CHURCH HEALTH & The Big Get Bigger While the Small Get Smaller

by Aaron Earls, Christianity Today, 3/7/19.

…Growth is not absent from American churches,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But rapid growth through conversions is uncommon.”

The research gives a clear picture of the state of Protestant churches in America today.

  • Most have fewer than 100 people attending services each Sunday (57%),
  • including 21 percent who average fewer than 50.
  • Around 1 in 10 churches (11%) average 250 or more for their worship services.

Three in five (61%) pastors say their churches faced a decline in worship attendance or growth of 5 percent or less in the last three years. Almost half (46%) say their giving decreased or stayed the same from 2017 to 2018.

More than 2 in 5 churches (44%) only have one or fewer full-time staff members. Close to 9 in 10 pastors (87%) say their church had the same or fewer number of full-time staff in 2018 as they had in 2017, including 7 percent who cut staff.

In 2018, few churches added new multi-site campuses (3%) or were involved in some form of planting a new church (32%). Sixty-eight percent say they had no involvement in church planting. Around 1 in 10 (12%) say they were directly or substantially involved in opening a new church in 2018, including 7 percent who were a primary financial sponsor or provided ongoing financial support to a church plant.

“The primary purpose of this study was to obtain a set of objective measures on churches’ reproduction and multiplication behaviors today as well as to understand their core context of growth,” said Todd Wilson, chief executive officer of Exponential. “By combining these measures, we can help churches think about multiplication.”

Declining, plateaued, or growing?

Twenty-eight percent of Protestant pastors say their church has seen worship service attendance shrink by 6 percent or more compared to three years ago.

Another 33 percent say their church has remained within 5 percent, while 39 percent say their congregation has grown by at least 6 percent since the first quarter of 2016.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/march/lifeway-research-church-growth-attendance-size.html

SYSTEM 4 of 7SYSTEMS.church: REGENERATION & People/Places are supernaturally changed for the better.

7.4 systems yellow

This is fourth (4th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/17/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

People & places are changed (regeneration system).

Regeneration most notably happens at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). And though spiritual transformation may sometimes be downplayed as it is unfashionable, people still want to be changed (the self-help industry is a testimony to this). Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that spiritual transformation lies at the center of Jesus’ message (John 3:16) and humankind’s destiny (Romans 6:23).

When people are spiritually transformed so too will be their neighborhoods. Not by politics nor coercion, this happens by transformed people daily living out their changed lives (Acts 2:43-47). Healthy churches embrace a system that equally emphasizes spiritual and neighborhood transformation. (The following is excerpted and adapted from Bob Whitesel’s Cure for the Common Church, chapter 7: “Why New is Needed.”)

Newness for Those in Spiritual Need

There is the true newness that will permeate the uncommon church.  It is an expectation and invitation for people to be transformed physically and spiritually by a reunification with their loving heavenly Father (and among a community that embraces such newness).  Figure 7.1 gives an overview of why and where supernatural newness comes.

Figure 7.1 An Overview of Newness for Those in Need

God cares about those in need.
  • “I know that the LORD will take up the case of the poor and will do what is right  for the needy.” Psalm 140:12
  • You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress,” Isaiah 25:4
God wants to bestow upon those in need a spiritual and physical newness
  • Jesus declared, “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest” (John 10:10)
  • “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Christians are to provide a fellowship that fosters and anticipates this newness 
  • “True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” James 1:27
  • “Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.” Luke 14:13-14

In the previous chapters we saw that the term missio Dei describes God’s quest to be reunited with his wayward offspring.  Once this reunion is made, a real newness in personal lives emerges, a newness toward which the uncommon church will be orientated.  Though growing O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L. and L.E.A.R.N.ers are part of the process, a church will not become uncommonly supernatural unless it welcomes and expects spiritual and physical transformation.

People today (but probably no more than in any other period) are in search of newness.  They want to alleviate bad habits, overcome harmful enticements, curb destructive behavior, be more loving, kind and generous.  But something deep inside of each one of us seems to pull us back toward bad actions.  The cure, the real, long-term cure for uncommonness is a church where supernatural encounter and expectation is woven into the fabric of the congregation.  And so, an uncommon church will exhibit many of the characteristics of Figure 7.2. 

Figure 7.2 Church Patterns That Welcome Transformation 

The uncommon church
  • Expects miracles to happen
  • Expects people to be changed in positive ways that no human effort could accomplish
  • Expects people to show signs of growing in their dependence upon God rather than dependence upon humans
  • Does not put its trust in programs, pastors, the past or trends; but daily increases in their dependence upon God’s supernatural assistance to meet physical and spiritual needs

Why NEW is Needed

Humans Are in a Pickle.  

As we just noted, humans want to do the right thing, but we find ourselves constantly and repeatedly failing to do what we know is right.  God knows we are prone to this (after all he’s a long time observer of our behavior).  And, God has made a way for us to be changed.  The Message Bible is a good translation for putting such principles in modern idiom, and Figure 7.3 explains this fracture.

Figure 7.3 Our Wrong Actions Fracture Our Fellowship With God

We have an inner pull that makes us do the wrong thing, even when we know better
  • “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back..” Titus 3:3 (MSG)
These wrong actions separate us from our loving heavenly Father
  • “There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.  Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.  Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.” Isaiah 59:2 (MSG)
If we accept God’s plan to have Christ bear our punishment, then God will restore our fellowship with Him, help us change and give us eternal life too!
  • “But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG)

How Did God Create a Route Back?

Once humans see that we are prone to do what is bad for ourselves and that we are incapable of changing by ourselves; we then notice that God has created a route, a bridge so to speak, back to fellowship with God.  Figure 7.4 is how the Message Bible explains it.

Figure 7.4  God’s Plan for a Route Back 

Jesus took the punishment for our wrong actions (so we could be restored to a close relationship with our loving heavenly Father):
  • “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death … Romans 5:8 (MSG). 
  • “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)
Trusting in Jesus’ actions will acquit us from the punishment due for our wrong doings and give us a “whole and lasting life:”
  • “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…” John 3:16-17 (MSG)
This route back is only available through Jesus Christ.
  • “Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.” John 14:6 (MSG)

How Do We Take That “Route” Back to God?

Now that we understand that God has created a route back to fellowship with himself, we begin to grasp that the all-powerful Creator of the universe wants to have personal friendship with each of us who will return.  So, what is involved in returning to him?  The answer can be summed up in the statement of Figure 7.5.  let’s look at this figure and then examine three important words in it.

Figure 7.5  How We Take the Route Back to God

Repentance must be combined with faith in order to bring about spiritual transformation.

Repentance

Repentance is a decision to “break with the past” which also carries the idea of turning and going in a new direction.  This is what it means when 1 John 1:8-9 says “…if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (MSG).

People come to this stage when they realize they are dissatisfied with the way their life is going and know they need help beyond what humanity can provide.  They may be frustrated that their life is full of animosities, pride, biases, deceptions, conflicts and a host of other maladies.  And so, they seek inner change.

The good news is that God wants that change for you too!  He even promises to give you supernatural power to help you make those changes.  It is this trust (or faith) in God’s ability to help you that takes you to the next step.

Faith

“Faith” is a reliance and inner sense of knowing that God has the power to transform you.  The author of Hebrews offers a classic statement about faith:

It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.  Heb. 11:6 (MSG, italics mine)

Author and lay theologian C. S. Lewis reminds us that faith also carries the idea of growing in unwavering faith, stating, “Faith… is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.”

New People (Spiritual Transformation) 

Spiritual transformation in biblical terms means divine empowerment to reverse direction and go in an opposite direction with your life.  The author of Titus describes it this way:

He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG, italics mine)

Therefore … 

  • When repentance (for our wrong doings) 
  • combines with faith (in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf) 
  • then spiritual transformation (into a new person) occurs.

  This spiritual transformation into a new person has been called many things: conversion, salvation, being born-again, etc.  And, though these are important terms they also have been mischaracterized.  Unfortunately to many people today they do not bring to mind the original meaning of being transformed from our old way of life.  

Today spiritual transformation may be the best term to sum up what God is doing.  When he creates a new person our old desires for self-satisfaction, preferring oneself over others, etc. will still be there, but spiritual transformation reminds us there is divine power to increasingly overcome these self-serving lures.   And, we experience an emerging confidence and power as we see God daily helping us come closer to him and as we participate in his mission.  And so, spiritual transformation is a remarkable intersection of human will, Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s forgiveness and a rekindled heavenward relationship.  This is not a transformation that we can muster up ourselves.  This is a change that goes deeply to the purpose of the One who created us.  It goes to the core of our relationship with a heavenly Father who loves us and can help us. 

And so, the Church is primarily a community that is collectively and constantly welcoming and experiencing this spiritual transformation where new people emerge.  Yet, the gloomy fact is that most commonly today, congregations are not experiencing this.  And, it does several things to a church, including robbing a church of its supernatural expectation and making a church more familiar with churchgoers than non-churchgoers.  

Thus, the “HOW” of Growing N.E.W. is critical for nurturing an uncommon church, But, before we look at Chapter 8: Grow N.E.W. HOW let us look briefly at why spiritual formation is at the pivot point of the uncommon church.

You can download the rest of the chapter here:

BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 7 WHY NEW

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BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 8 HOW NEW.

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For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology

TRANSFER GROWTH & In the past, churches could grow by drawing nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case.” #ThomRainer

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 6/14/18.

… (Rainer:) “ministry is harder now than it used to be.” In the past, he said, churches could grow by drawing in nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case,” he said.

Many churches rightly jettisoned a programmatic approach to evangelism, but they failed to replace it with anything else, Rainer asserted. “Instead of reaching out,” he said, “they became inward-focused.”

Yet Rainer was optimistic about the future as he spoke at the breakfast with Jonathan Howe, director of strategic initiatives at LifeWay and co-host of the “Rainer on Leadership” podcast.

Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

…Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/06/13/thom-rainer-points-way-forward-despite-denominational-challenges/

GENERATIONS & The surprising reasons members of Generation Z become Christians: #Family #ChristianSchool #SundaySchool #Bible

By Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/28/18

A recent survey sought to find out the spiritual temperature of British members of Generation Z. Researchers were so shocked by the results they delayed releasing the results until they could analyze it more.

More than 1 in 5 British people (21 percent) between the ages of 11 and 18 describe themselves as active followers of Jesus, with 13 percent saying they are practicing Christians who attend church.

The perception had been that Christianity was much lower among British teens. “There was disbelief among the team [of researchers] because it was so high,” Jimmy Dale, the Church of England’s national youth evangelism officer, told the Telegraph.

The survey, commissioned by Hope Revolution Partnership, a Christian youth organization, also asked young people why they became Christians.

While almost half (45 percent) say their growing up in a Christian family was one of the most important reasons they became a Christian themselves, many listed some unexpected reasons for their faith.

Researchers asked: “When you think about the reasons you became a Christian which two or three of the following, if any, were most important for you?”

Here’s how the members of Generation Z responded:

45% growing up in a Christian family
17% going to a religious school
15% Sunday School
15% reading the Bible
13% visiting a church building
13% going to a church wedding, funeral, christening, baptism, confirmation
12% going to a regular church service
11% a youth group
10% a spiritual experience

Even fewer spoke about other church youth activities or specific courses on Christianity popular in England like Alpha or Christianity Explored.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/03/27/the-surprising-reasons-generation-z-become-christians/

MEASUREMENT & The Goal of the Great Commission: To Make Disciples

x-in-organix“Chapter 8: MEASURE” is excerpted with permission from ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011), pp. 139-156 (copyright by Bob Whitesel).

Let’s break through to the real reasons for growth or non-growth… Let’s put diagnostic tools into the hands of pastors, people … so they will see, clearly and scientifically the real situation. – Donald McGavran, Fuller Seminary Dean Emeritus[i]

Modern Leadership Millennial Leadership
Measure 1. Measure a church’s growth in conversion & attendance. 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.
2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.
3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

When Things Add Up

Jerry was preparing to hire two staff members. And, though he looked forward to adding new staff at First Church, he always felt uncomfortable with these interviews. Thus, he was taken back when he heard the sounds of merriment and laughter coming from the waiting room. “This is some way to start an interview,” Jerry thought as he opened the door.

In the waiting room Jerry found an older gentleman, a thirty-ish young man and a middle-aged woman laughing, conversing and chatting with such excitement that he could scarcely interject a word. Finally, Jerry blurted out, “Who is here for the job interview for Pastor to Senior Adults?” to which the young man and the older gentleman both raised their hands. “Well who is here for the position of Young Adults Pastor?” to which all three raised their hands. Spontaneously, they all broke into laughter again. “You see,” said Joan. “We’ve known each other for years, but we had no idea we were applying for the same two jobs. I haven’t seen Gordon and Joel for years, and I guess we just got carried away by the reunion.”

To Jerry there was something comforting in their camaraderie. “Well, we can start this interview together and then break out separately,” Jerry suggested, which they all thought was a good idea. Sitting down in Jerry’s office, he began to read their résumés. “Joan, it says here you pastored at Aldersgate Church. I pastored there years ago.” “I followed you, I think,” came Joan’s reply. “Aldersgate, that was a hard nut to crack,” continued Jerry. “But eventually, when they let me start counting spiritual progress and stop tracking attendance so closely we began to grow.” “What do you mean?” interjected Joel, who had always been a bit impolite when his interest was pricked. “You see,” Jerry continued, “after a few years at Aldersgate Church things weren’t adding up. Positive things were happening but it wasn’t reflected in our attendance numbers. The congregants were more unified than they’d been in a decade. And, a growing ministry to the Hispanic community had been positive, with a nearby Hispanic church growing because of their generosity. I thought to myself, ‘there’s got to be a better way to measure a church’s growth.’ One night I sat down at my computer and sent an e-mail to a young pastor friend in Atlanta. I described Aldersgate’s situation and waited for an e-mail reply. Before I turned in for the night, I found this reply from Aaron: ‘Before you go to bed tonight read Acts 2:42-47. I’ll call you in the morning’.”

For the next hour Jerry recounted how Aaron’s suggestion had led him to measure a church’s health by spiritual metrics, and not attendance numbers. Jerry had inherited a badly divided church at Aldersgate. But, his hard work had brought about an improvement in unity. Jerry recalled, “One lady said, ‘we’re much more united than we were before Jerry came. If that is all we got out of his leadership … well maybe that’s enough’.” To track the growing unity Jerry would regularly ask people if they sensed the church was more or less unified than last year. Jerry also tracked the number of congregants in small groups such as Sunday School classes, Bible-study groups and even committees. “I wanted to see if people were growing in their devotion to Bible-study, fellowship, meals together and prayer gatherings, as it says in Acts 2:42. These things seemed more important to measure than how many I could get to show up on Sunday morning.” As Jerry continued Joan, Gordon and Joel peppered him with questions and impressions. And, before long all had lost track of the time. Finally, a knock at the door interrupted their lively discussion.

“I’m leaving now, it’s the end of the work day,” came the voice of Jerry’s assistant. “Do you want me to schedule more interviews next week?” Suddenly Joan, Gordon and Joel were brought back to reality. There were three of them, and only two jobs. “No, don’t schedule any more for next week. I think I’ve found our staff members.” With that the assistant departed, but for Joan, Gordon and Joel anxiety took his place. Neither wanted to take the other’s position, but all relished the idea of working with a creative pastor like Jerry. After some uncomfortable minutes of silence, Jerry spoke again. “I’ve made my decision, if the church board agrees. I think Joel would make an excellent Young Adult Pastor.” Gordon and Joan both smiled, and Joan winked at Joel. After all, Joan and Gordon had only suggested themselves for the job because of what they had learned through Joel’s friendship. “And for the Senior Adult Pastor I will suggest Gordon to the board,” Jerry continued. Now elation was tempered. Both Joel and Gordon felt that Joan had been their pastor, and she had been in the ministry longer. Spontaneously they hugged and tears of joy and sorrow began to flow down Gordon’s face. After a minute they composed themselves and congratulated the two men. “I don’t know what you are getting all weepy about,” came Jerry’s reply after an awkward silence. “I don’t know where we’ll find the money, but I think we should create a new position of Pastor to Adults for Joan. I’ve needed help for some time, and I think your experiences and your spirits are right for this church. Welcome home.”

And with that four circular routes reconnected and resulted in fruitful years of ministry. Here at First Church lessons learned in so many diverse congregations and locales had come together to spread ever increasingly the good news of God’s mission.

X is for “Measurement”

This chapter will discuss measurement. Yet, not just any kind of measurement, but ways to measure spiritual growth and its relationship to effective leadership. However, when the words spiritual and measurement are linked together, church leaders often cringe. Such phrases give the impression of either excessive scrutiny or over simplification. Thus, let’s begin with a short investigation into the rationale for measuring spiritual growth.

Is Measurement Spiritual?

The Scriptures are replete with examples of appraisal and assessment, especially when describing how spiritual seekers mature along their spiritual journey. The numberings in Numbers 1:2 and 26:2 reminded a Jewish nation that a lack of pre-exodus faith had resulted in many of them forfeiting the blessings of the promised land. And Luke’s numberings in Acts 1:15, 2:41 and 4:4 reminded the Christian church that even amid persecution, the Christian community matured and spread from the imperial backwaters of Jerusalem to the Roman capital.

Still, some argue against counting, claiming that David was punished for ordering a census of Israel in 1 Chron. 21:1-30. But, a closer look reveals that David was punished by God because in the face of an overwhelming opponent, David sought to count his men to bolster his faith rather than trust in God’s assistance. David’s err was not his counting, but because he counted for inappropriate reasons. And yet, this story of David’s inappropriate counting can be a warning for all who would count today. If you are counting because you need to bolster your faith, then your err is the same as David’s. Measurement should not be a substitution for faith, but an indication of God’s moving among his people.

Let’s look at how modern leadership and millennial leadership differ in their approaches to measurement. This comparison can help tomorrow’s leaders see what should be counted and what should not.

A Peril of Modern Leadership Regarding: – Measurement

Modern Leadership Millennial Leadership
Measure 1. Measure a church’s growth in conversion & attendance. 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.
2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.
3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

Modern Miscue 1. Grow a church’s growth in conversion and attendance.

Just one modern miscue will be investigated in this chapter, because it contrasts significantly with three more organic measurements. The modern miscue is to put too much reliance in measuring conversion and attendance as an indicator of leadership effectiveness.

1.a. Counting Conversion. First let me say that conversion is a critically important experience for every spiritual traveler.[ii] Let’s define what we are talking about using an accepted definition by psychologist and philosopher William James:

(conversion is) “…the process, gradual or sudden, by which the self hitherto divided and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy becomes united and consciously right, superior and happy in consequence to its firmer hold upon religions realities.”[iii]

Such conversion is an important response to God’s mission (the missio Dei) for it describes a second birth where a person begins a new life reunited with her or his heavenly Father. The Bible states, “What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life begins! Look at it!” (2 Cor. 5:17, Msg.).

Such changes are countable, but there are two caveats to counting conversion.

  • Conversion can happen gradually or suddenly, thus counting is difficult. A sudden conversion to Christianity is easily noted, while a more gradual conversionary experience is harder to count. Let’s look at how the Bible describes both types of conversion and therefore how effectively counting all conversions becomes difficult.
    • Sudden Conversion. Today when people think of conversion they usually think of a sudden conversion like that of Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). Many people, including this author, have experienced conversion in this abrupt and unmistakable way.
    • Progressive Conversion. But, if we look at how most of Jesus’ disciples were converted, we see a more gradual progression. Fuller Seminary’s Richard Peace emphasizes that:

“What Mark sought to communicate in his Gospel was the process by which these twelve men gradually turned, over time, from their culturally derived understanding of Jesus as a great teacher to the amazing discovery that he was actually the Messiah who was the Son of God.”[iv]

Scot McKnight adds that “for many Christians conversion is a process of socialization,”[v] meaning that it is in the company and companionship of other Christians that many people gradually convert to Christ.

  • Counting conversion is difficult because it is a supernatural work of God’s Spirit, occurring on God’s timetable. Conversion involves a God who declares, “My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” ( 55:9). Thus, as Jesus pointed out, trying to tally up conversions is like trying to count the wind:

“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God” (John 3:8, Msg.).

And when Luke describes the growth of the early church, he stresses God’s involvement, writing, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The scriptural emphasis is that being saved from the penalty of one’s sin happens when the Holy Spirit and a human’s free will intersect. Subsequently, counting conversations is not a good indicator of leadership, for it happens at different paces and as the result of a divine intersection.[vi]

1.b Counting attendance. Perhaps because conversion is such an inscrutable intersection, counting church attendance has become the common alternative. Yet attendance at an event, worship celebration, etc. can be artificially skewed by many factors. Figure 8.1 includes just a few temporary factors that can artificially skew attendance growth, making it an inconsistent measurement.

Figure 8.1 Temporary Types of Attendance Growth

Temporary Types of Attendance Growth
Forces affecting

temporary attendance growth:

Actions that can

create temporary growth:

 

Curiosity:

·       New facility is built

·       New pastor is hired

·       New program initiated

 

 

 

Entertainment:

 

·       Special musical guest(s)

·       Special speaker(s)

·       Church becomes the “it” church, meaning it is inordinately popular and thus people want to associate with it.[vii]

 

 

Population changes:

 

 

·       Growing neighborhood surrounding the church

·       Church attracts an emerging culture (ethnic, age group, etc.) from the neighborhood.

In the examples above, temporary and artificial reasons, not leadership, may be driving attendance growth.

Therefore, if modern ways of measuring leadership by counting conversion and attendance are difficult to decipher at best, perhaps Luke has given hints of better indicators. Let’s look at the verses preceding Acts 2:47 and see if more relevant measurement tools emerge.

3 Attitudes of Millennial Leadership Regarding: – Measurement

Modern Leadership Millennial Leadership
Measure 1. Measure a church’s growth in conversion & attendance. 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.
2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.
3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

 Millennial Attitude 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.

In Acts 2:42-47 Luke describes Jerusalem’s reaction to Peter’s first sermon.[viii] A fresh Spirit-infused community has come into being, and thus measuring it (as Luke always likes to do) requires new metrics.[ix] In Acts 2:42 Luke writes that as a result of Peter’s sermon,

“They devoted themselves….

  • to the apostles’ teaching
  • and to fellowship,
  • to the breaking of bread
  • and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

Let’s start with the word “devoted,” which comes from two Greek words: pros- meaning “a goal striven toward”[x] and karterountes meaning “steadfast, to hold out, to endure.”[xi] The New International Version translates this “devoted,” but the New American Standard Bible translates it more accurately as “continuing steadfastly.” A compromise might be to say that they “steadfastly strove for the goals of …”

The subsequent phrases indicate four goals of this steadfast striving: learning, fellowship, communal dinners and prayer. What a refreshing metric. Luke is not measuring bodies, but hunger for knowledge, unity, community and prayer. In the new millennium measurement is not about how many warm bodies show up at an event, but how much committed community emerges.

Growth in maturity is one way to label this growth. But, we shall see shortly that growth in maturity is not easily measured. Yet, if we calculate it in the same way year after year (for instance count the number of people involved in Bible studies and prayer groups) we can catch a glimpse of Luke’s intent: to measure how God grows within and through his followers. Before we look at tools that can measure growth in maturity, let’s investigate three more measurements Luke describes in Acts 2:42-47.

Millennial Attitude 2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.

Acts 2:44-45 describes a growing trust within the fledgling church. This resulted in their selling of their possessions to help on another. Some throughout history have taken this passage to suggest that true discipleship is only to be found by living a communal lifestyle where all possessions are shared.[xii] However, if communal living was to be the norm for the Christian church, then Paul, Peter, James and others would have admonished churches in Corinth, Antioch, Philippi, Jerusalem and elsewhere to adopt a communal lifestyle. Scholar Everett Harrison adds an interesting insight, “this was not the forsaking of the principle of private ownership, since the disposal and distribution of their possessions was occasioned ‘as anyone might have need.’ When the need became known, action was taken based on loving concern.”[xiii] What Luke is emphasizing is a heightened trust and unity that is growing in the church. Followers are becoming confident they could rely on one another, even with which they formerly valued most: their money and assets.

Such actions describe a deeper unity and trust among believers than they had known before. This is a second type of church growth and makes more sense to track than conversions or attendance. Growth in unity is one way to label this emerging inter-reliance. Again, measuring this will be subjective and require some effort to calculate. But, we will see that a simple congregational questionnaire administered yearly and anonymously can glean congregational perceptions of whether unity is growing or waning.

Degree of unity is an important measurement that is often overlooked by denominational measurement methods too. For instance, in the story that began this chapter (and based upon an true account) Pastor Jerry had inherited a badly divided congregation. His hard work had brought about an improvement in unity, as exemplified in a congregant’s comment that “we’re much more united than we were before Jerry came. If that is all we got out of his leadership … well maybe that’s enough.” However, because the church was experiencing a plateau in attendance and the denomination was not tracking growth in unity, Jerry’s progress was not evident to the denomination. We might ask ourselves, “was Pastor Jerry growing the church?” Yes. “Was he growing it in a way that was helpful and valuable?” Yes. “But, was this growth evident to the denomination?” No. Herein lies the problem. We are measuring things like conversion and attendance, which human leadership has only limited ability to influence, and we are overlooking important metrics of church growth, such as a church growing in unity. In the next section we will look at tools that can measure growth in unity as well.

Millennial Attitude 3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

The Acts 2:47 phrase, “and enjoying the favor of all the people” describes in concise terms a growing appreciation for the church among community residents. Here we see that manifold connections and service to the community result in favor, esteem and a good opinion from those outside of the congregation. The community does not regard the church as mongers, dogmatists or self-absorbed elitists. Instead, the church seems to have been serving the community with such joyful enthusiasm, that people genuinely respected and valued their presence. Here is another refreshing metric which Luke choose to describe.

Therefore, measuring growth in favor among non-churchgoers can ascertain if community favor is increasing or declining. But, there is a caveat. Growing in favor does not mean catering to immoral elements in a community in hopes of currying their favor. Rather this verse describes what happens when a church applies biblical principles of love, fairness, truth-telling and compassion in a non-churchgoing community. This results in the community returning to them favor and respect. Such regard can be seen in an observation of the early church leader Tertullian, who wrote that non-Christians often commented, “Behold, how they love one another.”[xiv] We shall now see how measuring a church’s impact and esteem in a community be an effective tool to measure leadership.

Nurturing the 3 Attitudes Regarding: – Measurement

Growth in favor is similar to maturity growth and unity growth, in that all three are must rely upon subjective assessment. As noted, this may be why modern leaders often take the easy route of counting physical attributes of attendance and conversion. But subjective measurement is a reliable tool if consistent and commonsense questionnaires are employed. After years of applying the following tools among client churches and students, I have found that the following assessment tools are a helpful starting place.

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.

This is one of the easier types of growth to measure. Acts 2:42 describes how the young church steadfastly strove for goals of “…the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Every church has groups that center around these purposes. Thus, by counting the percentage of people involved in small groups where teaching takes place, fellowship takes place, shared meals take place and prayer takes place, a church can begin to get a general picture of spiritual progress (or regress).

1.a Count up all of your small groups. Figure 8.2 suggests typical small groups and how they might correlate to the categories mentioned Acts 2:42. When counting groups, limit yourself to small groups as defined in Chapter 3 as “less than 20 people meeting 1+ times a month.”[xv] Measuring changes in participation in these small groups can be a general indicator of changes in how many congregants are actively striving for learning, fellowship, communal dinners and prayer.

Figure 8.2 Groups Who Might Exemplify Growth in Maturity

“They devoted themselves to … Small groups in a church that might exemplify this:
 

 

 

…the apostles’ teaching…

1.     Bible studies

2.     Sunday school classes

3.     Newcomer classes

4.     Membership classes

5.     Confirmation classes

6.     Baptism classes

7.     Any regular gathering or class encouraging Christian education

 

 

…to fellowship…

1.     Hobby groups

2.     Sport teams

3.     Any regular gathering or class primarily fostering Christian fellowship

 

 

… to the breaking of bread…

1.     Lunches together

2.     Dinners together

3.     Any gathering promoting Christian community with a meal

 

 

…and to prayer…

1.     Prayer meetings

2.     Participation in prayer programs such as prayer triplets, prayer covenants, etc.[xvi]

3.     Participation at prayer times (at the altar, in the prayer room, etc.)

Still, measuring all groups in Figure 8.2 could be cumbersome for many churches due to the large number of groups involved. Therefore, let’s limit ourselves to those small groups that are easier to detect, i.e. those orientated around biblical teaching or engaged in prayer.[xvii]

1.b Tracking your church’s growth in maturity (Figure 8.3). A church’s emerging spiritual maturity could be estimated and changes tracked by counting up the number of participants in groups that are focused on Bible study or prayer. Figure 8.3 shows how to tally up the number of participants in these groups and track changes from year to year.

Figure 8.3: Tracking Growth in Maturity (example in grey)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years

Number of people involved  

Total

Involvement

 

 

 

 

 

Church Attend-ance[xviii]

Composite Maturation Number
Bible study groups (adult)

·  Sunday Schools

·  Any small group w/ a Bible focus

Prayer groups (adult)

·  Prayer meetings & events

·  Prayer programs

Total Involvement divided by

Church Attendance

 

% of Change

 

2008 34 16 50 200 25 %
2009 45 18 63 203 31 % + 6 %
2010 49 23 72 199 36 % + 6 %

The goal of Figure 8.3 is to see movement toward a higher percentage of congregants involved in Bible study groups and prayer groups. In the example above (in grey), the church has been plateaued for three years. But, by computing the “Composite Maturation Number” we find that involvement in prayer and Bible study groups has actually grown 5% and then 6% per year (for a total of 11%). This growth in maturity demonstrates that something good is happening, but unless the Composite Maturation Number is tracked a denomination will usually not notice this.

In addition, because each church is unique, a church should not try to compare its scores with anyone but itself. This score will show you only if you are changing in the number of people who are participating in groups that focus primarily on Bible study or prayer. Therefore, compare them only with yourself to gauge year-by-year changes in congregational commitment to Bible study and prayer.

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.

2.a Tracking a church’s growth in unity (Figure 8.4). Congregants usually have a good sense of whether unity in the congregation is improving or waning. A simple Likert-type scale with two questions (Figure 8.4) can be administered to congregants once a year, and improvement or deterioration in a church’s perceptions of unity can be tracked.[xix]

Figure 8.4: Tracking a Church’s Perceptions of Growth in Unity

Growth in Unity
 

Our church is more unified than last year.

1.                  2.                  3.                4.                          5.

strongly disagree       disagree              neither                 agree                   strongly agree
 

I trust our church leadership more than last year .

1.                       2.                 3.                 4.                       5.

strongly disagree       disagree              neither                 agree                   strongly agree
 Given: once per year  Given when: at each worship celebration  Results: Movement toward higher numbers is preferred

2.b Track unity of congregants with one another and with leadership. The purpose of tracking growth in unity is not necessarily to score high, but to be moving higher. And, each question measures a different attribute of unity that should be increasing.

Question 1: Assesses perceptions of unity among congregants.

Question 2: Assesses perceptions of unity of the congregation with church leadership.

Again these numbers should not be bantered around between congregations. These scales are not relevant to boasting or bravado. Rather these scales measure progress (or regress) in congregational unity. For example, a church that has a low self-esteem may initially score poorly on this scale. But, in subsequent years if the numbers move upward them the congregation’s perception of its unity is increasing. This does not mean unity has always increased, but it does indicate that something is going on that is increasing a congregational sense of unanimity.

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 3. Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

3.a Measure opinion makers in the community that do not attend your church (Figure 8.5). A Likert-type questionnaire is helpful here too, for it measures changes in attitudes. Here we will not poll the congregation, but the non-churchgoing community. I use the term non-churchgoers in an attempt to be sensitive to labels, for these are people who may go to another church, synagogue, temple or mosque but who are not churchgoers at your place of worship. They include community leaders and opinion makers such as community officials, school principals/superintendents, business people, community leaders, etc.

3.b Poll the same people and/or positions each year for consistency. When possible, attempt to poll the same people every year to ensure that you are tracking changes in perception among the same local opinion makers. Figure 8.5, when given to community leaders, can help track changing perceptions of favor toward a local church.

Figure 8.5 Tracking the Perception of Growth in Church Favor Among Non-churchgoers.

Growth in Favor
 In your view (name of church) is more favorably regarded

within this community than last year

1.                       2.                 3.                 4.                       5.

strongly disagree       disagree              neither                 agree                   strongly agree
Given: once per year  Given to:

·  Community officials/leaders

·  School and business leaders

·  Local opinion makers

 

Results: Movement toward higher numbers is preferred.

 

Nurturing Millennial Attitude 4. Measure a church’s growth in conversions too.

For our fourth measurement we will measure conversions. Though we have seen that conversion is difficult to track, it can still be a helpful measurement when evaluated in light of the above metrics: growth in maturity, growth in unity and growth in favor among the community. In addition, Luke tracks conversion as we see from an abbreviated record from the book of Acts:[xx]

  • “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:41
  • “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47b
  • “But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.” Acts 4:4
  • “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” Acts 5:14
  • “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

In Luke’s narrative we see that conversion was taking place, and that he was tracking it. Thom Rainer summarizes, “Luke writes Acts in rapid-fire sequences, demonstrating that believers were persistently active in prayer, evangelism, and service.”[xxi] Punctuating this rapid-fire account is Luke’s repeated emphasis upon conversions taking place at the mystical intersection of God’s will and human choice. As we noted earlier, because of God’s involvement counting conversion is like counting the wind (John 3:8,). But, Luke still tracks it. Yet, because of God’s considerable involvement, outcomes of conversion may be less tied to the leader’s skill. Thus, we should count “growth in conversion” for it is a valid metric to signify God’s movement. And though conversion is the apex of one’s spiritual journey before eternity, we must always remind ourselves that this number is less indicative of effective leadership and more indicative of God’s sovereign workings in the mission Dei.

The cross in ORGANIX reminds us that conversion is the heart God’s missio Dei.

Though evaluating leadership by counting conversion is difficult because of the supernatural nature of conversion, it is also problematical to underemphasize conversion. Conversion is the penultimate experience that God wants all his offspring to experience. The Scriptures emphasize:

  • “And he (Jesus) said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 18:3
  • “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… you must be born again.” John 3:3, 7
  • “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Acts 3:19
  • “What we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life begins! Look at it!” (2 Cor. 5:17, Msg.).

Thus, the X in ORGANIX has at its heart the icon of a cross. The numbers in each quadrant stand for four valid types of measurement derived from Acts 2:42-47. Yet, the X in the center[xxii] reminds us that Christ’s death and resurrection has offered humanity the prospect of conversion. And this conversion, as a turning from trust in self to trust in God,[xxiii] is central to God’s mission, the missio Dei. God wants his offspring to go in the opposite direction, reunite with him in his mission and lovingly join others on the way back to a relationship with him.

Moving Toward Millennial Leadership: Questions for Personal Reflection and/or Group Discussion

The following questions are for personal reflection but can also be utilized in a group setting.

  1. For personal & group reflection: Create an Organix Leadership Journal by …
  • Selecting two (2) items from each box,
  • Writing in it what you will begin to do over the next 30 days to move toward millennial leadership in these two areas.
 

Millennial Leadership

 

 

Measurement

1. Measure a church’s growth in maturity.

 

1.a. Count up all of your small groups.

 

 

1.b. Tracking your church’s growth in maturity (Figure 8.3).

 

 

2. Measure a church’s growth in unity.

 

2.a. Tracking a church’s growth in unity (Figure 8.4)

 

 

2.b. Track unity of congregants with one another and with leadership.

 

 

3. . Measure a church’s growth in favor among non-churchgoers.

 

3.a. Measure opinion makers in the community that do not attend your church (Figure 8.5).

 

 

3.b. Poll the same people and/or positions each year for consistency.

 

4 . Measure a church’s growth in conversations too.

 

 

 

  1. For group refection:
  • Share your responses to the chart above with your group (omitting answers/plans that are overly personal).
  • Take notes in your Organix Leadership Journal on the following:
    1. Does your group agree or disagree with your assessments and plans?
    2. What input did they give you regarding moving toward millennial leadership?
  • Then rewrite your plans in your journal utilizing their input.
  1. For Personal and Group Reflection:
  • Revisit your notes in your Organix Leadership Journal every month for six months. Ask yourself:
    1. Are there areas where I am making progress? If so, describe them.
    2. Are there areas where I am still weak? What will I do to address this?
  • At the end of six months reread the chapter and update your plans.

 

DOWNLOAD the article here:  organix-chpt-8-measurement-pg139-156 But remember, if you enjoy of benefit from this chapter, please consider supporting the publisher by purchasing a copy of the entire book.

Footnotes:

[i] Donald A. McGavran and Winfield C. Arn, Ten Steps for Church Growth (New York: Harper and Row., 1977), p. 3.

[ii] There are various types of conversion, such as secular conversion (e.g. when a drug addict is transformed to a drug-free lifestyle) or religious conversations (e.g. when a Sikh converts to Hinduism). Richard Peace gives a good overview of these kinds of conversion and the relevant literature in Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), pp. 7-11. We will limit our discussion to conversion to a Christian worldview as defined by Peace.

[iii] William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (London: Longmans, 1902), 114.

[iv] Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), p. 4.

[v] Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press 2002), p. 5.

[vi] The modern inclination to count conversions, while insightful to the wind of the Spirit, may include too many divine and unperceived factors, making measuring it as an indicator of leadership is deficient.

[vii] This is not to say there is not something, like a supernatural and indescribable “it,” that people seek to encounter in a church. Craig Groechel in his book, It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), describes “it” not as a trendiness but as a profound encounter with the supernatural.

[viii] Luke’s emphasis is jarring, for most secular writers at the time reveled in the scale of the followers, and not upon new passions for learning, fellowship, communal dinners and prayer.

[ix] The four types of church growth described by Luke may be divinely inspirited metrics or simply part of a biblical narrative. Yet, they suggest relevant and helpful measurement of tools.

[x] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 716-718.

[xi] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 406.

[xii] The most prevalent historical examples of communal living would be the monastic movements.

[xiii] Everett F. Harrison, ACTS: The Expanding Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p. 66.

[xiv] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John. New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 485

[xv] Some may wish to measure attendance in all-church worship celebrations in lieu of small groups. This may yield a less reliable result, since in a large worship gathering it is easier to attend without a steadfast striving for goals of the apostles’ teaching, etc. In addition, it is harder to attend a small group setting without this commitment since in a small group accountably is stronger.

[xvi] For examples of prayer triplets, neighborhood prayers centers, prayer covenants and prayer chapels see Bob Whitesel and Kent R. Hunter, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps in Your Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), pp. 230-237.

[xvii] If your church has organized and regular fellowship groups (e.g. sport teams, hobby groups, etc.) and/or your church has regular times where congregants dine together (recurring evening dinners/lunches, a “dinners of eight” program, etc.) then these groups can be included in your assessments. The key is for each church to include groups that have as a goal the development of spiritual maturity.

[xviii] Church attendance is valid to track here, since the pivotal number is the percentage of church attendees who are involved in Bible study groups and prayer groups.

[xix] Growth in unity and growth in community favor are based upon perceptions. Yet, subjective scales have been proven to be valid and reliable, see Rensis A. Likert, “A Technique for Measurement of Attitudes” in R. S. Woodworth, Archives of Psychology (New York: The Science Press , 1932), vol. 22, no. 140, p. 55.

[xx] Further examples include Acts 9:42; 11:24; 13:43, 48-49; 17:12; and 19:18-20.

[xxi] Thom S. Rainer, Church Growth and Evangelism in the Book of Acts, Criswell Theological Review 5.1 (Dallas, TX: Criswell College, 1990), p. 67.

[xxii] The cross at the center of these four measurements also reminds us that progress is God’s doing and that we only participate in his missio Dei.

[xxiii] Walter Bauer, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 301.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

WESLEYAN CHURCH & 10 Years of Church Growth in 3 Graphs

Conversions, Baptisms, and Attendance from ’05-’15. Church Fitness is a Missional Priority for The Welseyan Church as seen in 3 charts. #madenew

Retrieved from https://www.wesleyan.org/stories-and-stats
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EVALUATION & A List of Church Growth/Health Measurements (metrics) from My Books

AN OVERVIEW of MEASUREMENT METRICS: In four of my books I have updated and modified a church measurement tool.  You will find a chapter on measurement in each of these books:

Cure for the Common Church, (Wesleyan Publishing House), chapter “Chapter 6: How Does a Church Grow Learners,” pp. 101-123.
> ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 8: Measure 4 Types of Church Growth,” pp. 139-159.
> Growth By Accident, Death By Planning (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 7: Missteps with Evaluation,” pp. 97-108/
> A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps In Your Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 10: Evaluate Your Success,” pp. 202-221.

I explain that church growth involves four types of congregational growth.  It is a seriously incorrect assumption to assume church growth is all about numbers.  It is only 1/4 about numbers and 3/4 about the other types of growth mentioned in Acts 2:42-47.  In the New Testament we find…

> Maturation Growth, i.e. growth in maturity,Acts 2:42-43.
> Growth in Unity: Acts 2:44-46.
> Growth in Favor, i.e. among non-Christians, Acts 2:47a.
> Growth in number of salvations, i.e. which God does according to this verse, Acts 2:47b.

For more see … https://churchhealthwiki.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/measurement-a-reliable-valid-tool-to-measure-church-growthhealth-organixbook/

GROWTH & Is Transfer Growth Correlated to Slowing Church Growth?

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/6/15.

In my case study research, I have noticed a correlation between a church plateaued in growth and emerging “transfer growth.” This hypothesis is the result of 20+ years consulting for churches (regardless of their size from megachurch to microchurch). Each time I ask dozens of people: A) when did you give your life to Christ, B) when did you start attending this church and C) why did you attended this particular church.

To understand this hypothesis, we must understand “transfer growth” and “conversion growth.”  HERE is the definition for “transfer growth” and “conversion growth” by Donald McGavran from his book Understanding Church Growth (1970, p. 72. Primarily transfer growth is growth that comes at the expense of other churches.

From my interviews, I have found that people often leave other churches to transfer their attendance to a church that offers a higher quality of experience/service and/or a greater scope in ministry.

Sometimes this is fine. In fact, I have posted four (4) times when transfer growth is justifiable HERE.

But I have also worked with many smaller churches and have observed first-hand how transfer growth is decimating and killing many churches. Now, some church consultants would say this is okay, “Let them die if they don’t want to change,” said one colleague. But, I know he doesn’t consult for these often aging, declining churches.  He doesn’t see that there are many dear saints in these churches that are of a different “culture” that the emerging younger generations.  This church growth consultant (if I even dare call him that) does not understand missiology and cultures.  And so, he colonizes in the name of progress not noticing that his emphasis upon transfer growth is robbing struggling churches of the few young people they need to plant a new congregation out of the older one.

I sense from my interviews that  people leave their smaller church because they are focusing more on their own needs and how they want a higher quality experience for themselves. They are attracted by the “quality” (sometimes referred to as “excellence in ministry”) and it is this they seek rather than a deepening self-giving relationship with Christ.

These are my observations from case studies. And my case studies are a skewed sample because they are typically Evangelical churches that have asked a church growth consultant to to consult for them. But this hypothesis is worthy of further study.

To understand this dynamic better read McGavran’s words (1970, p. 72) from the screenshot below about of the definition of transfer growth.

EXCERPT McGavran Transfer & Conversion Growth

GROWTH & Good/Bad Reasons for Church Transfer Growth (+ term defined)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  Below are the definitions for “transfer growth” & “conversion growth” by Donald McGavran from his book Understanding Church Growth (1970 p. 72). Primarily transfer growth is growth that comes at the expense of other churches, when churchgoers transfer their attendance to another church. As McGavran summarizes, “… transfer growth will never extend the church, for unavoidably many are lost along the way.”

EXCERPT McGavran Transfer & Conversion Growth

The reasons for “transfer growth” are many, but can include:

  1. Christians moving to a new location and transferring their attendance to a church in the new area.
  2. Christians wanting to start over in a new church, e.g. blend a family, remarriage, hurt by previous church, hurt others in a previous church, etc.
  3. Christians wanting to receive some ministry or to participate in some ministry that is not offered in their previous church.
  4. Christians want a higher quality experience that the new church (usually bigger) can offer.

The list could go on and on.  But, in the above abbreviated list my observations are that:

  • #1 and #2 are usually justifiable reasons for transfer growth.
  • #3 can often be a justifiable reason, unless the transferee is avoiding the responsibility of initiating such a ministry at their former church.
  • #4 can be the result of the person not getting the ministry they need.

But #4 can also be the result of the person focusing upon the quality, comfortableness and anonymity that comes from a church producing very high quality ministry. I have interviewed many people who transferred their attendance because of a growing personal desire for less personal engagement, less un-comfortableness and less personal effort expended.

Another, more selfless, model for discipleship is depicted in Philippians 2: 2-19 (Common English Bible, retrieved from  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians%202&version=CEB):

Imitate Christ

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
        he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
10     so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11         and every tongue confess that
            Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Carry out your salvation

12 Therefore, my loved ones, just as you always obey me, not just when I am present but now even more while I am away, carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes. 14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, innocent children of God surrounded by people who are crooked and corrupt. Among these people you shine like stars in the world 16 because you hold on to the word of life. This will allow me to say on the day of Christ that I haven’t run for nothing or worked for nothing. 17 But even if I am poured out like a drink offering upon the altar of service for your faith, I am glad. I’m glad with all of you. 18 You should be glad about this in the same way. Be glad with me!

 

MEASUREMENT & A Reliable, Valid Tool to Measure Church Growth/Health #HouseDividedBook

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 6/12/15.

Church leaders usually want to apply quantitative evaluation of growth … that means using verifiable numbers and not anecdotal observations.  But most don’t know where to start.

In four of my books I have updated and modified a church measurement tool.  You will find a chapter on measurement in each of these books:

Cure for the Common Church, (Wesleyan Publishing House), chapter “Chapter 6: How Does a Church Grow Learners,” pp. 101-123.
> ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 8: Measure 4 Types of Church Growth,” pp. 139-159.
> Growth By Accident, Death By Planning (Abingdon Press), “Chapter 7: Missteps with Evaluation,” pp. 97-108/
> A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps In Your Church (Abingdon Press), “Chaper 10: Evaluate Your Success,” pp. 202-221.

I explain that church growth involves four types of congregational growth.  It is a seriously incorrect assumption to assume church growth is all about numbers.  It is only 1/4 about numbers and 3/4 about the other types of growth mentioned in Acts 2:42-47.  In the New Testament we find…

> Maturation Growth, i.e. growth in maturity, Acts 2:42-43.
> Growth in Unity: Acts 2:44-46.
> Growth in Favor, i.e. among non-Christians, Acts 2:47a.
> Growth in number of salvations, i.e. which God does according to this verse, Acts 2:47b.

To become more acquainted with these “church metrics” start by focusing on the first “Maturation Growth.”

In my first book, A House Divided: Bridging the Generation Gaps In Your Church (Abingdon Press) I created a chart for computing a “Composite Maturation Number (CMN).

CLICK HERE >> BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – HOUSE DIVIDED Chpt.10 Evaluation << to download the chapter from that book (not for public distribution). Then apply Figure 10.1 titled “How to Compute Your Composite Maturation Number (CMN)” to your organization.

You will be surprised how easy and helpful it is to start tracking your church’s progress in Christ-like maturity.  And, this exercise will give you another tool to measure growth and maturation in your congregation.

Remember, if you are only measuring growth in numbers, you may be missing growth (or lack thereof) in the other three (3) critical areas of growth that God desires for His church.

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