Posts Tagged ‘church growth’

NEW-TO-FIVE-ebook-cover-6-HR-400x630The book, New to Five, by Ralph Moore and Jeff Christopherson, is all about moving our thinking as church leaders from addition to multiplication.  I grew up during the Church Growth movement.  I helped an inner-city church in Fort Wayne make 18,000 phone calls inviting people to our services.  We launched billboards, held “bring-a-friend” events and started new worship services.  And guess what, even though we were in the “wrong” part of our city, we were able to attract people and grow.

The authors of New to Five, however, question the biblical underpinnings of such an approach.  Even more they point out that addition isn’t cutting it, that a growing percentage of people aren’t interested in attending our churches, that U.S. worship attendance continues to decline, and after all, isn’t it about making disciples rather than building our kingdoms?

So what’s their alternative?  Multiplication!  The New Testament church is all about equipping and sending.  A healthier metric moves us from “seating capacity to sending capacity.”  Ralph writes:  “I think that the Great Commission will require us to start and multiply numerous smaller congregations that can reach into every nook and cranny of society…. Addition-focused churches have started to look alike, and ‘alike’ tends to be middle class–leaving lots of people outside the family.”

He goes on to say, “Many common church-planting methodologies seem to start with an eye toward multiplication until they gain momentum and multiplicative behaviors are shut down for the much sexier addition….If you don’t now it already, feeding a Level 3 [addition-focused] church takes a lot of money, talent, leadership and dedicated volunteers.  Start releasing and sending them out, and your church might implode.  At least that’s the prevailing fear…”

So the underlying question is, “Will you build a kingdom, or are you intent on building the Kingdom?”  Churches focused on building the Kingdom, referred to as Level 5 churches, look for effectiveness rather than excellence.  After all, look at who Jesus chose to lead His church?  Jeff writes:  “Instead of hand-selecting the obviously impressive, He chose the noticeably common.  Never has a less-impressive team received a more important assignment. ”

As Ralph says, “If you fully commit to pursuing Level 5 multiplication, the recognition that Level 3 pastors receive for leading large, growing and innovative churches won’t be  part of your story.  Simply put, fame and fortune are not coming your way, so get used to it.”  And just because a church may be small in size doesn’t limit it from focusing on multiplication rather than addition.

The reality is that growth shouldn’t be thrown out the window, but the writers point out that growth comes as disciples are released and sent out, churches give birth to new faith communities, that in turn give birth.  It’s exponential growth not growth through addition.  Adding new programs, improving worship services, and marketing creates a consumer-based church, where making disciples is more of an add on and doesn’t get much traction.  In a church based on a multiplication mindset, disciple making comes first, its at the core.  The church, its worship services, and programs grow out of the disciples being reached.

So in hindsight, I wish that the inner-city church I served years ago would have focused on sending its people out to build relationships with those in need of the Good News and a relationship with Christ, rather than on growing through attraction.  Had we done that maybe it would still exist…

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

P.S.  New to Five is available electronically at no cost.  I encourage you to read it!

unknownDoes your church struggle with reaching the younger generation?  Has it given up on them?  It seems an ever-increasing number of reports indicate that this generation isn’t interested in our churches, so the idea of giving up has no doubt crossed the minds of some in the church.   But wait, not so fast, there’s hope!  With God there’s always hope!

I recently attended Church of the Resurrection‘s Leadership Institute in Leawood, Kansas, and had the opportunity to hear Haydn Shaw, who is a leading expert on generations and has written the book entitled, Generational I.Q.:  Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, and the Future Is Bright.  Shaw said that much of the dire statistics related to the younger generation are overstating and misconstruing what is really happening in our culture.  Church participation and the religious beliefs of the younger generation haven’t changed all that much over the years.  However, the god they believe in looks less and less like that of orthodox Christianity.  And that is a problem.

He said that the best way to reach those of the younger generation is through the Boomers.  They have the opportunity to connect well with that generation.  Studies show that seven out of ten young people will drop out of church.  However, if an adult sends a young adult that they know in their church a text twice a month, there’s a 60% likelihood that they’ll never leave!  Wow!  So let’s start texting today!

He also said that a study done by researcher Christian Smith (Oxford University Press) indicates that the best way to strengthen the institutional church is babies!  Young people having babies makes them more likely to regularly participate in church.  So there you go!  Text your young people and encourage them to have babies!

P.S. Not for the sake of saving our churches, but rather saving and growing our young people as Christ’s disciples!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

 

IMG_0054Rev. Sergio Reyes, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, was apologetic.  His Fort Wayne United Methodist Church has started a new faith community in another state–Ohio.  He was apologizing to the West Ohio Conference’s superintendent of the Northwest Plains District, the director of new church development, and the pastors of the two United Methodist churches in Hicksville, Ohio, explaining that he hadn’t meant to start a new congregation, it just sort of happened.

A couple from Sergio’s Fort Wayne church lives in Hicksville, Ohio, about a forty-minute drive.  They drive to Fort Wayne because Getsemani offers worship in Spanish, which they prefer.  They asked if Pastor Sergio would lead a bible study in their home this spring on a Saturday night after the workers at the local egg farms were done with work.  “Could we invite some friends and co-workers to the bible study?” they asked.  And the study grew quickly to 12 people, then 30 people, and now around 50 people, including some children!

Sergio explained to the West Ohio United Methodist leaders that the bible study group has run out of space in the house and can’t grow any more unless they find a bigger place in which to meet.  The group of leaders quickly acknowledged that God was truly moving and that one of the two Hicksville UMC buildings surely could be made available.

So pray as this ministry moves from a house to a church.  Pray that the host congregation will welcome the newcomers, nearly all of whom are brand new Christians, with Christ’s love.  Pray that God’s spirit will continue to touch not only the lives of the fledgling Hispanic congregation, but also the host congregation’s members and all the residents of the Hicksville area.

Sergio says that the people are hungry for the word of God, and already attenders to the bible study are asking him to start new bible studies in other parts of northwest Ohio.  Of course, his hands are already more than full with all the church planting going on in Indiana as well as co-pastoring his Fort Wayne church with his wife Rev. Janie Reyes.  But someday, who knows, God may raise up leaders from the Hicksville bible study who will help expand the movement throughout our sister state.  Praise God!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Upward arrow“We’re concerned about quality not quantity.”  “We don’t play the numbers game.”  “We need to focus on growing our people before we focus on reaching those outside our church.”  We have all heard such comments, haven’t we?  Perhaps we’ve made them ourselves at times.

Whether we’re looking at our Sunday school attendance, worship attendance, or, in my case, conference statistics, when the numbers are declining it’s easy to for us to rationalize and dismiss such trends.  Yet, Lovett H. Weems, Jr., in his recent article, “Changing Congregational Trends,” points out that there is a direct correlation between churches that are growing and their level of spiritual vitality.  In other words, if our trends are declining, that may well point to the fact we have a spiritual problem.

Most of our Indiana United Methodist congregations have been experiencing a decline in worship attendance.  Only 26% grew by at least an average of one worshiper from 2013 to 2014!  No doubt this decline reflects our society’s changing behaviors, such as people attending worship less frequently than in the past.  Yet, at the core, in many cases, it reflects the lack of spiritual vitality.  Many of our churches are like the church in Ephesus, described in the Book of Revelation as having forsaken its “first love.”

In working with over two hundred of our congregations through the Fruitful Congregation Journey process, the Church Development team has discovered that most of our churches lack a clear vision and disciple-making process.  But even more significant, they lack members with hearts that are totally in love with Jesus and are fully committed to serving him above all else.

So should we be concerned about our church’s growth trend?  The study cited by Weems suggests yes, we should because it’s a reflection of our spiritual vitality, our heart.  So, what about your church’s trend?  Does it reflect hearts fully in love with Christ, or is there spiritual work that needs to be done?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

FCJ Logo-600dpiDoes your church seem stuck?  Has it been declining or plateaued the past few years?  Does it seem like it’s simply treading water?  If so, maybe it’s time to ask the question, “What’s our church’s next step?

George Bullard, president of the Columbia Partnership, wrote in a recent article that the “transformation of a congregation is most likely to occur among congregations who are in movement rather than at rest.”  He refers to an earlier comment by Kennon Callahan, who wrote:  “You can correct everything wrong with a congregation and bring it right up to neutral.”  The challenge then is how to help your congregation move beyond neutral, to get some forward movement so that revitalization is more likely to be possible.

Among Indiana United Methodists, over 260 congregations have turned to a multi-year process called the Fruitful Congregation Journey (FCJ).  It is designed to help churches move out of neutral and to begin to get some forward momentum.  FCJ is not a magic fix that can guarantee that a church will move off its plateau or reverse its decline.  It does, however, give a church hope and direction and a strategic plan for moving forward.  Many times those three things–hope, direction, and a strategic plan–can be just what the church needs to get unstuck.

The Indiana Conference is in the process of extending invitations to churches averaging over 70 in weekly worship attendance to participate in Step 1 of the three-step process, which will begin this fall.  This will be the final year that the “classic” FCJ process is offered.  In the future, FCJ Next, a modified enhanced version, will be offered.  So for churches that have been considering participating in the past, this is the year to say “Yes!”  Let your district superintendent or Church Development staff person know if you’d like your church to receive an invitation and take a step to get your church going forward for the sake of Christ and His mission.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

P.S. Churches averaging under 70 will have the opportunity to participate in FCJ Impact, especially designed for smaller churches.  A pilot group is going through it in the Kokomo area and new groups will be launched in other areas this fall.

 

UnknownWhy has McNatt United Methodist Church in rural northeast Indiana nearly tripled in size the past two years?  It still has the same part-time pastor, Rev. Bill Van Haften, who’s served the church the past 18 years.  It still is located on the same county road, far from any town.  It still has the same organist and pianist (who’s 85 years old!).  So what happened?  Why is it attracting lots of new people, including families with young children?

Pastor Van Haften says a great deal has to do with the church’s focus.  It is pretty much focused on prayer and serving others, including folk outside the church, and not much else.  This focus on prayer is central to the church.  In fact, the church’s Pastor-Parish Relations Committee leads in this area.  It meets twice a month to pray!  Prayer is central to the Sunday morning worship service.  When someone is in the hospital, the congregation holds their hands toward the direction of the hospital and prays for that person.  And, they always want to know the results!

A retired pastor, Rev. Fred Kellogg, began praying for the church to experience revival twelve years ago.  Pastor Van Haften says that it’s happening.  The church now has a dozen or so who help preach, each time a new ministry is started it explodes with growth, they’ve just hired a young member to serve as youth director, and attendance has risen from 40 to 110 each Sunday.  The pastor says he’s never seen a church so much of one mind–on praying and serving and worshiping God.

Does your church have a clear focus?  Is prayer a part of it?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

 

 

 

 

Unknown-1Did you know that the word church appears only three times in the Gospels, yet the Kingdom of Heaven appears thirty-one times?  How is it then that we spend so much energy as Christians in the U.S. focusing on the church rather than the Kingdom?  That’s at the heart of a fascinating and challenging book I’m just finishing by Reggie McNeal.  It’s entitled, Kingdom Come:  Why We Must Give Up Our Obsession with Fixing the Church–and What We Should Do Instead.  

McNeal rightly says that “the purpose of the church is to further God’s Kingdom.”  We United Methodist’s are about making disciples for the transformation of the world.  That’s our marching order. It’s not filling pews, growing budgets, and maintaining buildings.  So how is it we’ve gotten so mis-focused?  After reading the book, I’m thinking my title probably should be Associate Director of Kingdom Development, rather than Church Development!

One of the projects I’m working on right now, on behalf of Church Development and with Connectional Ministry staff, is developing a network of churches whose hearts are on building the Kingdom, on each member incarnating the church 24/7 wherever God places them, on partnering with other community groups (even secular ones) in order to help bring God’s Kingdom into fullness, thus transforming our communities and world.  You’ll be hearing more about this effort.  But in the meantime, I encourage you to read McNeal’s book and be challenged too!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church (Kingdom) Development