How to Deal with the Challenges of a Growing Church

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.

Challenges of a Growing Church

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)

Question:

What else would you tell leaders in a growing church?

 

Published by

Luke Simmons

I was born and raised in Denver, CO and lived there through high school. Then I moved to Champaign, IL where I attended the University of Illinois and played on the Fighting Illini baseball team. I was married in December, 2001 to Molly, who I met at the U of I. In June of 2002, we moved to Phoenix and have been here ever since. In July of 2006, we welcomed a baby girl, Abby, into our family.

One thought on “How to Deal with the Challenges of a Growing Church”

  1. a. Major on the majors – If a church grows fast, the leadership must continue to hammer away at the things that are the most important. Leaders must focus on equipping new leaders. Shepherds need to reproduce themselves, raising up new/additional shepherds. Etc.

    b. Decision making will increasing need to become more de-centralized – I just heard this morning “If a church organized itself such that all of the management comes from the top down, then the leaders have not done their job of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. The ministry will have become self-defined as dependant on just a few people.”

    c. Much of the future leaders will come from the inside – Grow attracts people (talent) who like the trajectory of the vision and strategy. They are most likely the ones who will be excited about the challenges of headed that same direction.

    d. Strong personalities up front have their advantages and disadvantages – Fast growth often occurs when there is a winsome personality up front. God never apolizes in Scripture for using such personalities. But, those very same people have their weaknesses and non-strengths that must be taken into account. AND, there must be strategic thinking going on regarding succession. “What happens if so-and-so if no longer here? How to do we move forward if our “main attraction” is no longer attracting new folks?”

    e. The people who brought you this far may not be the same people who take you to the next level – It is unusual that the same pastors/elders, key lay leades who helped you grow from 50 to 300 are the same people who can grow you from 500-1000. Every once in a while it happens, but it is rare. The body needs to be prepared for these changes and gently shepherded throgh these changes as they occur.

    f. One of the biggest mistakes church leaders is fast changes with a “just accept it” attitude – The body needs to be shepherded. Jerking people around will leave them ragged, disappointed, and possibly hopeless. There is little reason for this when good leaders can help gain ownership of changes, take a little more time to let people adjust ahead of time, and work overtime as transitions occur to help people understand the why’s and the benefits of such changes.

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