Based on both research and anecdotal evidence, I estimate that nine out of every ten churches in America are growing at a slower place than their community—if they are growing at all. That is not a good sign for the church in America.
Through the feedback I’ve received on my blog over the past few years, it has become overwhelmingly evident that the spiritual health of churches and pastors is of great concern. Many have asked how to transform the churches in the 90% that are not growing into ones like the 10% that are.
This is no easy task, but it can be done.
First, we have to accept our responsibility as leaders. Pastors are not in their role simply because of giftedness or desire—though both of those things are important. Pastors exist in their roles, first and foremost, because God has ordained that they be there. Your role as a leader is a commission; and assignment from the God of the universe. We will not see transformation in our local churches until pastors recognize their role in leading the church to transformation.
God doesn’t give us church leaders so that they alone will do the work of the church. He gives us leaders to equip the body to do ministry. We say we want to equip the saints for the work of ministry, but do we really accomplish this?
Our research says no. And it’s not even close.
Knowing Where to Go
Over half of all pastors we surveyed have no intentional plan for discipling all ages in their church. Even more distressing is that the number is smallest when referring to children and youth. Not only are we not involving our adults in ministry, we are failing to train the next generation.
So how do we remedy this? Here are four ways to start:
- Create a plan. Pastors are planners. It’s what they do. They lay out in-depth and intentional plans for so many things done in the lives of our churches. But does your church have a plan to encourage the spiritual growth of your members?
- Create buy-in from the congregation. One of the most effective ways to create buy-in is to walk through this plan using collective input. Create advocates out of church members, not followers.
- Create a culture of disciple-making. Every church has a culture. Unfortunately, for too many, little thought is given to the culture of our church. Culture creation happens as churches and their leaders constantly repeat, in both word and deed, the desired behaviors intended to be primary in the new culture.
- Stay faithful to the plan. As the leader of the church, you must believe in and champion the church above everyone else. More than anyone else you are the gatekeeper of your church’s culture and intended destination. Don’t develop a plan or process that you are not committed to, and once you have developed it, sell out to it.
Churches need a plan for growth. They need to know how to get from where they are to where God intends for them to be. But the problem is most churches don’t know where they currently are. Not only does a plan not exist, many churches haven’t assessed their current situation. That’s why assessments like the TCAT are vital.
We love to measure in the church. In my denomination, we have long said that the typical measurements are “budgets, baptisms and buildings.” But I’m not convinced those are the best measurements for us to be concerned with. I would suggest that, while measuring worship attendance is important, measuring group attendance and service engagement are possibly even more important.
How do you measure your growth? Have you used assessments?