I sat in on Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church Conference at Saddleback recently. I went for the first time last year, and already they have me feeling like family.
Rick Warren has become one of my heroes. The words of this church statesman will:
- give you hope for your church.
- shift how you see your ministry.
- clarify how you think about your approach to growing your church.
Take a look at the conference and think about going next year.
In the meantime, check out these nuggets of wisdom, direct from Rick. One of them might be the key to your next great season of life and ministry.
1. Skill will bring success.
If the ax is dull
and its edge unsharpened,
more strength is needed,
but skill will bring success. Ecclesiastes 10:10 NIV
You need the right skills to grow a church. Your church growth ax needs to be sharp.
It’s not just about having the right vision, or being a nice person, or about your dedication. It takes more than dedication to grow a church.
Growing churches require growing pastors. The minute you stop growing, your church stops growing.
The more skilled you become, the more you’ll harvest.
2. Develop an unshakable conviction that God wants your church to grow.
If you don’t believe that growth is God’s will, you’ll give up because it’s too hard.
Church growth is hard, and you’ll quit without that conviction that God wants growth in your church.
“A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission will grow a great church.” Rick Warren
Don’t wish to be in a significant place of ministry. Make your ministry significant.
3. A plateau does not have to be a dead end. It can be the gateway to the next level.
Don’t worry. Plateaus are natural. Things naturally slow to a static state.
Churches tend to plateau at 75, 150 or 300 attenders. 50% of churches have less than 75 people. 95% of churches have less than 300 people.
You can overcome a plateau by understanding that at every stage you don’t have the same old problems. You get new ones. These are inhibitors that prevent or slow growth.
Like parking congestion. Your older building. Job losses in your town. The age of your church.
Overcome the inhibitors that plateau growth with catalysts.
- When growth is inhibited by the immaturity of your members, get them on a personal growth pathway through the classes you offer.
- When growth is inhibited by the fears of your members, get them in small groups so they are loved.
- When growth is inhibited by the lethargy of your members, give them a role and a responsibility in ministry.
- When growth is inhibited by their insulation from the world, get them into the community.
Renewal starts with God’s faithfulness, not your problems. When you have true renewal, you’ll have to lock the doors to keep people out.
4. Vision is the ability to see the opportunity in your current situation and move on it.
Follow the news with church growth eyes.
People will come to Christ when they are under tension or in transition. When people first move in to a new place. When they are in a personal crisis.
Look for those who are open to the gospel. Look for the 25% who are good soil.
Never be afraid to set a big goal. Even if you don’t reach it, it challenges you to go forward.
Dream great dreams for God. He can top them.
5. Be strategic in introducing change.
Be a proponent of the new. Not an opponent of the old.
- Build up new stuff.
- Emphasize it.
- Let the old stuff fall away.
Find the legitimizers in your church and get them on board with the new idea first.
Try things. Don’t be afraid to fail.
Call every change an experiment. Then it’s easier to go back if it fails and it makes it easier for people to go along with it.
A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks;
a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered. Proverbs 2:3 MSG
Don’t try to make changes just by telling people about your new ideas. Instead, have them read the book or watch the video about it to hear the why behind the change.
Love everybody, but move with the movers.
6. Structure cannot cause growth, but it can prevent it.
Structure determines the size and rate of growth. There is no single correct structure and no permanent structure.
“It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. If you’re getting the job done, I like the way you’re doing it.” Rick Warren
For a church to grow, the pastor must give up control of ministry and the people must give up control of leadership.
7. You can’t turn the agenda of your church over to whiners.
Before you can have growth – blessed additions – you may need some blessed subtractions.
Old-timers love it when the church starts to grow, but they will criticize when there are more newcomers than old. Don’t give the church back to whiners.
Smaller churches have member problems. Bigger churches have staff problems.
People will leave no matter what. When you define the vision, you’re defining who leaves and who stays.
It takes unselfish people to grow a church.
Make a public commitment to stay. If the pastor leaves the problem stays. If the pastor stays, the problems leave. The average pastor leaves because of 7 people.
8. If you don’t want to be uncomfortable, don’t grow a church.
If you can’t handle the disapproval of people, get out of ministry. Remember that you work for an audience of one.
If you are overwhelmed, just start working on one thing at a time.
If you are discouraged, remember that it’s not how you start the race that matters. It how you finish it. Forget your past strike-outs. It’s the direction your feet are headed now that’s important.
- Pick one nugget of Rick’s wisdom that God wants to speak into your life today and talk to Him about it.
- Consider going to a Purpose Driven Conference in August or next June.
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