Everyone in church wants churches to grow, right? This is what we are praying for and expecting. We are convinced that this is something that pleases the head of the church, Jesus. But have we thought about what happens to the church when it grows?
Firstly, for those in ministry, can I recommend a little podcast from a couple of friends of mine: The One Thing. This is a short, weekly podcast from Scott Sanders and Derek Hanna that focus on, surprisingly, one thing that will help you in your ministry. This includes a toolbox of things if you want to pursue more on the topic.
But the episode I want to draw to your attention is Growth Barriers. This was an interview that Scott and Derek did with Craig Tucker who has led and planted three churches and so knows a thing or two about churches that grow and what happens to them.
Churches that grow are not simply the same church but bigger, they become something else.
Craig points out that most churches start as small churches. Small churches can do things that bigger churches can’t. Everyone can know each other and cares for each other. But as the church grows there will be things that medium-sized churches can do that smaller churches can’t, more programmes that will meet more needs, etc. But it also means that it can’t keep doing some of the things that it used to do as a small church. As it grows, it is not what it was.
The problem is that growth is something that happens gradually and it can be hard to see where those changes take place. Research has shown that there are certain group sizes that will show those changes and these will help us navigate those changes. Ignoring these sizes, however, will create barriers.
Craig has some great wisdom for preparing people for changes in this. One of the ways is highlighting those changes: churches are not the same when they grow. So I want to prepare people by pointing this out and encouraging people to listen to the wisdom of Craig,
If you are not a listener or you want to think about this more, here is a paper that Tim Keller has written that summarises a lot of the key points about different church sizes, what their distinctive characteristics are and how to move to the next size.