Yesterday I drove past a local high school. On the signboard out front someone had placed the following sage observation: The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.
With that thought in mind, let me say that it is not excessively difficult to see a church grow, but it does require a certain amount of time, effort and work. You also need a plan, for no journey is successful without clear direction. And it requires having enough desire to work your plan consistently regardless of setbacks and disappointments. If a church will do these things, it will grow. As I have stressed often in this column: If we will do our part (go forth with a burden and sow the gospel seed) God will do His part (bring souls to full Bible salvation). This is His unequivocal promise (Psalms 126:6).
But then it hit me: Not every church wants to grow – or at least not enough to do something about it. They have this wonderful group of believers who gather several times a week to worship and hear the Word. There is a spirit of love and unity and blessing. They like their church the way it is. It is comfortable. They are happy. Of course, they would love to see new souls in the altars, but not if it requires changing anything and not if it requires more of their time or money.
So, here are some easy to apply guidelines to help you not grow. If carefully followed, they will make any church growth highly unlikely.
- Don’t think, talk, or preach about growth. Any topic but that. Talking about soul winning is fine, as long as no real plans or programs are discussed to see this happen.
- Don’t delegate any ministry leadership. Or at least, no more than you already have. If you already have a Sunday School Director, a Youth Leader, or a Ladies Auxiliary Director, fine. But stay away from delegating any new positions like New Convert Care Director, Home Bible Study Director, Visitor Follow-Up Leader, Promotions Director, Outreach Leader, Music Minister and so on. Be totally content with what you now have.
- Do nothing to help or encourage your leaders. Don’t give them a job description. Don’t help them learn to do their job better. No books, no magazines, no conferences, no seminars, nothing. Show no interest in helping them set goals or explore new plans.
- Don’t do annual planning with your leaders. Don’t even think about having an Annual Planning Retreat with all your leaders. Don’t brainstorm ideas or try new things or improve current plans and activities. In fact, don’t challenge them to do anything this next year.
- Don’t ask your leaders to plan on their own. Don’t ask for a departmental one-year plan. Don’t ask for any departmental goals or activities. This will encourage them to coast along and to be content with the status quo.
- Don’t meet with your leaders monthly. In fact, never meet with them at all unless they ask – and then cancel the meeting a few times or just keep it short and quick. If you do meet with them in any way, do it only once a year to put a few dates on a calendar. Regular meetings builds team spirit, shows that you are interested in their success, and encourages them to plan and reach for goals – and you would not want that.
- Don’t make anyone accountable for anything. No monthly reports, no follow-up on goals or plans. Don’t check up on anything. New converts? Visitor Follow-up? Home Bible Studies? Who cares?
- Don’t train your leaders to be leaders. If your leader grows, his or her department will grow. And if the department grows, your church will grow. God forbid.
- Don’t set any numerical growth goals. Don’t set goals for converts, new convert retention, home Bible studies, visitors, contacts, Sunday school, bus ministry, or anything. Stay away from goals of any kind. Because when you set goals, it just makes you feel guilty because you made no plans to help you reach those goals.
- Don’t be friendly to visitors. If this seems too extreme, be friendly at first, then ignore them. No guest parking, no greeters, no ushers, no guest packets, no welcome time – and when they slip out the door during altar call, don’t have anyone speak or invite them back.
- Don’t follow-up on your visitors. Since 100% of your converts come from your visitors, and few receive the Holy Ghost the first time they come, you don’t want to encourage any to return. Don’t call them, send them a letter, and especially don’t visit them. A visit has the greatest effect upon whether they return or accept a home Bible study – so don’t do that.
- Don’t push Home Bible Studies. Don’t promote it, don’t train teachers, and don’t try to get new studies for your teachers to teach. And especially don’t appoint a home Bible study director because he might try to do all three.
- Don’t train your saints how to be a witness. Just assume that growth is entirely a work of the Holy Ghost. If a saint has the Holy Ghost they should know how to witness. No training needed.
- Don’t start a Constant Contact Consciousness ministry. The CCC ministry just might encourage people to get in the ‘habit’ of witnessing. It’s much better to go month after month and never witness or invite anyone to church.
- Don’t start a bus, van, or car ministry. In fact, stay completely away from any children’s evangelism ministries. When you win a child to God you just might win their parents too. We don’t need that.
- Don’t advertise your church. Especially don’t let newcomers to your community know where your church is or what special ministries you might have to offer.
- Don’t try any new evangelism methods. Use only methods that were popular fifty years ago. Just because a method isn’t working is no reason to abandon it. After all, it’s the tradition that counts.
- Build small buildings on small lots. This keeps the congregation thinking small. Don’t even consider moving to a new facility. Too many memories and history in the old one. Better to just stay small.
- Emphasize ‘quality not quantity.’ This one always works. Make it sound like those who advocate growth are just playing the ‘numbers game.’
- Don’t pray for growth. Pray for the sick, missions, spiritual renewal, anything but growth!