Our generation has equated bigness with goodness, and an impressive church plant and attendance have been considered the marks of success. Pastors have assumed that people’s needs are being met if a lot of activity is going on in an up-to-date building.

Perhaps it is time to reorder priorities. I suggest that in the next decade the churches that will “make it” are those that emphasize staff and program more than plant, and that associate ministries (or “paraministry”) will be the main occupational growth area in the church.

Large churches will become larger. Many smaller churches will close. More and more ministry will be conducted outside the pulpit. Because of the energy shortage and skyrocketing building costs, congregations will remodel at $10 or $15 per square foot rather than build at $40 to $50 per square foot. More and more churches will offer multiple services Sunday mornings. Multi-use buildings will be busy six or seven days a week. And congregations will realize that they need one full-time worker for every thirty tithers or 100–125 attendees. A church whose attendance averages 1,000, for example, will need a staff of seven to ten.

But many pastors are not ready or willing to manage a flock of paraministers. A pastor may feel threatened by an associate, and may place frustrating limits on him. He may refuse to let his associate be credited with a new idea. He may be suspicious, believing that the associate is gathering about him a circle of loyal friends. And he may behave selfishly: by accepting a, $1,000 Christmas gift from his congregation, for example, while the director of Christian education contents himself with $25.

The fault is not all the pastors’. Associates themselves ...

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