Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's most important: Church growth?

I see it in bulletins and newsletters, I hear it on news programs and the radio, I read about it in manuals and curriculum, I 'learn' about it at conferences and workshops - church growth.  How to fill the seats, how to maximize your return on the alter call, how many people are in your youth group, how many in your 'small' group, how many in TSS (Total Sunday School), how many LW vs TW (last week vs this week), how many LY vs TY (last year vs this year), and ROI of $ spent vs. seats retained/conversions completed.  

It's disheartening, demoralizing, and... disgusting.

We have bought into the lie.  The lie that church is to be done the "American Way!", go big or go home, be the biggest/baddest/best/loudest/newest/hippist

Lies.  All lies.

Further more, there are other huge ramifications of such thoughts.  Therefore, if a church is growing it's because God is showing you favor, if the alter calls are big it's because the Preacher is God's chosen instrument, if the youth group is huge it's because the youth minister is "The One" - but here's the deal, if all that's true, then if a church isn't growing, or it's name isn't preceded with "Mega", or if the youth group isn't 350 people then that means that that church/minister is failing and NOT finding the favor of God, is that about right?  wow...

I don't innately dislike huge churches, nor do I believe that they are frowned upon by God, though I do have lots of concerns over huge churches because there are lots of difficulties (and good) that they are faced with that smaller churches aren't - however, I also don't believe for a second that you can necessarily judge a church's level of favor with the creator of the universe based on how many people are sitting in the seats on Sunday morning.  

If a church is "too" big (and no, I don't have a number for that - I don't think it is a number, actually) then people don't know each other as well, they don't connect, the may not feel as plugged in, they may not be needed (it may be easier to just show up, punch your ticket, and go home).  When youth groups are huge, the kids don't know each other as well (or even at all), and the youth minister is turned into a pulpit preacher and not a minister at all - they kids don't know them, can't feel connected or valued by them, etc.  Now, on the flipside, there is a lot of good a huge church can do because of vast amounts of resources, talents, money, etc.  And there are big churches who "do it right" by having 20 youth ministers and breaking the kids into small groups (the size of a normally productive youth group) and they break the church body into "Community groups" or "small groups" to achieve the affect of having a (lot of) smaller church(es).  
For example, I was on a trip of teenagers and had several youth groups present that were in excess of 100 kids.  One youth group actually had 370 people on the roster.  However, I had 2 kids in my small group on this camp who were from the same church - they were in the same youth group and had been for 3 years - and had never met.  They didn't know each other's names.  Furthermore, 1/2 a dozen kids gravitated to our group because their youth groups were so large that they had only "met" their youth minister.  They needed someone to talk to but just one person could Never be divided among such a large group, and they needed someone to come talk to, so they came to me - NOT because I was something special or I was a better youth minister, or a better person, or ANYthing like that at all, it was because I was available.  In 6 days on my work crew they had spent more time with me than they had with their own youth minister in 3 years of youth group.  
Folks, I just don't believe that's how this is supposed to be.

It's not about how many people are in the seats, or how many new people sit. Nor is growth necessarily (or necessarily not) a biproduct of God's favor on what you're doing. 

Questions? See Isaiah chapter 6. 
Verse 8 is the sexy t-shirt verse, but what matters is WHAT he was saying yes to (being called to) - see verses 9-13