Planning should do for a church what rehearsal does for a band of musicians. It should help the team stop thinking about the notes and charts, so they can act as a unit. Moving, adapting and growing as they explore new musical vistas together.
It’s the same in churches. Just as I’ve been in (usually) small churches that were so ill-prepared it was embarrassing, I’ve been in (usually) big churches that were so over-programmed and controlled that it felt dry and stale.
It’s been said that good is the enemy of great. In the church, as in art, overplanning can be the enemy of creativity.
3. Judging Success Only By Numerical Increase
I detest using business metaphors for the church, but in this case, they fit.
If the church was a business, our product would be relationships. What we’re selling (I cringe as I write that word) is a relationship with God through Jesus and relationships with each other. It’s the Great Commandment. Love God, love others.
The problem is, we can’t quantify the value of relationships, so we use numbers as a proxy. The most common numbers being attendance and offerings.
To that, we also add measurements of baptism, percentages of people in small groups, and so on.
But what we must never forget is that all these numbers are nothing more than a placeholder for something that cannot really be measured.
So, let’s measure what can be measured. But always remember that even our best numbers, while helpful, are only truth-adjacent.
4. Too Much Outward Focus
A church can never be too missional. But it can pay so much attention to reaching the unchurched that it neglects discipling believers.
No, those two are not mutually exclusive. But it can happen if we’re not careful. And it’s something that numerically growing churches need to be especially aware of.
While reaching the unchurched, we must never forget that the primary mandate of the pastor (along with apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers) is not to bring in a crowd or to entertain the saints, but “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
This is not about coddling grumpy pew-warmers. It’s a friendly reminder that any healthy church must always keep the delicate balance between providing a welcoming environment for seekers, while using that precious time to worship Christ with all our hearts and equip the believers to live their faith.