A growing church is both a tremendous blessing and significant challenge. At Redemption Church Gateway, we’ve grown by more than 25% since last year, and are feeling the thrill of meeting new people–many of whom are unchurched–while also feeling the challenge of more crowding, more anonymity, and more “who are all these people?” Additionally, the only people who like really big, crowded churches are usually pastors.
So how do you help your people and leaders embrace the challenges of a growing church?
Leading With Grace in a Growing Church
Here are some things I’ve shared with our church leaders about how to lead graciously in light of the growth we’ve seen and hope to continue to see.
1. Accept that size is an important factor that shapes our church.
‘One of the most common reasons for pastoral leadership mistakes is blindness to the significance of church size. Size has an enormous impact on how a church functions. There is a “size culture” that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do…A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church. The difference in communication, community formation, and decision-making processes are so great that the leadership skills required in each are of almost completely different orders.’ (Timothy Keller, “Leadership & Church Size Dynamics”)
2. We want to grow numerically because we love when God transforms people.
- The Bible records numbers (Acts 2:41, 4:4).
- Every number represents a person with a story.
- Therefore, we care about numbers:
- The number of lives that Jesus can permeate and penetrate with the gospel.
- The number of marriages that can be restored.
- The number of teenagers following the Lord.
- The number of depressed people that can find hope in Jesus.
- The number of dads who didn’t give their kids any attention who now order their lives by the Word of God and start prioritizing their families.
- We will not put a cap on the number of people God can reach through our ministry, as Heaven will be filled with a great multitude (Rev 7:9-10).
- We do not care about numbers more than Jesus, sound doctrine, church health, spiritual growth, church planting, or pursuing personal holiness.
3. Avoid giving your preferred size a moral status.
- Bigger is not better.
- Smaller is not better.
- When we assign a moral status to our preferences, we begin to fill with pride, assuming that our preferences are more blessed by God.
4. We need to always resist some of the natural challenges that do come with larger churches, including the following:
- People can fall through the cracks or leave without anyone noticing.
- It’s assumed that “somebody else will do it.”
- Personal touch can diminish.
- It’s easy to assume bad motives of people you don’t know well.
5. We need to have increasing openness to change.
- Generally, people only like change they agree with, initiated, or helped shape. This becomes increasingly challenging as a church grows because smaller groups of people are involved in making most ministry decisions.
- Therefore, leaders must do a good job communicating and leading through change, and others must ask questions and choose to trust those who make decisions.
- The larger the church, the more complex it is and therefore the more schedules, events, and programs there are to change.
- There will inevitably be changes that not everybody likes equally. Remember it’s not about you—or me.
6. We need to choose to trust each other as leaders (1 Cor 13:7).
‘In addition to bearing all things, love also believes all things. Love is not suspicious or cynical… If there is doubt about a person’s guilt or motivation, love will always opt for the most favorable possibility. If a loved one is accused of something wrong, love will consider him innocent until proven guilty. If he turns out to be guilty, love will give credit for the best motive. Love trusts; love has confidence; love believes.’ (John MacArthur, 1 Corinthians)
What else would you tell leaders in a growing church?