March 3, 2020 Tony Morgan

Programs, Paths and Healthy Church Growth

I’ve observed something in healthy, growing churches this last year that I think is very important for church leaders.

The churches experiencing the most healthy growth tended to have a discipleship approach in the form of a path. Meaning, they had thought through how they could best help people along in their journey following Christ and offered them a series of next steps.

By contrast, many of the churches I see that are in decline have an overwhelming number of programs available to attendees and even the community, but no cohesive path that helps people learn which steps to take and when.

Path Over Programs

Programs vs Path

As you might imagine, there are several key differences between both types of churches.

Programs vs Path Distinctives

Here’s the reality–every individual is accountable for their own spiritual growth. And, when we look back at our lives, most of the time, it was relationships that helped us grow in our love for Jesus and our desire to follow His way.

Building a Simple, Clear Discipleship Path

The advantage in having a simple, clear discipleship path over an assortment of programs is that you make it easy for new followers of Jesus to build important relationships at the right times in their journey. You give them space to ask their questions and opportunities to exercise their faith. You also make it simpler for church leaders and lead volunteers to not let people fall through the cracks, especially early on when they need the most guidance and time investment.

All that to say, your path — or your programs — are not likely going to ever be so effective in and of themselves that you turn into a spiritual maturity factory. Making disciples is never going to be a tidy process. The Holy Spirit’s work can’t be replaced by a class or a method. However, a discipleship path will help your church serve people better than a bunch of programs, and as we’re seeing, there’s at least a correlation between a clear path and healthy growth.

One more thing: Defining a discipleship path without cutting programs won’t work.

By necessity, the path will become clear when it’s the thing you communicate most often and loudest. Keeping all those programs and then trying to communicate your path will only be adding to the noise.

Defining your discipleship path and streamlining your ministry is an important part of The Unstuck Process.

Your team will find common language to answer the question “What is a disciple?” as well as a shared understanding of how your church will help people take their next steps towards Christ.

Interested in what it would look like for us to partner with your church?

Let’s talk.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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