Part Two of Five
Why couldn’t I have made FBC of Altoona, Kansas go from 17 average into FBC of Hammond, Indiana to 20,000? Why couldn’t I see Lusby Mills in Kentucky go from 12 into an Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, of Lexington, Kentucky of 1000? I had ideas that I might be able to! There were reasons for sure, and we will address these in this paper.
Every church body has a level that they will reach in attendance and there is a dynamic. There is a determined factor built into the church body that causes the result in attendance and growth.
The larger church setting has an entirely different set of compelling attitudes than a small church congregation.
When I went to Ashland Avenue Baptist, they didn’t want to settle for 500, or 700 or even 1000 people, they never did. When I was Youth Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Connersville, they would not have settled for 400 people nor even 600 people. When I worked at Southern Acres Christian, their whole idea was growth. It was the same way at Mansfield Baptist in Ohio , and Haltom City in Fort Worth The mind set of the leadership and membership was growth.
What is not different? I have discovered that all churches have people. Some are young, some are old, and some are really, really old! Some are men and some are women. Some are bankers, farmers, salesmen, secretaries, landfill managers, doctors, nurses, housekeepers, housewives, postal workers, school teachers and telephone repair men, brick layers, workers at K Mart and waiters. Think of that. Some folks make $100,000 and others $15,000. There are all kinds of people in all churches. Single, married, wishing they were married, divorced, widows, single mothers, retired folks. There are many different backgrounds as to family heritages. You get the idea.
I would say, "You know the people in FBC of Altoona, are as righteousness as any persons I have ever met in any church I have worked. They are as gracious, wonderful, intelligent, as in any church where I have been on staff. " As a matter of fact, they are some of the best people in the world.
So why are we talking about growth or numbers if we have all these great people in our churches?
Aren’t Christian people the purpose of our churches, no matter the number that comes?
I read this statement: ‘CHANGE IS INEVITABLE; MISERY IS OPTIONAL."
I would say "CHANGE" would be the number one reason for growth or lack of growth.
If all congregations kept the same members, stayed the same size, retained the same minister for 50 years, same staff and elders, and always had the same well-known set of issues, the church life would be easy. But it would be also fabulously boring.
Change in a sense is going to happen anyway. It is not an alternative. So many people want to live without any change. We can no more live and not have change than we can jump without feeling the impact of gravity. TO LIVE IS TO GROW AND TO GROW IS TO CHANGE. Therefore to live is to change, and any thought that we can avoid change in life is pure illusion.
I have learned that people actually study church as an academic subject. Students have their college thesis on this subject. One student title was : "Congregational Size Dynamics and How One Congregations’s Transition Was Made Easy" He was a student and not a pastor/teacher or even a deacon, or elder. He will learn, huh!
In Seminary I took a course in "ECCLESIOLOGY" the study of the local church. Dr. Earl K. Oldham was the teacher. We were learning what the church is and then how a church is supposed to look. We studied methods of church and Sunday School growth. Of course we didn’t learn the challenges we would face as we tried to bring health and growth to our churches.
What I should have done, but didn’t, was to establish my own ministry and start with a new group of believers. That would have helped 100%.
There are "consultants" who actually study church growth. They study these churches, large and small, to see what makes up the influential dynamics in the church body. The size of the church will give us a clue as to the attitudes of the membership and its leadership. Understanding the makeup of the leadership and membership gives us a better idea of how to do ministry in that church.
While the purpose is to see growth in our church, meaning a greater awareness in evangelism, we need to learn why some church ministries do not succeed throughout our churches. And why it is that some experienced preacher can be very effective in one congregation and ineffective in another.
Why do one quarter of Protestant congregations have fewer than thirty-five in attendance at their worship services. Our culture today seems to like the small, family, friendly church.
The nice little country church in Lusby Mills had invited me to come and pastor this 100 year old church. This church had over a hundred members, but most of them never came to the church. They had called the office at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church to request someone to come and preach. Ashland Avenue was a church of about 1500 members. Charity was a receptionist/secretary at the church. The Pastor and Leadership had a desire to see the church continued to grow. So it was normal for me to think, this church in Lusby Mills also had a desire grow. But I was totally wrong.