in America is far too enamored with professionalism, and far too laissez-faire about developing the Body of Christ in a local environment. It is easier to hire, it is easier to fire, but it really insulates a pastor and church from having to develop the ability to work together as a body and practice body life as Paul directs us to.

So, go on and hire, but do it wisely, and as much as possible, develop the gifts and talents that God has already placed at your disposal within your local body.