Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Obstacles to Growth for Medium-Sized Churches

Inadequate Facilities.  As medium-sized churches attempt to transition to a large church, immense pressure is felt as they try to fit everything into a facility with limited space.

Inadequate Staff.  Today’s congregations expect high quality and diverse ministries.  Their desire is to see a broad range of specialized programs and worship services usually leaves a church understaffed.  Medium-sized churches have three options at this stage:  (1) Add sufficient staff to continue growing; (2) Add just enough staff to remain plateaued at its present level; or (3) Do not add staff and face eventual decline.

A related need in medium-sized churches is motivating and recruiting volunteers.  Most people who have full time jobs can give no more than a few hours a week to their local church; with most of that time being donated on Sunday.  Careful use of volunteers is a needed ministry at any level, but it rises to the top for medium-sized churches.  To keep advancing, they must find ways to involve lay-persons in effective ministry.

Inadequate Finances.  Every church identifies with this obstacle.  Yet, it is crucial for medium-sized churches.  The need for enlarged facilities, new staff, and program expansion require a growing financial base.

Poor Administration.  Small churches do not require a sophisticated level of management.  But as a church grows to the middle stage, the pastor, staff, and leaders must address the increasingly complex needs of the church.  The typical management problems are things like:  Confusing the end with the means…. Lack of planning and coordination…. Ineffective time management… Poor budget control… Unclear policies…. Etc.

Increasing Complexity.  The increased level of complexity is one of the factors that cause churches to revert back to a small church after a few years at the medium size.  Long-term members may recall the “simple” atmosphere of the small church.  The increased complexity now requires them to make an appointment with the pastor, or reserve a room for a potluck meal, or ask for permission to use the building… something that is not appreciated.  They would prefer a simpler structure and will do what they can do to return the church to previous times, if they get a chance.

After a few years of growth, the medium-sized congregation must make the necessary adjustments to move up to the next size church or it will plateau.  Medium-sized churches that plateau are always in danger of declining, due to the pressure to eliminate the complexity by reducing the program, staff, and budget.

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