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Church growth strategies

General Introduction

Background

There are different church growth strategies that any church can use to enlarge its numerical strength. It is indeed obvious that most pastors and ministers in the 21st-century advocate for enlarged audiences. And it gladdens the heart of any pastor or general overseer when their church grows rather than declines.

Today, there are varieties of churches scamming for members using different church growth strategies. But why is everyone interested in numerical growth? Are they equally concerned about the spiritual growth of their members? In his book The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren explains the ways that Church Growth ideas were a turning point in his ministry.[1]

Whatever the size of any church, spiritual growth must be of supreme importance. Though numerical growth is also important, especially, in the pursuance of the Great Commission. However, church growth does not just happen. It must be prayed for, planned for, believed for, and worked for. When considering a church growth strategy, there are several areas that need attention, basically, prayer. Attempt to increase God’s church should not be made without first asking for divine direction. Only after prayer is it possible to develop a workable plan to win new people to the church.

This according to Rick Warren (1995), is an ingredient of healthy church growth. Christians are called to go to all nations to make disciples. Warren described five church growth strategies for healthy church growth. Warren and Bob Moorehead[2] saw these strategies at work through their ministries. More so, church growth is not an option, but a necessity because it shows evidence of responding to the Great Commission.

Understand that a “hit or miss” attitude towards church growth will not result in a healthy growing church. Church growth patterns usually reflect the strategies used by a church. In this respect a church must properly discern the surrounding community to reach them for Christ. Different church growth strategies should be employed for different communities because needs differ accordingly.

Furthermore, Shenk (2003)[3] reiterates that the pastor is the key figure in church growth. According to him, he/she must have a vision of numerical and spiritual growth. He/she also has the prerogative to transfer that vision to the congregation because the people cast out restrain without vision (Prov. 29:18). Vision leads to a schedule of activities, all of which are designed to reach achievable goals.

Many new generation churches apply different church growth strategies to achieve a desired numerical strength. Most times, these strategies do not lead to healthy growth. The researcher is thus curious at finding potent strategies that have worked in the past and to test them out in the present. Hence, this research looks at what makes a healthy church growth, and what church growth strategies should be employed.

The Problem

There are lots of churches springing out in this end time and many of them are agitating for members. Among these churches, some of them have remained statically the same numerically. Those that grew saw a downward trend after a few years, while others did not show any spiritual change.

Despite the growing number of churches in different communities, towns, and cities, moral decadence and atrocities have increased. Some of the people committing these atrocities are members of different churches. Some are heads in their communities, business executives, notable government officials, and respectable men in the society. What shall we say about the high rate of corruption in society today? Most people involved are members of different big churches in town; some even have titles in the churches.

Why has growth in churches not resulted in consequential growth in spirituality? Why are many people hiding under the umbrella of Christianity, to commit evil? Why are pastors more interested in numerical church growth rather than spiritual growth? What should be done for a church to attain a healthy church growth?

We may not know what may become of these churches tomorrow. If we do not critically examine the cause of the decline in spiritual growth we may not know what our society will become tomorrow. We need churches to implement healthy church growth for a better society. The good of the society, I believe, depends on the spiritual stance of the church; hence, the church need not fail now.

Therefore, this research will evaluate different church growth strategies with the view of establishing which makes for healthy church growth.

The Purpose

The purpose of this study is to identify different church growth strategies and which is appropriate for healthy growth. The research will find answers to the various research questions as well as evaluate the following:

  • Church growth strategies used by the local church with study area
  • Impact of each growth strategy to the numerical and spiritual strength of members
  • Merits and demerits of each church growth strategy for a healthy church
  • Most effective church growth strategy for a healthy church.

Scope and Limitations

This study is focused on the analysis of church growth strategies in the 21st-century church. The study will be limited to covering selected Pentecostal churches within the study area. The geographical scope of the study is the study area. The content scope is finding out which church growth strategies are most effective for healthy church growth. The effects or impacts of the strategies adopted will be observed within selected Pentecostal churches.

This study shall be limited to the selected Pentecostal churches only. It shall also concentrate on church growth strategies, impacts, and benefits for a healthy church. All variables that may affect church growth may not be studied; hence it will be limited to the strategies evaluated. During the research, the researcher may encounter some problems such as:

  • non-immediate compliance with the filling of the questionnaires by the selected participants
  • not being able to cover the entire Pentecostal churches within the study area. This limitation is due to the following constraints:
    • Bad road network and pattern of distribution of churches.
    • Financial constraint
    • Age of the church. Particularly, churches that have stayed from 5 years and above were used.

However, the researcher will attempt to overcome the problem of non-compliance by using available participants. Also, the problem of the bad transport networks will be resolved by using churches that are accessible within the study area. Therefore, this research shall be limited to selected participants in the selected Pentecostal churches within the study area.

The researcher experienced a few challenges while conducting this study. Some respondent’s attitudes towards the collection and filling of the questionnaire were not friendly. Almost all the senior pastors were reluctant in collecting copies of the questionnaires, stating that they don’t have time to fill them. This is why the study was based on the data obtained from ministers, deacons, deaconesses, and workers. Some of the senior ministers who accepted to fill the questionnaires were persuaded on the importance of conducting the research. But they gladly and willingly filled the questionnaire.

The Significance

The findings of this study will be of help to pastors, clerics, policy analysts, and prospecting pastors. It will add knowledge to the body of literature on church growth. This study has exposed my knowledge of church growth and helped me understand the strategies for healthy church growth. The study will be of help to church administrators, especially those who experience problems growing their churches. It will help church administrators understand how to manage church growth and effective strategies to adopt. A better understanding of this will help churches adopt strategies for healthy numerical and spiritual growth.

The study will help the churches in the study area and society at large understand the implications of unhealthy church growth. It will also assist them in choosing the most potent strategies based on community needs assessment. The study will assist churches to devise measures to handle declining numerical and spiritual growth within a given church community.

Furthermore, the study will contribute to the body of literature on effective church growth strategies regarding the study area. This research may also be of benefit to pastors, especially, associate pastors. They will be able to offer intervention measures to churches that face growth problems and help them establish healthy growth.

Study Questions

  • What church growth strategies are used by the local Pentecostal churches in the study area
  • How have these church growth strategies impacted to the numerical and spiritual strength of their members
  • What are the merits and demerits of these church growth strategies
  • Which of these church growth strategies is most effective for a healthy church

Related Literature

This chapter handles scholars’ opinions on issues relating to church growth and church growth strategies. The chapter is divided into the following subheadings: theoretical framework, what is church growth, biblical basis of church growth, main features of healthy church growth, church growth strategies.

Theoretical framework

There are different theories of church growth proposing how to enlarge the church numerically and spiritually. Amongst these church growth theories include Mead’s church growth model, Wagner’s theory of church growth, Town’s leadership theory, Limited enthusiasm theory, and Discipleship theory, to mention but a few.

Peter C. Wagner built on the foundational work of Donald McGavran on missions and evangelism. According to him, church growth is seen as a crucial part of the great commission which is built on evangelism and missions. He enlisted various principles of church growth and emphasized on pastoral leadership as a means to revitalize and grow a church. Peter Wagner stated “One of the leading signs of a healthy growing church is that the pastor has a positive mindset and through his outstanding leadership, he influences the whole church so that their actions act as catalysts to the growth of the church.”(Wagner, 1976: 78)[4]

According to him, “A church that has no visions is a church that is asleep and it has no loyalty with Our Lord. The definition of a vision is the engine to do the work of Our Lord and a shortcut for the growth of the church. But this vision must not be made by people but must always be shown by Our Lord.” (Wagner, 1984: 18 – 38)[5]

Elmer Towns’ version of church growth is based on spiritual and natural leadership. He enumerated eight (8) spiritual leadership factors and seven (7) natural leadership factors of a growing church. Towns suggests that a growing church should possess the following spiritual leadership factors:[6]

  1. A leader “called” of God,
  2. Effective leaders who display biblical spirituality
  3. See the power of God work through their leaders
  4. Share the vision of their leaders
  5. Leaders who have several spiritual gifts
  6. Leaders who aggressively obey the commands of Christian service
  7. Are the result of the faith of their leaders
  8. Mature leaders,
  9. Are built by leaders who have resolute determination.

According to him also, growing churches have the following natural factors of leadership:

  1. Employ gifts workers to accomplish the most for God,
  2. Realize that effective leadership produces a multiplication of their ministries,
  3. Spawn leadership abilities through “hot poker” approaches,
  4. Improve leadership abilities through formal training sessions,
  5. Effectively use leadership by providing a consistent, constant interaction between workers,
  6. Give direction to Sunday Schools through written standards,
  7. Have leaders who know and apply the laws of leadership.

Greg Ogden proposed a theory of church growth called Discipleship theory where he emphasized transforming discipleship. According to him, life-changing solutions will not be accomplished in large-scale, finely-tuned, resource-heavy programs, but by investing in a few people at a time.

Ogden’s emphasis is on micro-groups as an important element of spiritual renewal and as a means of implementing effective discipleship. In his work, he looked at:

  1. What is the cause of discipleship deficit? What went wrong and why? The basic problem with making disciples today is “growth without depth” which Ogden called “superficiality”.
  2. How do we do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way? He emphasized Jesus’ and Paul’s models of discipleship.
  3. How do we multiply a reproducing discipleship group? He outlined how to implement and grow a micro-group strategy of three (triads) or four (quads). This group should be self-initiating and constantly reproducing disciples of Jesus Christ.

Finally, Mead’s church growth model, which this research applied. According to the model, there are types of church growth, namely:

  • Numerical growth
  • Maturational growth
  • Organic growth, and
  • Incarnational growth.

Numerical growth refers to growth in the number of members within a church. Mead (1993)[7], says that numerical growth should not be ignored because the mission of the church is focused on finding and winning souls for Christ. He stresses that while numbers are not everything, they are something and the church ignores them at their peril. He laments that a congregation that does not seek its way to grow numerically may eventually die.

Maturational or spiritual growth incorporates growth in the faith of individual members. According to Mead, the congregation can challenge, support, and encourage each other to grow in the maturity of their faith, to deepen their spiritual roots, and to broaden their religious mind. The church has a responsibility to help laypersons understand the concept of spiritual maturity. The church ought to encourage and support members to grow in mature faith.

Organic growth is the growth that leads to the interdependence of members endowed with different spiritual gifts. Inorganic growth, Mead emphasized that the church has to build the community, fashioning the organizational composition, developing the practices that result in a dependable, stable network of human relationships in which people could grow and make a difference. Mead used the body of Christ as illustrated by Paul in 1Corinthians 12 to describe the nature of organic growth. He says for a church to grow to be a more effective organism, a good foundation could be formed with the development of the talents and gifts of each member of the congregation and in the laying down of healthy norms for the harmonious relationships among congregation members.

The fourth aspect of growth looks at how the church can positively influence society at large. According to Mead, in incarnational growth the congregation grew in the ability to enflesh the community and to show their faith by practicing it. Incarnational growth is all about how the members of the congregation can be an influence on society and how they could change it. That congregation must build themselves as religious communities and enflesh their values and concerns in the environment around them.

This model of growth holistically fit into this study, because it takes care of the qualitative and quantitative church growth.

[1] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 102.

[2] Moorehead, B. (1988). The Church Growth Factor. Manila: Christ for Greater Manila, 1-131.

[3] Shenk, R. (2003)..Exploring Church Growth. Michigan; Grand Rapids.

[4] Wagner, C. P. (1976). Your Church Can Grow. Ventura: Regal Books.

[5] Wagner, P. (1984). Leading Your Church to Growth. Ventura: Regal.

[6] Towns, E. (1981). The complete Book of Church Growth, Wheaton: Tyndale.

Towns, E. (1975). The Successful Sunday School and Teacher’s Guidebook. Carol Stream: Creation House. pp. 198-213.

[7] Mead, L. (1993). More than Numbers. The Way Churches Grow. Washington: The AlbanInstitute.