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Churches tend to grow in communities that are growing and tend to shrink in communities that are shrinking! If you are leading a church in a small town that a lot of people especially young people are leaving, you can do everything right and still see your church get smaller. Another dirty secret is that churchgoers self-select for size. Some people want a small church and will leave if it gets larger. Some people want a medium-sized church and some want to go to a megachurch.
Though few people will admit aloud to not wanting their church to grow, they might find their family-sized church comfortable and not really want it to change. All of these things are relevant, but only for churches in a certain context and demographic area. Yeah, I really like the part in scripture where the megachurch would gather in a house and really share the spirit and word. This issue has been widely researched, using a variety of different instruments, for many years. I recall that my alma mater once did such a study, only to discover that the vast majority of their alums pastored churches of or less.
This term refers to the factg that our brains have limited capacity for certain kinds of information. When we examine channel capacity from the lens of social psychology we discover that when networks grow beyond our capacity to maintian social connections, we begin to feel estranged. In other words — there is a human limit to how large our social networks, including our churches, can become. The magic number seems to be about people in our network. Now, in response to this blog post — which is quite good — I would add that the FIRST and PRIMARY reason why churches top out at or less than is that the pastor fails to understand this fundamental feature of human cognitive and social psychology and adapt to it.
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Number 2 is gold. As always, keep writing! Carey — great stuff and the podcast is amazing. Recently you and Brian Wangler mentioned a Reggie Joiner sermon using shopping carts. Anyway you can link me up to this? All in a small town of about 2, people. I have to say the suggestions Carey makes are exactly right, if you want to see your church grow you have to be willing to make some changes. Carey, I just heard you speak at the Activate Conference and really enjoyed it.
Can you break down the strategy piece a little? What is your strategy? Have you written some posts on it? I know you use Deep and Wide, but can you give an example of some of your strategy? I pastor a church in academia, near to Harvard called Journey Church. We are clear on our mission and vision and somewhat clear on strategy but this is the piece I could use the most help on. Thank you Carey. Thank you for always sharing. You just covered chapter of my book for me. Great Essay. What is most interesting and telling, is this compulsion to bring other people into your delusional fantasy world.
The poor deluded Christians never stop trying to effect change with their incantations…er, I mean prayers. Right on. Obviously in some small communities there are churches under I was very involved in many activities and in leadership roles at our church. In the past two years I have witnessed much of what you recommend in this article executed at our church.
Some of this shift also has to do with my perception of your general approach, which I suspect has been utilized nearly point-for-point at our church. This formula can be seen as very cynical and corporate-like numbers crunching. Furthermore, some may become disenfranchised not just with their current church, but with organized religion as a whole, which is where I feel I am now.
And those numbers represent real people on a journey together, and who experience ups and downs. Just one perspective. I actually lives through these principles and led a church through change. Many stayed with it throughout. Many more people are in a relationship with Jesus because of it. This is not a cynical ploy to manipulate people. He wants some solid scripture to back it up. A member church, among dozens of other member churches in a community of less than 4, is NOT a dying church.
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The article sounds more like someone from Hollywood trying to make his MBA degree look good than someone from a religious seminary. Not one single aspect of the article was Biblically based or even supported. I may well be wrong…but please show us the scripture proving that America has been doing its rural and suburban churches wrong all these years. Every time churches listen to this non-Bibically based nonsense, they celebrate their 14 new big screen TVs while another food and medicine distribution program bites the dust.
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So many communities are suffering because a new wave of young ministers are isolating themselves from these ecumenical groups and trying to duplicate or compete with programs that already exist in the small community 20 churches fighting over members in a town with only 3, people in it. I do recall Christ teaching the early disciples of his church how to witness, share, and spread the news the news to be spread is pretty well covered in the New Testament.
Your reply is well-thought out and I enjoyed reading it. The advice is for churches that do have a problem or soon will, and they know it. I agree with the thesis of the article itself, and I think Carey only has the best intentions with the article. In hindsight however, I realized most of my Amens were more about practical, business, and political matters than spiritual and theological ones.
My Amens were mostly wishful thinking that humans and their communities would be easier to manage into my personal world view. What drew my tangent is the way those with questions or warnings for organizational experts are handled. Well…if someone misinterprets, or finds a hole…plug it with solid scripture! Fault finders in and outside of a church do have a purpose. That form of comment fielding deflecting back to the commenter and taking a self defense stance made me re-read the article a number of times, searching for what ever it was that seemed to bothering GenXer.
I do understand that pastors do not have the time and stamina to dig through their Bible and convince every single nay-sayer in person. Much of Urban Canada would be considered the same. It fits where he is, it fits where I am, it fits where many of his readers are.
I do not think Carey is targeting communities of 10, people with 50 churches of people like you see in many areas of the South East US. This is not about killing various small churches to build one big one. It is about organizing ourselves in a way so that we do not hinder the expansion of the gospel. We know this, or at least we should.
Disciples are being made. People are being saved. Lives are being transformed. God is being glorified. Greetings to you in mighty name above all other names Jesus Christ. Im very much happy to write to since i have went through your website and have seen great work on which you are doing by the grace of God to spread the true gospel. Am pastor Wilfred Kerosi from East Africa Kenya of Ribate fellowship christian church with 63 members ,55 Children whereby 34 among the children are poor orphans under my care.
I hereby request for affiliation to partner with you in spreading the true gospel of which you are doing as the say that ; go to all nation and preach the gospel to every creature on earth. Hey Carey, as a lay person volunteering at a church, why do you think there is so much push back against being strategic or changing structure based on comments on this post? Hello Carey, My question is a little different. When dealing with volunteers and paid worker in the church, is it a good idea to give them equal treatments?
We are in the process of ordaining some faithful volunteers and someone brings a suggestion that one of the paid workers should also be ordained.
My stand on the issue is that this may discourage the faithful volunteers, seeing that some are being paid and more so they are coded differently under the Fair Labor Act. Ummm, ordination and pay are two different areas of church decision-making. The administrators get paid per month as well as the worship pastor. This is what we can afford. Everyone else is a volunteer. Four of the volunteers are being made deacons — two are being considered for the eldership. This is up to the discretion of the elders and church council.
That is sad that someone getting paid by the church expects to hold an ordained role as well. Other than that…like I said, an accountant — or a tech guy or the janitor — you may pay them, but ordination should only be a serious thought by the eldership and the church council. They should not be two conflated categories.
But you probably already knew that. Many people in these churches ALSO have an MBA or higher…and have run businesses and organizations since long before the minister was born. That is where the pastor is supposed to have the upper hand when it comes to organizational strategy and leadership. It makes you look foolish and naive.