Sure, there’s a science to church growth and health. And most churches need to pay more attention to that than we have been. But there’s an art to it as well. And a spirit.
Pastoring a church of any size involves juggling the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, pastoral gifting, divine call, and so much more. And the smaller the church, the more the non-numerical (and non-predictable) aspects come into play.
None of that should ever be used as an excuse for not learning and applying all the best principles we can find. But no two churches or pastors are alike. Your results won’t be my results.
To prove this, all you have to do is talk to any one of the thousands of pastors who oversaw one church to massive growth, only to go to another church and struggle for years with little or no numerical growth.
3. “Act like a big church and you’ll become a big church.”
So many churches have fallen into ruin by following this faulty logic. From overbuilding, to overstaffing, to ignoring real people while chasing elusive numbers.
Sure, we need to be thinking about the next level of growth if we hope to get there. At 50, get ready for 100.
But acting like your church has 500 people when there are 50 attending doesn’t help a church get to 500 faster. It causes the pastor to do a poorer job leading the 50 people they have. After all, as any book about breaking church growth barriers will tell you, you don’t pastor a church of 50 the way you pastor a church of 500.
Usually, we interpret that to mean if we pastor a church of 500 like a church of 50, it will fail. That’s true. But it also means that if we pastor a church of 50 like a church of 500, it will fail, too.
So don’t help us pastor a church of 50 like it’s 500. Help us pastor a church of 50 really well – including how to get ready for 100.
And help us figure out how to handle the disappointment if the 100 don’t come.
4. “All healthy things grow.”
Yes, they do. But not all growth is healthy. And not all growth is numerical.
But that’s almost always the assumption.
When someone tells a small church pastor “all healthy things grow”, what we hear is “your church mustn’t be healthy.”
When a dedicated, hardworking, prayerful, passionate small church pastor is already feeling bad about the church’s lack of numerical growth, they don’t need to be told that their church is unhealthy, too.