You're an interim pastor who's just gotten the worst career news possible.
What do you do after you learn that most of what you've been told about church growth isn't true?
How would your ministry as an interim pastor be compromised?
It turns out that church growth consultants might just be like economists: if you lay them end-to-end you'll discover that they still don't reach any firm conclusions.
Well, the situation isn't quite that bad. The rich body of church growth literature has blessed many a church and has provided great tools for interim pastors.
But a recent article by Dr. Gary McIntosh, Top Factors in Growing Churches, justifies a cautious if not mildly skeptical attitude toward the church growth knowledgebase.
There is very little consensus
It turns out that there is scant agreement on the factors that growing churches share in common, at least according to those who write the books. McIntosh writes,
A recent check on Amazon.com discovered that over 25,000 books are listed under the category of Church Growth. This is an amazing number of books given the fact that the North American Church Growth Movement is only forty-one years old. In comparison consider that just over 6,900 books are listed under the category of Church Renewal, even though the Church Renewal Movement is about fifty years old.
With such a large number of books written on the topic of church growth, it is only natural to ask if there is any consensus on what factors are found in growing churches in North America. One recent study discovered that those who have studied what makes churches grow note 115 different factors. However, only six (5%) of the numerous factors are mentioned by 70% by all authors.
Having a salt-shaker nearby is wise when reading church growth writers, yours truly included! But interim pastors don't have the luxury of leaving the client church's status quo intact, so we need to sort through the chaff, looking for the wheat.
Focus your ministry on factors everyone acknowledges as productive
Fortunately, McIntosh identifies those common factors that all church growth writers agree on.
- Spiritual Dynamics
- Effective Evangelism
- Strategic Planning
- Excellent Leadership
- Productive Assimilation
- Inspiring Worship
Think back over your ministry career as an intentional interim pastor. My guess is that most of your success - and the growth experienced by your client churches - is due to two or three of these.
If your work as an interim pastor consists of nothing more than introducing dynamic spirituality into the gathering of the church, and a method of effective evangelism that's put to use when the church scatters, you will see revival in most every church you serve. In implementing these two factors into the life of a church you would, of course, be solving a host of other problems, too.
- Take a few minutes to determine which of these six factors would "rock their world" for your current client church.
- Determine how your training and experience as an interim pastor has prepared you to implement these factors in the current client church.
- Write a simple strategic plan that you can accomplish in the next three months to create improvement by answering these questions:
- How would the church be different on Sunday?
- How would the members act different during the week?
- What information do you need to give them?
- What experience(s) do they need to allow change?
- How will you measure progress?
You don't need to take the church from zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds in any one area. All you need to do is get them going faster than zero and keep the momentum going.
What will you do first - this week - to make progress in one of those six areas?