Economy in trouble? Don’t fix the underlying dysfunction, pour more money into it.
Kids in trouble? Don’t discipline them, give them more stuff.
Church in trouble? Don’t change the way we do ministry, get more people in here.
Recently I’ve run across another tragic example of the damage such faulty logic can cause.
A friend of mine attends a large church that has been going through some very difficult times lately. Not by their own fault, but because of decisions that were out of their control.
This struggle has cost them a lot of members and money. Recently, they lost the church building they’ve been meeting in for decades.
Several churches in nearby towns have opened their doors, offering facilities for this congregation to meet in every week. They’ve gratefully accepted one church’s kind offer and are meeting there while they regroup.
But now this long-established church is dealing with issues most of their members and leaders have never had to face. They meet in someone else’s building, in a neighborhood many miles away from where most of their congregation lives and at a very awkward time of the week.
That’s just business-as-usual in a start-up church. But this isn’t a start-up. They’ve been around a long time. This is very painful for them and their church is suffering greatly
“But, That’s No Solution!”
My friend has had several conversations with the pastor during this tough season. So I asked him what plan the pastor has for the next phase of the church’s life.
“Get to 1,000.”
“What?” I responded.
“The pastor’s plan is to grow the church back up to 1,000 people. Then they’ll have enough of a giving base to buy a new church building and stand on their own again.”
I paused for a moment, waiting for my friend to crack a smile, say “just kidding” or otherwise indicate that he was pulling my leg. Nothing came.
“But…” I stumbled, “that’s not a plan.”
My friend hung his head. “I know,” he responded. “I tried to tell the pastor that. He wouldn’t hear me.”
“Then that church is over,” I said to my friend, with genuine sorrow. “They might as well close their doors now. Getting bigger isn’t a plan. It’s not a goal. And it sure isn’t a solution to their problems.”
My friend agreed. We prayed for them, then changed the subject.
Most church growth proponents agree and teach that church growth is not a plan or a solution. But too many of them see it as a goal.
And because of that bigger-is-our-goal mentality, too many struggling pastors leave church growth conferences thinking bigger is a plan and a solution, too. And why wouldn’t they? They’ve spent several days in the awesome facilities of a booming church. The facility is proof that this stuff works. And they want that too.
The problem is, they’ve been wowed by the successes, but they haven’t been told about any of the churches that tried the same methods and failed. Continue reading