Church growth is not a steady line.
Not only does it have ups and downs, it also has gaps. Some bigger than others.
In my church, for example, the growth from 35 to 200 has been an up-and-down, step-by-step, decades-long growth curve. But the next level of growth beyond 200 will not happen in single steps, or even by changing leadership styles.
We’re looking at a huge gap in front of us.
This is not a story about how we jumped over that gap.
It's not whining about why we can't jump.
It’s about decisions we've made, after taking the gap into account. How we’ve adapted to life and ministry on this side of the gap. Vibrant, innovative, kingdom-building ministry.
It's the story of why not taking that leap is the best strategy for our church.
One Small Church’s Story
I live in Orange County, California. It’s an interesting place to study church growth, filled with huge dichotomies.
One the one hand, it’s the county Rick Warren targeted as the best place in America to grow a big church, as he wrote in The Purpose Driven Church. Currently, Hillsong is planting their Los Angeles church here. (Everything between San Francisco and San Diego is LA to people who aren’t from here.)
It’s also the home of the former Crystal Cathedral, the original Vineyard church, Calvary Chapel and many more.
Orange County is a great place to grow a megachurch.
On the other hand, it’s a very expensive place to live. The church I pastor sits on less than an acre of land. If we want to expand, we could buy the middle class homes around us – if and when they come on the market – at an average price of $650,000 each. (No, I didn’t add a zero by mistake).
We’d have to buy nine or ten homes to double our parcel, costing over $6,000,000. But we’d still have less than two acres of land. And that’s before putting one penny into redesigning or rebuilding on the land.
If we took an alternative route and moved from our current facility, we could get $3,000,000 for it. Easily. But we'd need to raise another $3,000,000 to double our size. Again, that's just for the new property, without a single dollar for design or rebuilding yet – and we'd still have less than two acres. Barely enough room for a medium-sized church at best.
Is that the best use of such an enormous amount of time, energy and money?