Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Plateaued Church is NOT Always a Bad Thing

The typical church is plateaued.  Some are declining.  That’s not always a bad thing.

It’s true.

First of all, the typical church will have a 10% attrition rate annually, regardless of its health.  People move out of town, or find a new job out of state.  They get married and move away.  They go off to college.  They change churches.  They grow cold spiritually and drop out.  They die and we do funerals.

So you have to have that many newcomers coming through the front door and sticking to your church over any given twelve month period just to stay even.  And just in case you didn’t know it, growing by ten percent annually is a lot of growth!  So simply staying where you are is actually a reflection of growth.

A second reason plateaued growth is a good thing is because you made the strategic decision to not allow your church’s mission to be hijacked.  Everyone has an agenda, or a hot-button issue they want the church to address.  Only problem is:  you can’t accommodate everyone.  When their opinion doesn’t carry the day, it often results in departure.

This isn’t always bad.  A church often grows as much by “subtraction” as it does by addition.  Allowing people  to  leave and find another church that is more suited to their tastes, frees up space in your church for people who are open to your ministry style or church culture; thus making newcomers a better fit.

The church temporarily loses some ground,  (due to disgruntled departures), but they have also been freed up to pursue strategies and styles more suited to future growth.

That can be worth a short-term hit in attendance.

Third, then there are some churches (because of their location) that are  extremely limited in growth potential.  For instance, if you have a church that averages 50 people in attendance in a town that has 5,000 in population, you are achieving the exact same percentage ratio as a mega-church of 5,000 in a city of 500,000!

Take that, Andy Stanley!  And all the pastors of churches in small towns said, “Amen.”

In fact, some of the finest preaching/teaching you’ll ever hear often comes from pastors of smaller churches.  Their names will never be listed on the conference circuit, but they are this country’s best preachers.  They simply shepherd their flock, giving them the best diet of God’s Word they can offer.

Finally, though there are many other reasons for a plateaued growth, you just may be in a season of natural consolidation.  Having been in the ministry for all my adult life, I can tell you there is a natural ebb and flow to church life.  The pattern is to have a season of growth followed by a season of consolidation.

This is actually very healthy for a church.  It allows you to assimilate your recent growth, to focus on making disciples, and to rethink structure.  It lets you catch your breath and map out the next season of faithful ministry.

In fact, plateaued churches are often the most solid churches you can find anywhere!  They may not be setting the woods on fire, but they are virtually indestructible.  They simply labor faithfully, quietly, and consistently, making steady kingdom impact year after year.

Btw, don’t worry about the next season.  Just be faithful and let God do what He does.

So take heart.  A plateaued church is often the sign of a strong, solid, healthy, disciple-making machine. 

No comments: