Church Growth: When Size Matters

Prior to entering ministry, my wife and I owned a small business.  It was small in the sense of how economists measure businesses, but it was a big business to us. Whenever you have to make payroll for almost 40 people (including yourself)…that seems big.  This was my second venture as an entrepreneur.  The first was extremely successful, but this one was not. An opportunity came to sell and we quickly accepted.  We learned tons of principles from that negative experience that still help us today, but it was a very challenging time for us personally.

Looking back on that experience, I realize one of the major problems we had being successful.  There were hundreds of issues, including some of our own mistakes, but one aspect of our company and where we were in the market worked against us most. I discovered that:

We were often too large to be responsive but too small to be competitive.

Have you ever been there?

We were too large to change quickly. Our processes were too set in stone.  We couldn’t react to the changing markets fast enough. We didn’t have teams that could quickly adapt.  Our pricing structure was more inflexible because of our fixed costs.

We were too small to be competitive. We couldn’t compete with the really big guys.  They could eat our lunch at the bargaining table.  We could never match their price.  They could deliver on large projects so much quicker than we could.

My guess is that this scenario can happen at several growth points in the life of a business.  Successful businesses learn to navigate through these times to protect the company and continue to grow. Had we continue as owners we would have had to figure out survival at this critical stage in the life of the business.

My question now, as a church planter/leader is: How does this principle translate to church growth?  Are there certain times during the growth process of a church where this dynamic comes into play?

Are there times the church is too large to adapt quickly to the changing needs of the community and people it is attempting to reach? Could the church be too small to meet all it needs to do, because the church can’t afford the facilities and staff to meet the opportunities?

Could it be that church leadership needs to recognize when this dynamic is in play and figure out ways to navigate through it, so the church can continue to thrive?

For those that hate applying business principles to the church world, please forgive me, but I’m just asking questions to stir discussion.  Sometimes understanding the nature of a problem is the hardest part in addressing it.  What do you think?  Have you experienced either of these scenarios?

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church in a New Community

I was recently asked for any suggestions I have for planting a church in a different community from where you currently live and know. There is a group of 25 plus people who are leaving the comforts of home in California traveling to the state of Idaho to plant a church. I love that kind of faith.

If you don’t know, Grace Community Church is my hometown, so I am very familiar with our community, but I planted a church before this one in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in this area. Still, as I thought about these suggestions, I really believe they are shared for any church plant (perhaps even any church.)

Of course, these are given assuming you have a clear calling as to where you are to plant, but here are some of my suggestions for planting a church a another community. There are probably hundreds of others, but these were the first 7 that came to my mind:

Learn the culture – Every city, every village, and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matter’s most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play?  What do they do for fun?  What’s their language?  What are the traditions unique to this area?  What history do they value?

Learn the market – Are schools an option for a building? Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers?  What are the demographics?

Learn the competition – Before you get too excited…it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church.

Buy Into the Community – Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc.  Give back…believe it or not, that gets attention.

Have a prayer team – There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church plant, and the leaders on a daily basis. Who are those people?

Develop patience - It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting…really any ministry…takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually.

Protect your family – Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. This may be especially true in a relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards.

Church planting is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory.

Planters, let me hear from you…what would you add to my list?

Organizational Tip: Give Permission to Be Spontaneous

Recently I attended the Story Conference in Chicago. It was a two day conference for the creative-minded packed full of the best ideas available to communicate our story to the world.  It was a well-planned and scripted time and Ben Arment, the conference founder, is to be commended for the event.

The greatest moment for me, however, happened in a split moment.  To understand the moment you need to know that the conference venue, Park Church is strategically located in the heart of Chicago. They have a beautiful renovated building. The worship center can be made extremely dark, but there are windows in the room that face the city. At one point, we were singing a worship song about spreading the news of Jesus to the world and suddenly the curtains opened to the city of Chicago. In a split second, we had the vision that our mission was clear.  We were to take the love we have for Christ to the people outside the walls of the auditorium.

I was talking with one of the leader’s of the conference after this experience and he told me that it was a split second decision to open the curtains.  It wasn’t planned.  The greatest moment, for me at least, wasn’t scripted ahead of time.  It reminded of an important life and leadership principle.

We must always allow time and grant permission for the spontaneous moments to occur…the interruption…the unplanned bursts of genius. I’m a planner, but spontaneity can often be the spice of life.  All of us need to leave margin enough in our calendars for God-moments and times of spontaneity. 

Here’s my question:  Is that easy or difficult for you to allow margin for the unexpected to occur?

Catalyst 2010 Recap #Cat10

I was privileged to blog live from Catalyst Conference this past week.  Here are the posts from the notes I took in the order they appeared:

Craig Groeschel – Generational Tension

Craig Groeschel Interviews the Devil

Perry Noble – Don’t Give Up!

Beth Moore – Dealing with Insecurity in Church Leadership

Seth Godin – Everything in this Economy has Changed

Christine Caine – Passion for the Lost and Human Trafficking

Daniel Pink – Author of Drive on What Motivates

Scott Harrison Shares About Charity Water

Andy Stanley – Tension for More

Gayle Haggard on Grace and Forgiveness

Pete Wilson: Plan B for Church Leaders

You may also want to read the posts from Tony Morgan, Kent Shaffer, Scott Williams, and Tim Schraeder.

Did you attend Catalyst? Have you before? What have you gained from the experience?

The Balance of Grace and Truth

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

It is always a balancing act…the balance between extending grace so much that it ignores truth and holding too tightly to truth that there is no room for grace.

Have you ever struggled with that balance?

Jesus came full of both…grace and truth…the perfect balance…and that should be our goal as we strive to be like Him…full of both grace and truth…

Sometimes we extend grace to the point that we enable people to continue making bad decisions. Other times we give up too quickly on someone because they crossed the legal lines.

Where’s the balance?

This passage of wisdom from Ecclesiastes has often helped shape my thoughts on this subject:

In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
a righteous man perishing in his righteousness,
and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.

Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise—
why destroy yourself?

Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time?

It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
The man who fears God will avoid all extremes .
Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 NIV

I don’t have it figured out…but reflecting on this passage helps keep my heart in check from ignoring either grace or truth.

Which of these two could you be holding on to too tightly?

7 Most Popular Posts This Week

This was a heavy week of blogging, thanks to the opportunity to blog for Catalyst this year.  Thanks for reading.  I appreciate the links, comments and Tweets you are gracing me with these days.  I see this blog as an extension of my ministry and you are helping expand that vision by your support. Here are the posts you read the most this week:

8 Ways to Lead People Younger than You

Developing a Leadership Vocabulary

Grace Community Church Goes Multi-Site

Positional Versus Relational Authority

A Secret Your Husband Needs You to Know (But Won’t Tell You)

God Will Allow More than You Can Bear (Alone)

Andy Stanley – Tension for More

Is there a subject you wish I would cover on this blog?

Craig Groeschel – Generational Tension #Cat10

Craig Groeschel addressed the tension of the differences between generations. It was one of the most powerful messages I have ever heard on generational differences. I believe this message is desperately needed in the church today.

Craig addressed the older and the younger generations.

Advice to the older generation

  • Invest and believe in the next generation.
  • Don’t resent the next generation…invest in them…
  • Find it your calling to help the next generation succeed.
  • They aren’t the church or the future. They are the church today.
  • When you delegate tasks you create followers, when you delegate authority you create leaders.
  • Give them permission to make mistakes.
  • They are different, not wrong…
  • When we invest in the
  • Don’t try to give them the way…
  • Embrace the season that you’re in…
  • You do not have to be cool to lead the next generation just be real.
  • Don’t underestimate what God wants to do through this generation…

Advice to Younger generation

  • Honor the generation above you…
  • They know more than you think they do…
  • This is a generation that doesn’t honor well…
  • One reason God’s not doing more in the church today is that there is no faith in
  • When we truly honor God we’ll honor those in authority over us…
  • If you want to be over, learn to follow…
  • Respect is earned, but honor is freely given…
  • Be teachable…
  • We honor the men and women who have gone before us…
  • You are a little bit entitled as a generation…
  • You are the most cause-driven, mission-minded generation in recent history…
  • You crave authenticity…
  • I believe in you…
  • Don’t you dare think small…
  • Don’t insult God with safe living and small dreams…
  • If you will come under authority and be teachable you can be the greatest generation in history…

This post will not at all do justice to this important message for the church. I hope you will get this message from the Catalyst. Click HERE to get to that site.

Craig Groeschel Interviews the Devil – #Cat10

Craig Groeschel started his talk at Catalyst with a humorous, but sobering fictitious interview with the devil…

It went something like this:

Craig: So how are you hurting the church these days?

Devil:  We’re causing problems between the ages…

It’s easy to split up people by the generations…

Taking a guy who thinks he may make a difference, but tell him he doesn’t have what it takes….

Craig: What are you doing to distract the older ones?

Devil: Cause resistance to change….you know this new way of doing things…they’re all going to Hell…

Craig: What about the younger ones?

Devil: Easy…in your twenties…you think you know everything….

So we play up the cockiness….ego…

Also, I’ve got you on the calendar…maybe a little mid-life crisis…

Craig: Get behind me Satan…

It was a funny way to remind of us some important truths that 1)Satan wants to divide us by our differences and 2)We can tell Satan to flee!

Two Questions:

Do you see generational differences bringing conflict in the church?

Has Satan been messing with you?  In the name of Jesus, do you need to tell Satan to flee?

Perry Noble – Don’t Give Up! #Cat10

Perry Noble is raw. He’s funny. He speaks his heart, doesn’t hold anything back, and, best of all, he’s passionate about Jesus.

At Catalyst 2010, Perry talked through 1 Kings 17 and God’s dealing with Elijah. God fed him by the ravens. He provided for him, but then the brook dried up and Elijah had no water. Elijah was in a period of learning to trust God completely.

Perry had so many great one-liners to share I decided to list some of them here:

  • God said, “It’s about time for a dumb redneck to get up and tell people about me.”
  • God is often going to lead us places we don’t think we want to go but we are always glad once we are there.
  • The best ministry advice I could give you: “Do what the Lord tells you.”
  • The greatest thing that’s ever happened in our ministry is unexplainable because God did it.
  • If you can explain what’s happening in your church God’s not doing it.
  • How many times do you drive by McDonalds and wonder if their hiring? (Referring to how tough ministry is some days.)
  • If you’re here and the brook is dry, God is not punishing you. He is preparing you for greater plans.
  • God was saying to Elijah, even though the brook is dry…I am never dry.
  • I’m a grave robbing, water walking God and I will never run dry!
  • Why do we run from situations God reigns over?
  • God has never given up on you, don’t you dare give up on Him

What a refreshing talk this was! I needed this! I hope you will order this talk.

Are you tempted to quit? Please know you are not alone. I’m praying for you.

Beth Moore – Dealing with Insecurity in Church Leadership #Cat10

Beth Moore started by reminding us how quickly life changes but how much the Gospel stays the same.  Then she had us stand, while she knelt to pray.  (I know that because I peaked.)  What a picture of humility on her behalf.

Beth then stated that she felt awkward talking to so many men about insecurity in leadership, but that was where she was asked and felt led to share.  (Thank you for being obedient!)

She began by taking us to Proverbs.

For the Lord is your security and He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. Proverbs 3:26

Insecurity is a snare we are usually not prepared to face.  Insecurity means, “inordinate self-consciousness, positive or negative.”  Anything that causes us to be caught up in ourselves will keep us from fully honoring God.

There has never been a time when we were more susceptible to insecurity.  We live with instant scrutiny as church leaders.  Even before we finish a message, what we said is already put to the world on Twitter or in a blog.  Everyone has an opinion and everyone has a voice.  We have all become published authors. People are passing on information before they have a chance to absorb it. All this makes us prone to insecurity.

Somewhere along the way, if we don’t deal with insecurity, we begin to rely on our own abilities and forget the things of our first love.  Many leaders come to the destruction of their ministry because of their personal insecurities and their failure to rely on the Spirit of God for security.

Thanks Beth for reminding me to place my complete trust and dependence on the person of Jesus Christ!

Reflect on this:

Do you struggle with insecurity?  Could it be a reliance problem?  Are you relying more on your own abilities than the sufficiency of Christ?