“How can we grow our church?”
This is the question that haunts a clergyperson’s dreams, whether it wells up from the minister’s own mind and heart or is voiced by laypeople every time they look at attendance and giving patterns. It’s not necessarily a bad question. It does make a couple of big assumptions – that we need to grow and that we are in agreement about what growth looks like – unless it comes at the tail end of discussions about the congregation’s culture and God-given purpose.
Boiled down to its essence, a church’s size is based on two factors: the role of the pastor and the way newcomers enter the system. (Descriptions of the various size designations are available here.) Ministers can use questions and storytelling around these two dynamics to help leaders begin to understand how the church works and what might need to change for growth to occur.
Pinpointing the church’s actual size
- How many members does our church have? What is weekly attendance? How do we define regular attendance?
- What do you love about the size of our church?
- What limits does our church size put on us?
- What is your favorite story about this church that relates to its size?
Understanding ministerial functioning
- What is the role of our pastor(s) – from pastor’s point of view and people’s?
- What engages and energizes our pastor?
- What would our pastor like to do if there was time/energy?
- What leadership support does the pastor have? Need?
Examining systems of welcome and inclusion
- What is our system for recognizing and welcoming newcomers?
- How do we follow up with visitors?
- How do these systems relate to our size?
- When is the last time a visitor came 3+ times?
- How did our newest members know they wanted this to be their faith community?
These prompts are designed to help laity get up on the balcony and see the congregation from a new perspective. Next week I’ll share questions around discerning mission that can bring another level of awareness, such that the congregation can consider whether and in what way(s) it needs to grow to live toward its vision.