Fred, Jim, Bill, and John met in the church parking lot. “I called the church office the other day,” John said, “and I got the recording. It took two days before anybody called me back!” “What frustrates me,” Bill responded, “is that I invited Sam and his family to church, but they can’t come at 10:30 a.m. when we worship, because their kids have soccer practice every Sunday.” Fred weighed in: “What irritates me is when we have potlucks. I love them, but we stand in line for 20 minutes. It takes forever to get the food.” “Something happened to me just last week,” said Jim. “We came late and had to park in the side parking lot. I know we’ve got greeters at the front doors, but when we came in the side doors, there were no greeters or bulletins handed out. We had to walk all the way to the back just to get our church bulletin.” “You know what I get tired of,” added Bill, “the prayers in church that seem to go on forever. Who are all those sick people anyway?”
And so the story goes. These are the symptoms. What is the problem? A middle-size church with small-church thinking. As your church grows, think about how your church has to change.
Focus on these issues:
- Measure the size of your church—by average worship attendance. Two hundred or less, you’re a small church—it’s all right to act like one! Two hundred and one to 450 and you’re a middle-size church and need to grow your thinking, ministries, and structure. Larger than 450, you are part of the larger churches in our world.
- If you’re a church that has grown, establish a church office, with scheduled office hours and a real person on the end of the phone.
- Move to two (or more) worship services. This develops a multi-cellular view of the church. It promotes bigger-church thinking. Make them different styles, at different times, and perhaps even on different days, and the worship event changes from a “holding tank” to a “growth engine.”
- When you provide refreshments or meals, provide more than one serving line, more than one serving station.
- Expect all the church doors to be used and place greeters accordingly.
- Develop infrastructures. These include small groups of 8-12 people who meet in homes to share ministry, Bible study, prayer, and intimate fellowship.
- Organize adult Sunday school classes as Adult Bible Fellowships. Utilize the audio resource How to Design and Develop Fellowship Groups from Church Doctor Ministries.
- Share announcements and prayers in the Adult Bible Fellowships of 40-80 people. Celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Take prayer requests. Ask people to share what God is doing in their lives. Study the Bible in this group that meets every Sunday at the church. They remain in the same group, have the same leader, but change teachers and topics.
- Add a second staff person. Can’t afford one? Add a part-time person. This can be an on-fire volunteer who could work a few hours (at first) and get paid. This is the best way to cultivate home-grown, full-time staff for the future.
- Get intentional about assimilating new members. Develop an assimilation team. Ask them to read, study, and discuss the book Your Church Has Doors: How to Open the Front and Close the Back from Church Doctor Ministries. Use the appendix of this book, which has practical ideas for assimilation and backdoor follow-up.
Teach the leaders, like Fred, Jim, Bill, and John, that the large church is not a bigger form of the smaller church. It’s a different church!
How has your church adjusted to a growing attendance/membership? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.