Guest Post by Steven Kryger
Be careful. Growth can kill your organization. Let me explain by sharing a story:
In my hometown of Sydney, there is a supplier that has been involved in the church/not-for-profit sector for a long time. This supplier has an excellent reputation for great quality service. Because of their service, the company is often recommended to other churches and not-for-profits. The subsequent recommendations have resulted in the growth of their business.
The problem is that they are now extremely popular – perhaps too popular for their own good. Why? Because they can no longer handle the amount of business that has been sent their way. Their customer service, which once was their standout attribute, has suffered significantly.
Systems and processes that were once adequate when the organization was small have now been stretched by the recent growth. This has resulted in frustrated customers who are now less likely to return and therefore unlikely to recommend the business to others. Ironically, the growth of the business threatens the very existence of the business.
Church growth doesn’t usually happen this rapidly. Rarely will a church reach a point of growth where their very existence is on the line. However, it can take just a small amount of growth for systems and processes to feel the strain and for people to be negatively impacted. This can manifest itself in various ways:
- The person who volunteered to serve and didn’t receive a follow-up.
- The new Christian who is never discipled.
- The phone call that wasn’t returned.
- The person who wants to join a Bible study group, but there are no spaces available.
Let me be clear, by God’s grace, churches continue to grow, usually in spite of us, not because of us. However, this doesn’t mean churches shouldn’t prepare for growth in order to care for the new people as best as possible. Churches should be stewards of the people resources that God kindly provides.
We prepare for all kinds of negative possibilities – fire, flood, break-ins, unexpected departures. Why not prepare for growth?
Preparing for growth involves:
- Understanding what stage of life your church is at right now.
- Understanding how your church will operate differently, as more people join.
The biggest mistake is to believe that as a church gets bigger that everything can just stay the same but on a larger scale. Sure, there’s still preaching and praying but the supporting structures and mindset must adjust to cope with growth.
Tim Keller puts this well in his excellent paper on church size dynamics:
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.
Growth necessitates changes in every aspect of church life. What changes can you make in your church now to prepare for the growth you are praying for?