Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Greg Laurie: 4 Dangerous Church Growth Myths

Greg Laurie: 4 Dangerous Church Growth Myths
A ministry might appear to be thriving, but the inside reality might tell another story.
Once I had a friend—I’ll call him Bill—who worked out every day at the gym. When we got together, he liked to flex his bicep and say, “Greg, feel this!” Bill’s muscles were rock hard.
Then one day, I heard terrible news: Bill had died of a heart attack. Even though he appeared robust and powerful, his heart was diseased. Inwardly, as it turned out, Bill was a weakling.

I keep Bill in mind when I think about the church today. Outwardly, everything can look promising. A ministry may appear to be going very well.

Yet the inside reality can be another story. What makes a church body grow big doesn’t necessarily make it grow healthy.
The past two decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of large churches, including “megachurches” (congregations of 1,000 or more), around the country. As a result of pastoring a large congregation, I’m frequently asked about our success at Harvest Christian Fellowship. What kind of church growth formula do we follow? Can what we do at Harvest be applied to any church, anywhere, with similar results?

I understand these questions and the motivations behind them. Pastors would rather preach to people than to open spaces. And let’s face it, something would be terribly wrong if Christians weren’t interested in seeing churches grow. But it’s time to take a hard look at what church growth means.

Don't Miss

In an article entitled “The Myth of Church Growth” featured in Current Thoughts and Trends, David Dunlap cites some troubling statistics.

For example, during the very time megachurches have sprouted across the landscape, the proportion of Americans who claim to be “born again” has remained a constant 32 percent. According to Dunlap, growth isn’t coming from conversions but from transfers—up to 80 percent of all growth taking place today.

He goes on to quote C. Peter Wagner, one of the leading spokesmen for the church growth movement, who admits, “I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with the church growth principles we’ve developed … yet somehow they don’t seem to work.”

I would suggest one reason they don’t work is because they tend to approach church as if it were a business.
For example, some church growth experts are telling pastors their “customers” no longer attend to commune with God but to “consume” a personal or family service.

In a recent survey of 1,000 church attenders, respondents were asked, “Why does the church exist?” According to 89 percent, the church’s purpose was “to take care of my family’s and my spiritual needs.” Only 11 percent said the purpose of the church is “to win the world for Jesus Christ.”

These attitudes concern me and many other observers deeply. A business-driven response may only make things worse. In the long run, if we train consumers instead of communers, we’ll end up with customers instead of disciples.

It might fill up an auditorium, but it will never turn the world upside down for Christ.

For page two, go to:

From Church

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Dream Year - what do you think of this process?


Each year, a group of audacious people goes through a process to achieve a larger than life dream in one year. The participants include everyone from filmmakers and advocates to entrepreneurs and authors. No dream is too big, and no idea is too far-fetched.
The journey is called Dream Year.
There are two ways you can be a part of it: Weekend retreats hosted in various cities where you can get a crash course in Dream Year and connect with other leaders. And one-on-one coaching limited to a community of 12 people. Let the journey begin.


Authenticating your dream (tracing its history, assessing your readiness, testing the idea, defining a clear project, raising your capacity, preparing for risk)
Building your platform (moving from beggar to influencer, finding your audience, trading value for information, becoming an expert in your field)
Defining your values (determining what you won't do, then determining what you will do, on the subject of excellence, building a team to bring your idea to life)
Funding your dream (great ideas are spreadsheets with skin on, identifying revenue sources, shaping your strategy, cash flow is everything, the art of making the ask)
Branding your dream (developing a total user experience, a field guide to designers, developing a creative class around you, design as the foundation for what you do)
Creating milestones (working backward from the goal, productivity tools, the sacrificial substitution principle, the order of action)
Leveraging influence (if you don't have influence you borrow it, if you already have influence you still borrow it, creating social movements around your idea, networking with leaders who matter)
Developing partnerships (creating win-wins, the art of negotiation, rooting out great partnerships, angles of benefit, value exchanges, approaching partners)
Rainmaking (sales for people who hate sales, how to put yourself out there without losing dignity, systems that produce revenue, closing deals, invoicing, merchant gateways)
Shaping an organization (organizational systems, proprietary versus outsourced, contractors versus employees, legal issues, how to make your idea your living, etc.)
Positioning yourself (navigating the world of media, agents, publishers, and conference makers, marketing in an over-saturated field, differentiation)
Sustaining your dream, last-month epiphanies, unresolved issues, feedback and last minute-ideas, charting the future connectivity of the class of 2013

The "Klondike Bar Effect"

I'm highly distrustful of generating momentum in places outside of our church's mission. Our church's mission ~ making disciples who can make disciples of Jesus Christ ~ happens in 3 environments in our church: Sunday mornings, small groups and our leadership communities. It's so tempting to put lots of energy into side events that could yield high turn-out, but have very little carry-over into our three foci. Things like carnivals, festivals, movie nights, etc. I'm not saying they're wrong; I'm just distrustfulof their effectiveness.
I think of it as "The Klondike Bar Effect." People will do anything and say anything toget free stuff or take their children to incredible, free events... but it doesn't seem to impact the church on Sunday mornings. The other month, when Honey Bunches of Oatswas giving out free bowls of cereal in the Town Center, I told their marketers how incredible they were, how delicious it was, and how revolutionary their approach was. But once I got my free bowl of cereal... I was outta there.
Ben Arment:

Top 3 Mistakes Churches Make with New Believers


Discover the three mistakes churches make that keep new believers from "sticking."

I started Calvary Fellowship in Miami, FL 10 years ago. My goal was to reach people far from God and disciple them to maturity. Here was my problem: after 18 months of ministry, we hadn’t seen one person come to know Christ at Calvary. This realization led to serious changes that took place in our church. Let me fast-forward eight years to the last 18 months at Calvary. In the last year and a half we’ve seen over 1,000 people make first time decisions to follow Jesus. If you count the recommitments to the Lord, that number is closer to 3,000. Whenever I tell that story people ask me, what happened? What changed?
First, let me say that this was not an overnight change. Much like losing weight physically, it was a process that happened as a result of some key decisions we made. What we learned is that just because you reach people, that doesn’t mean you have the infrastructure in place to keep people. So while our initial challenge was that we weren’t reaching anyone, our next challenge was our lack of being able to keep those we reached. Today, 85 percent of those we reach decide to call Calvary home.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand to fix this problem. This changes as a result of identifying the reasons new believers fall through the cracks and fixing the problem areas.
So what are the reasons that prevent new believers from “sticking” in your church? I have found that there are several, but three major mistakes that churches make in particular. If you fix these areas, you’ll be well on your way to doing what you and I are called to do: reach people and disciple them to maturity in Christ.

Mistake #1—New Believers Aren’t Asked To Indicate Their Decision

You cannot follow up with someone if you aren’t aware of the decision they made. The only way to ensure that you can follow with a new believer is to give them the opportunity to indicate their decision. This can be done in several ways. The “Come Forward” invitation became popular because when people came forward they were clearly identifying their decision to follow Jesus. While I cut my teeth in the “come forward” style of evangelism, this is not the method we use. We use a connection card for several reasons, the most important reason being the opportunity for them to put their contact information on the front of the card. This contact information now gives us the ability to implement our follow up system so these new believers can take their first steps of faith.

Mistake #2—New Believers Aren’t Given A Clear Next Step

Many churches get the contact information of new believers yet still find most of them falling through the cracks. The reason they disappear is because the church has not given the new believer a clear next step. I have found that churches tend to go in one of two directions here:
1. They give too many next steps. They tell the new believer of every opportunity available to them and the new believer is overwhelmed by the options. It’s like taking someone to the Cheesecake Factory for the first time. There are so many options, that without a friend to help you decide, you’d probably eat the free bread and go home. New Believers have just made the biggest decision of their lives. Quite honestly, many wouldn’t be able to even completely explain the decision they just made. That’s why the church needs to give them a clear next step.
2. The step is too big. Imagine going to a church for the first time and sitting in an auditorium with 500 other people. You enjoy the message and when the pastor gives the invitation for people to pray and receive Christ you respond to the call to salvation. A few days later, you get a letter in the mail from the pastor inviting you to a small group because “that’s where the real life change happens”. The majority of people won╩╝t make the jump. It’s not because they’re against small groups (they might not even know what small groups are). The issue is, the jump is too big. An auditorium gives a person a level of anonymity and freedom. A small group of 12 has zero anonymity and little freedom to “kick the tires” and investigate their newfound faith.
(*Free Download: Starting Point: First Steps for the Journey, a free eBook to help new believers from Bob Franquiz.)

Mistake #3—New Believers Aren’t Valued In The Church’s Culture

It’s next to impossible to reach new believers and help them grow to maturity if your culture says that new believers don’t matter. Reaching new believers and retaining them only happens when your entire church is in alignment with the vision of reaching people and discipling them. I have learned that while the pulpit steers the ship, the church’s culture can lean the ship in a certain direction. A church culture that doesn’t value new believers cannot help them take steps of faith. The reason is, new believers don’t know the basics, much less the “inside baseball” needed to function in many churches. So, they move on. Even worse, many times they just stay home.
Your staff, leaders, volunteers and congregation need to value evangelism and those who respond. Simply put, you can’t help new believers grow without the help of the congregation. If people aren’t inviting their friends, there won’t be much evangelism needed. If those who do invite their friends won’t engage them after the service and help them take next steps, few are “Type A” enough to seek discipleship without the encouragement of someone else.
If churches are going to be experts at anything, we should be experts in reaching people and seeing them grow to maturity. I believe that your church can be the kind of church where people can stay a lifetime because they never stop growing. But for that to happen, we need to be great at following up with the most precious gifts a church can be given... new converts to Jesus. The greatest stewardship given to us by God is the stewardship of people. I pray we gain the skills necessary to overcome these mistakes and get about the business of making disciples.

Bob Franquiz is the Founding and Senior Pastor of Calvary Fellowship in Miami, FL. Bob is also the founder, an organization that provides training and resources to Pastors and Church Leaders. Bob is also the author of Elements: Starting a Revolution in your World, Watermark: An Explanation of Baptism and Zero to Sixty: 60 Principles and Practices for Leading a Growing Church.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Biblical church growth means making disciples

By Geoff Surratt6 Marks of a Good Disciple

How do we measure discipleship? It is relatively easy to measure church attendance, giving, or small group participation, but how do we measure church members becoming more like Christ? The Willow Creek Reveal Study pointed out that church activity doesn’t necessarily lead to fully devoted follower of Christ, but are there activities we can measure to help our congregation grow?
I think there are six vital areas that point to a growing disciple:
1. Serving in a local church. Church attendance without service does not grow me as a disciple. To grow I have to serve generously with my time, talent and treasure.
2. Praying consistently. This is so obvious that it seems to get overlooked. A growing disciple follows Jesus’ pattern of consistent, heartfelt prayer.
3. Reading the Bible daily. Separate studies by the Willow Creek Association and Lifeway on discipleship came to the same conclusion: the single biggest factor in growing as a disciple is reading the Bible every day. It’s the magic pill of discipleship.
4. Engaging in biblical community. Discipleship throughout the Bible is always in context of community. Being in a small group does not guarantee discipleship, but not being in biblical community prevents it.
5. Actively involved in missional outreach. Biblical disciples engage in Kingdom transformation in their home, their community and their world.
6. Developing other disciples. Jesus final command was very clear, Go make disciples. Every growing disciple of Christ develops other disciples.
I’d like to suggest the following tool to help determine the temperature of discipleship in your congregation (and in your own life). I have used the acronym SPREAD to make the six areas easier to remember. Your church attenders may need some additional information to understand how you define each area in your context.
Create a simple survey with the following questions. Give the survey and a pen to everyone who attends one weekend, and take time during the service to fill out the survey out together.
As a growing disciple of Jesus, I . . . (circle all that apply)
  • Serve my local church generously with my time, talent and resources.
  • Pray consistently.
  • Read my Bible almost every day.
  • Engage regularly in a biblical community (small group).
  • Actively participate in missional outreach.
  • Develop other disciples.
The first time you take the survey serves as a baseline for discipleship. Use the results to celebrate where the congregation is strong and to focus on helping them grow in areas where they are weak.
Choose one area that seems to be weak across the board and focus for the next quarter on growing in that area as a church. Retake the survey every three months for a year to measure progress.
Geoff Surratt
Geoff Surratt, having served Saddleback Church as Pastor of Church Planting and Seacoast Church as Executive Pastor, is now the Director of Exponential. ( He also works with churches on strategy, structure and vision as a free agent church encourager and catalyst. He has over twenty-nine years of ministry experience in the local church and is the author of several books including The Multisite Church Revolution and 10 Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing. Learn more »

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From Building Church Leaders

Click to read Charles Arn's bio
What are signs that a church should watch out for that indicate a decline in church growth is coming?

With three simple numbers you can forecast your worship attendance one year from today. It's quite easy, and surprisingly reliable.

But before we talk about how … let's consider why. Is there value in looking into the future? Or, as Marty McFly discovered, is it just plain trouble to mess with Father Time?
Actually, I am a firm believer in forecasting for the simple reason that if our forecast indicates a potential problem, we can do something to keep it from happening. For example, suppose your forecast indicated that your worship attendance would be down by 10 percent in one year. If you could do something to prevent that situation, wouldn't you? I hope so.

So, let's look at how we can cheat the calendar and peek into the future. It requires three numbers: your visitor volume, your visitor retention, and your back door.

Visitor volume—the number of visitors/newcomers at your church services, as a percentage of your total attendance. To calculate this, add all the first-time visitors who attended a service at your church in the past year, then divide by the total number of persons in attendance (including visitors). The result will be the average percentage of visitors at your services—this is your visitor volume. (Growing churches, by the way, average 4-5 percent.)

Visitor retention—the percentage of your visitors who become involved following their first visit. To calculate, list each person who has visited your church in the past 6-18 months. Then determine how many of them are now regular attenders. Divide the number of involved visitors into your total number of visitors. The result will be your visitor retention rate. (Growing churches average 18-21 percent.)

Back door—the percentage of your total constituency who leave. Simply identify the number of people who stopped attending last year for any reason (transfer, death, inactivity, etc.). Divide this by your present constituency. The result will be your back door rate. (Growing churches average 5-8 percent.)

Once you have these three numbers, take your present attendance and project it for next year. Multiply your present average attendance by your visitor volume to get the average number of visitors you can anticipate. Multiply that number times your visitor retention rate for the number of newcomers who are likely to stay. Subtract the number of people expected to leave. The result is your projected attendance one year from today.

For a stimulating exercise: gather your church leaders together to "play with the numbers." First show the projections of where present trends will take you. Then ask, "Is this where we believe God would have us be in one year?" If the consensus is "no," ask, "Then what do we need to change?" The controllable variables are visitor volumevisitor retention, and the back door. What happens on your spreadsheet if you add one person per week to visitor volume? What if you doubled your visitor retention? Or halved the back door rate?

Such a conversation will lead to a thoughtful exploration of the past, a critical evaluation of the present, and a stimulating vision of what future changes might lead to more effective stewardship of the people God has put under your spiritual care.