Thursday, February 14, 2019

5 Ideas to Help Your Church Grow


The year is coasting along, and as I stood back over January, and hit the ground hard in February, I started to ask some difficult questions.

What matters most in 2019? Since I will never have unlimited time, resources or energy, what should I invest my time into in 2019, that would bring the greatest return? What should our church focus on? What matters most? If God were to give me a debrief at the end of 2019, what would I want God to say?

These are the kinds of questions that have been running through my head in January. These are questions every church must ask; lest we run around with a scattergun approach to serving God. Ambiguity and busyness won't grow the church.

And if we're honest, sometimes we equate busyness with effectiveness and tiredness with blessing. Though I think we could do better.

So, I want to give you 5 Ideas to Help Your Church Grow

FIX YOUR ATTENTION

I sense that it is critical where we choose to fix our attention. There are many distractions. There are many things vying for our time. And in some moments there are many and varied thoughts running through our vulnerable minds. Already, I've heard of people experiencing setbacks, or disappointments and find themselves entering 2019 with a less than ideal start.

That's why, I'm saying churches need to fix their eyes upon Jesus. We can't get distracted in 2019. We must keep our eyes on him. We know in Hebrews chapter 12, that Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith. We must fix our attention upon the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Please hear me on this. This isn't just a nice, ho-hum, predictable statement from another church pastor. I am convinced that fixing our attention to what really matters and the Christ of our faith is absolutely critical in 2019.

I just think, at times we've lost the art of fixing our eyes and heart upon the Lord. We mean well. We do ministry. We work hard. And some months go by and we've realised we haven't sat in his presence. We haven't discipled like it really mattered. We just got busy. We just lost our way.

We need to fix. Fix our eyes upon Jesus. As Hebrew 12:1-2 puts it, '...since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.'

Start with that. Now, here's another idea to help your church grow in 2019:


OPEN YOUR HEART

We need to open our hearts to new opportunities. You've heard it said, that the message doesn't change, but the mediums in which we share it does. No church looks like the church in Ephesus, or the early church in Corinth. No church looks like a 13th century monastery. No church is even the same from a few years previous.  People come and go. What society thinks is important changes. The societal issues prevalent in your community shifts over time. The technology in which we connect with people rapidly changes. The theological hot potatoes of our day always move and change with the wind. Every generation has a different outlook on life.

You get the point. We need to be open. Open to new things. Open to exploring new ventures. Open to investing money in a different pool. Open to allowing a younger generation to try something different.

We need to be open to living on the edge of missional exploration. Even if that means some do not understand what we are doing, and why we are so passionate about it.

Leaders: You need to be open to giving people an opportunity to try something new. You then need to shut your mouth if it fails. Then you need to be willing to empower them again. And again. And again.

The danger is that we become so close-minded that we miss the very opportunities that God wants to breathe his life into.

Isaiah 43:18-19 says, '“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?'

So, I'm hoping to stay open to what God wants to do in my church this year. I hope you will as well.

Alright, so there are a few more important ideas for churches, that will help them grow in 2019.


CLARITY OF YOUR MISSION

Never have I felt this so strong as this year. Clarity seems to be a word ringing in my ears of late. Now maybe God's been trying to speak to me for the last decade about this, I don't know. All I can say is that I sense that clarity of mission, clarity of vision and clarity of goals and expected outcomes will be the difference between growing and declining churches in 2019.

In a previous post on leadership development, I said that failure to set goals will mean you will always be in a perpetual cycle of vagueness. And then guess what? Without clarity, you will reach the end of 2019 and be vague about whether you achieved anything, and you'll simply end the year with a whole lot of vagueness.

As Elvis once said, you'll have a whole lot of vagueness going on.

And this is the truth: What happens with vagueness, stays in vagueness.

I've felt that in the past. I failed to articulate any goals for the church and failed to articulate any goals for my own life, and I arrived at the end of the year in a psychological quandary, wondering whether I had achieved anything of value in the previous year.

I'm intent not to feel like that in 2019. We cannot let our churches feel like that.

So, have your church consider these questions:

What is your mission?
What is your vision?
What are your values?
What are you going to stop doing?
What do you need to start doing?
What do you need to invest your time in most this year?
What goals do you have, and what actionable steps will you take to reach them?

Take a verse like Acts 4:12, 'Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.' Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8) and then was able to articulate clearly what his mission was. He had clarity. And I tell you, clarity will help your church grow.

Clarity is critical. And I'm beginning to be convinced that it is the big difference between healthy churches, stagnant churches and declining churches.

UNDERSTAND YOUR CONTEXT

Comparison will kill you. Nearly every church leader has been there on one day or another. Smaller churches compare themselves to bigger churches. Traditional churches compare themselves to emerging churches. Cell group churches compare themselves to other cell group churches. Churches with worship bands compare themselves with other worship bands. Leaders compare their effectiveness to other leaders. And so on, and so on.

The thing is: Every church is different. Every church has a different set of problems to address. Every church has a different living and breathing kind of DNA.

Every single church.

See remember, churches are living and breathing organisms. People. People who journey together. Who try to change the world together. We cannot compare. But we can do one thing:

We can seek to understand the current context in which we minister. We can seek to learn the history of our church (each unique even to the church down the road). We can seek to understand the complexities that exist and discover how to address them. We can celebrate what God is doing, that is always unique to the church in the adjacent suburb.

I am challenged. Instead of spending my mental energy trying to compare how effective or otherwise my church is compared to other denominational success stories, I want to spend my energy understanding my current context.

Who has God called us to reach?
How has God called us to evangelise?
What social issues are the ones we need to invest our time and energy into?
What would good discipleship look like in my context?
How do I develop a passionate, faith-filled, worshipful community amid God's people?

I can't compare my church to yours. It's different. It has unique challenges. I could though help you ask the right questions. I could help you stop so that you can seek to understand your context. That would be key for you and for me.

Ok, so we are nearly there. I want to give you one more important idea to help your church grow in 2019. Here it is:


SHARE YOUR JOURNEY

I want to be honest with you right now. I think when I was younger in ministry, people were projects. I desperately wanted to see the church grow, but people were just numbers.  People were there to be pastorally manipulated to achieve ministry outcomes. Volunteers helping in church ministry were just there to tick the box, so that I felt good that we had 'been successful.'

I feel like in recent years, my heart for people has grown. Relationships are now key for me. This is about people joining together, to make a difference and to do it together in the context of community. People are not means to an end to fulfil a ministry task. Rather, God's people join together to change the world.

We encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
We love each other (John 15:17).
We mutually encourage each other in the faith (Romans 1:12).
We pray for one another (James 5:16).
We carry each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2).

And this my friends are all biblical ideas scattered through the letters of the New Testament.

We do ministry in the context of relationship. We share the journey together.

Would it be helpful for your church to consider the following:

What are we doing to build strong relationships?
What are we doing to connect with each other?
How do we integrate new people into our community of faith?
What avenues do we have for people to find care, discipleship and friendship?
How do we take an inward-focussed church, to be an outward-focussed church?
What relationships will I invest more time into?

A FINAL THOUGHT

These are just some ideas that will help your church to grow in 2019. And if you hadn't noticed, these five ideas spell the word FOCUS. I sense that's going to be incredibly important for the local church in 2019. We need to be a people of focus. So let me recap:

Fix your attention on the Lord.
Open your heart to new opportunities
Clarity will develop as you ask some deeper questions about purpose and direction
Understand the context in which your church does ministry
Share your journey with others as a church community  

If you've been blessed by these ideas on how to help your church grow, please share this blog, via Facebook or Twitter. Or leave a comment. Or if you're subscribed to this blog, send me an email. There is much more to say and I'm keen to hear your thoughts.
 

3 comments:

  1. I am 100 percent right there on this. I have left the vhchur so many times because of this. But you also have to think. A lot of campus churches are popping up and even though you may have many under the same name just like lcbc or salvation army.... Each location is different than the one who may be at or left. Also church councils should not be made up of just one FAMILY and if you only see one Family doing all the servng draft people to step up. Because a church is a team just like a family. You work together on everything. Yes you may have someone over top of you but still work as a team. And my final idea is if you're church hands you a book of pre sermens and asks you to preach from them give the book a match because you are not going to do the job of a pastor like that.

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  2. I read your article with great interest for there is much value in what is being written. But I am left with this question, "Where does God enter the equation. I have seen Churches grow and then disappear, as clearly outlined in the early Christian History. To the seven churches in Revelations cam this warming.

    "Behold I stand at the (church) door and knock.of any man will hear and open the door, I shall enter and dine with him."

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  3. Pete, I just wanted to say thanks for this! I have had some interesting convos of late with a person who is angry at the army for not being what is used to be. This came about after I intro'd a different way to pray as a group which the rest of the group loved. I listened with compassion and asked questions but felt he had a closed heart to trying new things to get the message across. Sadly I feel that people have become set in their ways and resistant to change and in turn resisting to new possibilities the Lord's may want to use them in. So thank you for sharing this. Glory be to God for working through you. Bless you

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