Yes and No
Church growth is about working on what already exists to create an environment that encourages spiritual growth as well as numerical growth all while creating a system to support those who are attending, will attend and those who the church is reaching out to in the community.
Church growth is not based on creating the most enticing programs and presentations, that’s called marketing. There is a misconception that if you build it they will come. It is true that if you build all the right enticements and advertise in all the right places you will see attendance increase or at least you should, but is that the way we make disciples or is it just a way to put butts in the seats?
From the church board to the children’s church, from worship to prayer meeting, from small groups to youth, from attendee fellowship events to outreach programs, from personal devotions to one on one evangelism, the church must be able to function efficiently and effectively as it lives out God’s plan. That’s where I fit in.
Deal With it Sooner Rather Than Later
Churches often function until they can’t. Sometimes they are not prepared for the changing demands of operating a charity, other times they are not equipped to make the next step in one or more of their ministries. This along with unexpected clashes of ideas or unforeseen clashes of personalities can lead to issues that, if left unaddressed, will impair the church’s ability to function.
Unhealthy churches don’t happen overnight. Pastors don’t become disillusioned in a day. Church boards don’t become ineffective because of one meeting. Leaders don’t end up in a stalemate from one disagreement. Ministries don’t become ineffective or outdated for no reason. Policies don’t become irrelevant or unenforceable all of a sudden.
Getting out in front of potential issues is preferable but not always possible.
Addressing issues as they are identified is encouraged but not always enacted.
Restoring peace after addressing an issue is required but not always realized.
For a church to grow and sustain that growth it must be healthy. Being healthy is best achieved when preventative steps are taken. Preventative steps limit the amount of unhealthy habits that form but as long as humans are part of the collective of Christ followers, it is impossible to catch all unhealthy habits before they have a negative influence on the collective. Once an unhealthy habit begins to influence the church, its symptoms may be obvious but their cause can remain a mystery. Unhealthy habits are contagious, the longer they exist the more people they infect.
If an issue is not addressed preventatively then it must be identified as soon as possible after the symptoms appear. The longer the symptoms/issue exists the more work it will take to restore peace. If it is not addressed the church runs the risk of declining attendance and the resignation of staff members and leaders.
My job as a Transitional Pastor and as a Church Consultant are the same, assess the issues by looking at the history, people’s perception of that history, their behaviours and responses to each other created out of that history and then find a way to implement lasting change and restore peace.
The difference between a Transitional Pastor and Church Consultant is one of timing. Addressing issues can take place before or after they lead to a pastor leaving or being fired, the choice is yours.
Looking In From The Outside
The biggest advantages that a Church Consultant brings is a fresh set of eyes and outside experience.
I have worked with numerus denominations and pastors in a wide variety of ministries including transitional, pastoral, administrative, youth, children’s, young adult, urban outreach, worship and drama.
I have encountered pastors at the end of their ministries, pastors underprepared for their role, pastors underqualified or uninterested in fulfilling their role, boards that didn’t understand their function and churches that lacked or had outdated policies or procedures.
In the middle of it all it’s hard to see the big picture.
An experienced outside set of eyes can help your church discover and define areas of existing as well as potential conflict and address them in ways that often are not recognized by those in the middle of it all.
Churches need to take regular planned pauses to review how they operate, how the staff and leadership interact, the policies that are in place and their effectiveness, the need for additional policies, the quality and inclusiveness of their programing, its ability to interact with the community and much more to maintain health.
Churches need to assess the causes of friction in the leadership, staff, planning meetings, volunteer groups etc. at the first signs of dysfunction to ensure they continue being healthy.
Churches need to address outright dysfunction in the way they operate and the way people interact and communicate by getting to the root of the problem so that they can become healthy once again.
It sounds simple but it is not, that’s where an experienced Church Consultant can make all the difference.
Review Reimagine Restore
Keeping up with change is the most important action a church can take.
Don’t get behind, review, reimagine and restore.
Growth is About Achieving and Maintaining Health
There will always be growing pains, many of them are the price we pay to move forward. The difficulty comes when we do not prepare for the growing pains or we assume every pain is a growing pain. The only thing worse is having no growing pains at all.
Preparing for the future must be addressed by reviewing how things work so you are able to set boundaries and expectations.
Discord must be addressed by restoring peace so that biblical love is the mark of your church inside and in the community.
Stagnancy must be addressed by reimagining what you do so you can bring the unchanging message to a changing world.
It may be that a ministry needs a fresh perspective or the whole church is in need of a new vision.
It may be that everything appears to be running perfectly or there is infighting and dysfunction.
It may be that your policies and procedures handcuff ministry or there are no guidelines at all.
Having someone from the outside with experience in various areas of ministry and a variety of styles of faith expression can help keep the church healthy or restore the church to health. The church is the body of Christ and like every body it needs attention when it is well and when it has health issues.
History cannot be changed but our view of it can. The future is unknown but how we prepare for the future isn’t. The collective of Christ followers must seek to understand God’s plan for them without interference from unaddressed past issues and unsupported future dreams.