FACILITIES & Churches that base their decision solely on price get exactly what they are after #TonyMorgan

“5 Mistakes Churches Make with Building Projects” by Tony Morgan, 4/12/10.

Tony Morgan says “Churches that base their decision solely on price get exactly what they are after.”

(Thanks to Sarah for finding this.) Read more at … https://tonymorganlive.com/2010/04/12/5-mistakes-with-building-projects

FACILITIES & A Video Introduction to Avoiding Missteps w/ Ministry Facilities

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/17/17.

In this video introduction I explain how missteps with facility expansion, renovation or even just reallocation can severely hinder church health.  If you are a colleague, student, client or friend who would like to undertake an exercise designed to help you analyze past missteps and how to avoid them, start with this video intro.  Then read a chapter on this I have penned available HERE: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – GROWTH BY ACCIDENT Missteps with New Facilities 2. (If you like the insights please support publisher and author by buying a copy here. The download is excerpted from my book: Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How Not to Kill a Growing Church, Abingdon Press, 2004, pp. 76-80.)

©️Bob Whitesel 2017, used by permission only.


UPDATE & Point of Grace Church Case-study from book: Growth by Accident, Death by Planning

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  I use case-study illustrations in my books. But sometimes what is a good example for a chapter, can later decline.  Forecasting who will be a good example over the long term is challenging.

But, when possible I like to give update.  Here is an email from a student (Jeremy G.) with an update on a church case-study from Growth by Accident, Death by Planning: How NOT to Kill a Growing Congregation (Abingdon Press).

Dr. Whitesel,

In reading the chapter about missteps in church facilities, I could not help but notice that you hailed Point of Grace Church in West Des Moines as an example of what to do when planning a facility… You may find it interesting that, in 2015, Point of Grace sold that facility to Lutheran Church of Hope, the fastest growing church in the state, because PoG couldn’t afford the upkeep. According to reports, the congregation began contracting shortly after construction of the facility was finished …

Here is an article in the Des Moines Register about the two churches. It contains a little of the history leading up to the selling/purchase of the property and shares the insights of Lutheran Church of Hope, which continues to grow at the Waukee location and several others across the Des Moines metro area.


… Lutheran Church of Hope cited many of the same rationales in the chapter for why they wanted to buy the property.


PLANNING & Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (The Book’s Premise Stated)

“Most of the time young, growing churches make a series of decisions based not upon careful planning and analysis, but rather upon necessity and intuition. Thus these decisions are not planned strategies, but strategies that often occur by accident, owing their genesis to circumstance. These unplanned strategic decisions are driven not by knowledge, but often simply by the church’s environment. When that growth slows, these same churches begin to engage in more careful planning. The problem is that this planning so often ignores the considerations and decisions that led to the church’s growth to begin with. The result is stagnation and eventual decline.”

Premise of the book Growth by Accident – Death by Planning: How NOT to Kill a Growing Congregation by Bob Whitesel.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004.

Retrieved from http://www.abingdonpress.com/product/9780687083251#.V795L7Ws3Y8

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/

EVALUATION & How to Thwart the Tendency to Over Evaluate the Needs of Congregants & Under Evaluate the Needs of Non-churchgoers

By Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/13/16.

“Churches usually spend way too much time polling their congregation’s opinions, and thus their programming is shaped by their congregational perception, and not community needs.”

Someone once said organizations can have a “paralysis of analysis.” And I believe this is created because we over analyze churchgoers instead of reaching out to analyze non-churchgoers needs.

This is exemplified when students share measurement tools they have found online, in hopes that these tools will help them evaluate programming.

But, often such tools are not focused on meeting the needs of non-churchgoers residents, but rather in assessing if the ministry is meeting the needs of the church.   Here is an example one student found:

1.    Our greatest challenges are … (check all that apply)

ο    We don’t know how to connect with people who need help or with community partners.
ο    We sense our efforts to help people are often abused.
ο    We can only provide short-term solutions, not real transformation.
ο    We struggle to mobilize church support for helping people who are not members.
ο    The people we help don’t seem interested in the gospel or in our church.
ο    Community needs are overwhelming; we don’t know where to start.
ο    We aren’t equipped to plan or manage community-oriented programs.
ο    We don’t have enough resources to engage in substantial ministry.
ο    We are uncomfortable dealing with people from a different ethnicity, culture or economic class.

Adapted with permission from Ministry Inventory Guide: Assess Your Church’s Ministry Capacity and Identity by Heidi Unruh (2007), http://www.fastennetwork.org. Original source: Jay Van Groningen, Communities First: Through God’s Eyes, With God’s Heart (Center on Faith in Communities, 2005), p. 4-5

Now, don’t get me wrong – this is a good assessment, but not of program effectiveness in meeting community needs. Rather, this is an assessment of how the church feels about its programming.

While this is important, it is really more important how the “community” feels about the programs and their ability to meet their needs.

Thus, effective evaluators will want to poll community satisfaction and consider this as more important than church satisfaction.  (The reason I am so adamant about this is that churches usually spend way too much time polling their congregation’s opinions, and thus their programming is shaped by their congregational perception, and not community needs.)

Understanding community satisfaction can only be ascertained by assessing the community (and the example above primarily measures church satisfaction with ministry, i.e. it is focusing on the church, in lieu of the white harvest).

The best approach usually is to create avenues for community feedback, such as focus groups, etc..  In fact, I have written how a church can do this (2004, pp. 100-104) in Growth By Accident, Death By Planning, in a chapter titled “Missteps with Evaluation.”  The “8 Corrective Steps” for evaluation are church and community focused.  Some of you may want to peruse these steps, they are field-tested and should help 🙂

Whitesel, B. (2004). Growth by accident, Death by planning: How not to kill a growing congregation. Nashville: TN. Chapter, “Missteps With Evaluation.” Section, “8 Corrective Steps to Regain Growth (with Evaluation).” Pp. 100-104.

SMALL GROUPS & Should You Close Small Groups? Not unless absolutely necessary.

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/9/15.

A student after studying my chapter and chart on “Missteps With Small Groups” in Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (Abingdon Press) said, “I believe we should re-assess all of our small groups and find out if they are truly needed and if not then we should transition people into different groups.”

This statement was a red flag for me.  Let me explain why.

People in small groups like to stay in their small groups.  It is their accountability and small community group.  You must be careful before you “transition people” into other groups unless they really, really need this.

ClustersBookIt has been my observation that when groups have change thrust upon them in the name of innovation, most of the time the innovation doesn’t occur and people are only hurt because they’ve lost the small group community that meant so much to them.  And, over the years I’ve not seen small groups as the place where we innovate.  Instead, they are where we commune. Thus, if at all possible don’t eliminate small groupings.

Instead, you can combine 2-3 small groups together once a month for outreach. This is called “clustering” small groups (see Bob Hopkins and Mike Breen, Clusters: Creative Mid-sized Missional Communities (3dm Publications).  Clustering lets the groups remain together, but when they join with a few other groups once a month they then have enough person-power to do effective social action ministry in the community.

So …

  • Add small groups (so more people can be in small groups)
  • Cluster small groups (so more social action can take place via a cluster of small groups)
  • But don’t split or close a small group (for this is their spiritual community) unless, absolutely necessary.

I hope these reflections help you pause before you close a small group.

Speaking hashtags: #StLizTX #StMarksTX