It was year eight at my current church. We had made significant changes to update our worship experience, align our leadership, create outreach activities and a number of other key actions one will typically do to prepare a church for growth. A number of people left the church during those first three or four years (during all the change) but somehow we managed to hang on and build a healthy church. Our staff was full of hard workers, our elders were on board and excited about our future. The only problem? There was little to no growth. Sure we were able to sustain, we saw the number of people who came to faith double each year and we did see many new people but they seemed to replace the natural movement due to relocations and other positive reasons for leaving. So as the lead pastor I was in a place where I felt like my bag of tricks was empty and no church growth program was going to change anything. I couldn’t figure it out. Are some churches just meant to be plateaued in the same place? There were a ton of churches around our church that were growing like crazy, opening up multiple campuses and talking about their new plans, new staff and new buildings. I began to wonder, “am I the wrong leader? did I take them as far as I could take them? was there something in me?” How do we deal with a church that sees little to no growth?
I think the first thing I did and I would recommend anyone in similar position to do is some “self evaluation”? You must ask the questions about your leadership. You’ve got to take time away with God to reflect on who you are, what you’re doing, what you’re not doing and why. I found great value in personal counseling and coaching as well. Having someone focus on your growth, development and blind spots is incredibly important. Don’t assume that the issue is out there when it could be in the mirror. This is a process and will likely take longer than a weekend.
The second thing we learned and I think this is the key to potential break through. It’s all about perspective. I should tell you, I am a very analytical person. I am not afraid to look at facts. I love to evaluate and make things better. If you asked me a few years ago, I would have told you that there is nothing I’m not seeing – it’s just “not working” is what I would tell you. In my case, all of that changed when we partnered with Intentional Churches. It’s not that these guys have some silver bullet but they brought two things that I didn’t have before. First was a process that facilitated asking the right questions, not just of me as the leader but of a whole group of people from our church. One of the things they said was, “the truth is in the room”. We were able to get perspective from each other that we didn’t have before. That perspective would soon completely change where we spent our time, our energy and our money. And the amazing thing to me is that perspective was right there in our room, we just hadn’t really asked for it in a way that was actionable. We focused on our results, but not what was driving those results. The second thing they brought was a coach. For twelve months we were not alone, we had an experienced church leader walking with us through it all. This allowed us to have an “outside voice” and an outside perspective who was living through many of the things we were facing at his own church.
It’s not about Intentional Churches per se, but it is about perspective. While I don’t know your situation, my guess is there may be a perspective that you’re either unaware of or unwilling to see/hear. In our case, the right perspective teamed with the a new operating system made all the difference. We’re growing again, in fact the last eight weekends we are up about a hundred people each weekend compared to last year. We are seeing more spiritual growth and people pursuing spiritual growth as well. We have momentum and movement and it’s exciting to be a part of our church. While I know all too well how it feels to be stagnated and while I’d love to see even more progress than we are currently making – I believe it’s the perspective that we need to stay focused on and unafraid to see. And the greatest perspective of all? God loves you, your church and wants to see His mission go forward, unhindered and that is bigger than anything we can do.