Outreach

Change
How have you handled church growth?

Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing his reflections and practical insights as a ministry leader on Greenelines, a new podcast. Listen at charismapodcastnetwork.com.


A church that wants to grow without going through growing pains is like a woman who says, “I want to have a baby, but I don’t want to go through labor.”

Is the pain worth it? Yes, it’s worth it. People need the Lord, and as long as one person doesn’t know Christ, we have to keep reaching out.

As your church begins to grow, you’re going to face a lot of different criticisms. But there are three really common ones to prepare for:

1. The care issue. As your church begins to grow, some of the people who have been around the longest will say, “Pastor, you don’t care about me anymore.” What this really translates as is, “You’re not available to me like you used to be when the church was little.” The truth is, they’re right. You aren’t.

The solution to that is not that you double up and work harder. The solution is small groups. You cannot personally care for everybody’s needs or else the church will never grow beyond you. You have to teach people to have their pastoral care needs met in their small groups. Growth means restructuring, and every time you restructure, you disappoint people. The older you get, the less you like to do that.

2.  The control issue. When you grow, some people will begin to say things like, “I don’t feel as involved as I used to feel.” Growth upsets the balance of power between the pioneers and the homesteaders. When the scales tip, you can expect criticism.

When the church first starts growing, everybody goes, “Isn’t this great? Look at all these young people coming in. They can help pay the bills!” Once you have more newcomers than you have established members, the question becomes, whose church is it? The answer is that it isn’t their church and it isn’t your church. It’s God’s church.

You can have some measure of growth and some measure of control, but you can’t have a lot of control and a lot of growth at the same time. You have to choose.

3.  The comfort issue. You cannot grow without change, and change is never comfortable. A lot of people want the church to grow as long as it doesn’t make them uncomfortable. But if the church is going to continue to grow, we must be willing to minister outside our comfort zone.

I’ve seen people in our church who would start a ministry, grow it up, turn it over to a newcomer, then start up another new ministry, grow it up, and turn it over to a newcomer. The real issue is selfishness, and it takes unselfish people to grow a church.

So, What Do You Do?

When criticism comes as a result of growth, change and loss, how does a wise pastor navigate the relationships that exist in the church? Here are three things you need to do that aren’t easy but are often necessary:

1.  Be willing to let people leave the church. People are going to leave your church no matter what you do. But when you define the vision, you’re choosing who’s going to leave—those who are supportive of the vision or those who aren’t. You cannot surrender the leadership of your church to manipulators. Jesus invested the maximum time with those who would bear the maximum responsibility. 

2.  Continually remind people why you’re making these changes. Why are we doing all this? There is only one reason—people need the Lord. We’re making these changes to reach one more person for Jesus.

3.  Affirm and appreciate people for the changes they do agree to make. Be grateful for minor changes. Focus on progress, not perfection. Change is hard, and God uses change to grow people. So affirm growing people who have chosen to embrace change for the sake of the kingdom.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Discouragement can be a serious struggle.

    Guard Your Spirit Against These 4 Crippling Attacks

    Are you struggling this Valentine's Day with one of these discouraging issues?

  • Some of the toughest lessons reap the greatest rewards.

    10 Tough Lessons Every Pastor Should Remember in Ground-Shaking Trials

    One is that your suffering may turn out to be the highest compliment the Father ever gave you.

  • Why Many Christians Misunderstand This Crucial Leadership Trait

    Great leadership doesn't start with a great education, although that is incredibly valuable. ...

  • Worship leaders, keep your team's attitude in check.

    This Can Quickly Erode a Worship Team's Culture

    God has given us talent and He calls for excellence, but excellence with this is not honoring ...

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • Your Source of Unlimited Kingdom Energy and Power

    Jesus said that we can do greater works than He did and that He will do whatever we ask in His Name.

  • What reasons can you think of that leaders might not choose to delegate authority?

    7 Reasons Some Leaders Dump Delegation

    These could have a lot to do with stalled growth and low team morale.

  • These seven responses can get you on the right track.

    Responding Like Jesus When Your Church Kicks You Out

    It's a pain that many in the ministry have felt at least once and maybe more.

  • A 'What's in it for me?' mentality could bring your church down.

    The Mentality That May Be Killing Your Church

    And we wonder why so many congregations are stagnated, plateaued or declining.

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders