I have been involved in a number of conversations lately about church growth. What should growth look like? How does it look different for various sizes of churches? Should you add services or go multisite? Are the measurements for success primarily attendance and budget? Can you be successful without numerical growth? If not, what is a healthy rate of growth? What about the growth within your people and the making of disciples? And on and on and on.
In the March edition of Inc. magazine, Leigh Buchanan interviews Stanford professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao about the practices of companies that successfully grow and scale. I found their insights quite applicable for some of the things needed for churches to grow.
While this is obviously not a fully inclusive list, the following are seven practices of growing churches I gleaned from the article:
1. Growing churches focus on church health more than church growth. Intuitive church leaders know attendance and budget only tell a portion of the story. Rick Warren introduced us to the concept of church health. Rick reminded us healthy things grow. Therefore, focus on church health. Rao points out, “When people think of growth, usually they think of anatomy. How big are the limbs? But the real thing is physiology. Is stuff circulating well—the blood and the oxygen? Even if your anatomy is very developed, your physiology can be bad.”
2. Growing churches demand excellence. Growing churches know the level of excellence must keep pace with the level of numerical growth. Sutton says, “Companies grow well and scale badly when they focus on running up the numbers but not the quality.”
3. Growing churches are vigilant about their mission, vision and core values. As the company grew to over 13,000 stores, Howard Schultz acknowledged the “watering down of the Starbucks experience.” In contrast, Sutton notes Facebook employees are “internalized in a very deep way what is sacred and taboo at Facebook. They aren't going to take their eyes off that mindset ball.” Shawn Lovejoy, lead pastor of Mountain Lake Church, says, “You must be mean about the vision.”
4. Growing churches ruthlessly stop unproductive ministries. When is the last time you brought about a necessary ending to an unproductive ministry? When is the last time you killed a golden calf? Rao notes, “If you are getting big, before you add a new meeting, figure out which meeting you can kill. Before you put in a new rule, see which rule you can kill.” This is simply good stewardship. Rao goes on, “Subtraction is very important because in an overloaded organization, when you subtract, it is giving a gift.” Give your church a gift this week. Go ahead and kill a ministry that needs to die.
5. Growing churches identify, spotlight and leverage their top producers. Cascading is a term that used when someone in your church is already doing something right. Effective church leaders identify and release staff and volunteers who cascade and create positive catalytic activity. These “catalysts” will grow your ministry and make your life easier. They free you up to focus on only what you can do as a senior leader. Karen Hanson, vice president of software design company Intuit, sums it up well when she says, ”The way you know you’ve succeeded is to ask yourself, ‘If I stopped putting energy into this, would it continue to go well?’”
6. Growing churches not only embrace but also foster change. Warren said in his Ted talk, “When the speed of change around an organization is faster than the speed of change within the organization, the organization becomes irrelevant.” Fast-growing churches understand change is their constant companion. Rao concludes, “With fast growth, the rate of change is phenomenal.”
7. Growing churches celebrate. Sutton asks a final question: “In the end you have to ask: ‘Are we happy living in the world we’ve built?’”
Pastors and church leaders, I leave you with two final questions: While your church may have grown numerically, is Jesus happy with the church that has been built? If not, what changes do you need to make?
Brian Dodd’s daytime job is as a generosity architect and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. During the last 10-plus years, he has spent each day having one-on-one conversations with many of the greatest church leaders in America. He also has over 25 years of church volunteer and staff experience. Check out his blog: Brian Dodd on Leadership.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.
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