In both cases, the outcome can be not only greater health, but increased growth.
This brings me to the final essential element of church change—leaders must also be prepared to address the opportunities and barriers that are by-products of growth. Two of the most important opportunities that growth presents are:
· The need to develop and manage more resources
· The need to define a philosophy or model of growth
Opportunity to develop
If the church has been stagnant or declining, the greater resources provided or demanded by growth may surprise—even shock—those who have been with the church for some time. Leaders must quickly address such reactions to avoid paralysis. It is time for leadership action.
After all, growth requires an increase in your capacity to assimilate newcomers. Ministries will need to develop more leaders and volunteers, and you will be able to launch new ministries. Coordinating how you utilize various spaces will become more demanding; eventually you may need to address whether you will build or not. However, adding one or more worship services may conserve resources.
More funds will become available requiring that you carefully set priorities for how they will be used. For example, before adding another education wing, multi-purpose room, or a new sanctuary, leaders will help themselves and the church immensely if they first define their philosophy of growth.
Defining a growth philosophy
Churches that are stagnant or declining typically do not think about the planning needed when they grow. However, it is a leadership responsibility to discern—and lead—how you will grow. Change leaders realize that there are different ways to adjust to growth, and that their church will likely be a fit for one or more of several methods.
So, what are the options you should consider? The starting place for every church is to evaluate your capacity for growth at your current location. If you have developable acreage, hire an architect to help you create a master plan.
Beyond your current location, the leadership team should also pray about and consider the path of church planting. Frequently, denominational leaders can help you assess what is required of your leadership and where a church plant would serve an unchurched people. They will also be aware of various planting models.
Finally, growth planning today should consider the options of becoming a multi-site church, and possibly even a merger with another church. The leadership and management skills required for this type of growth is generally a fit only for very large churches. Nevertheless, even leaders of smaller churches should prayerfully research these options. Some aging churches have survived by assimilating into newer, younger congregations.
Outdated leadership structure
Growth will eventually present a significant barrier to further growth unless change leaders lead change in this area. As a church grows from small (under 200) to very large (over 700), you will likely need to radically redefine the role of the primary board, other boards, committees, and paid staff two to four times. For congregationally-governed churches, the role of members will also change.
In his 2010 book, Sticky Teams, Larry Osborne stated that you know that you need to change role definitions when decision-making conflict is growing and your meetings are too long. When you experience these things, you likely need to become aware of alternatives and implement one.
Blessings on you as you lead change where you can and should.