Mark North knocked on the side church door and waited. He could hear the footsteps echoing down the hallway until finally the door scrunched open and Elder Vernon Baker stood framed in the opening, a wide smile on his heavily wrinkled face.
“Thanks so much, Elder, for letting me borrow your portable sound system,” Mark said as he followed the elderly pastor back down the hall.
“Think nothing of it,” Brother Baker replied. “I hope you have good success with your block party on Saturday.”
“I do too,” Mark replied. “We have been passing out flyers and door hangers all over town. I’ve lined up a bunch of prizes to help attract a crowd. We have two huge inflatables and a bunch of fun booths planned. Free hot dogs, chips and drinks for everyone. We will have several clowns, a juggler, puppets — it should be a lot of fun. But most important, we are planning to have an old fashioned gospel concert followed by preaching. Hopefully we will see a good number being baptized and receiving the Holy Ghost.”
“Sounds like you have it well planned,” the elder pastor said nodding. “We did the same thing about a year ago with great results. We baptized twenty-two in a portable horse trough and twelve received the Holy Ghost. We have a similar event planned this coming fall.”
Brother Baker continued talking when he suddenly realized that Mark was not following him. Looking back, he saw him standing in front of a large bulletin board display case, hands on hips.
“You coming?” he called.
Mark nodded but continued to stare. “Elder, what is this thing?”
Elder Baker walked back to see what had caught Mark’s attention. Inside the glass case hung a huge chart. At the top it said ‘Church Growth Spiral.’ The center box was labeled ‘This Year’s Goal for Souls.’ About half the chart was filled with numbers.
“That’s our church growth spiral chart,” Brother Baker said.
“Okay…what’s a church growth spiral?
“That thing,” he replied, pointing.
“I see that. What’s it for? How does it work?
Brother Baker sighed. “Has anyone ever told you that you have a question mark for a brain? It’s a tool that helps us know how much Gospel seed must be shown in order to see a given result. You see the number in the center – 64? That’s our Holy Ghost goal for this year. Remember when we talked about goal setting and the 5-Year Goal Worksheet? I told you that God answers specific prayers, not broad, general prayers. So we are being very specific – we’re asking God for sixty-four to receive the Holy Ghost this year.
“Okay. That makes sense,” Mark said. “But what’s all the other numbers and stuff?
“Well, the top of the chart is labeled ‘Progression Points.’ We take the annual goal of 64 converts and break that into four quarterly goals. So the first quarter we are praying for 13 to receive the Holy Ghost. The second quarter we are praying for 15, the third quarter for 17, and the last quarter we’re praying for 19 to be saved. We reach for slightly more each quarter because growth tends to have a snowball effect. We then set our beginning and ending date for each quarter, because a goal is not a goal until a date is set upon it, without a date it’s only a dream.
“Alright, I see can see that. Now what about the second section labeled, ‘Plan of Action?’
“Well, you remember the three-legged stool? The third leg was EVANGELIZATION. The four outreach methods that I recommended for maximum growth were these: Bringing visitors, teaching home Bible studies, personal witnessing, and Sunday school growth. Remember?”
Mark nodded. “Sure! We are in the process of implementing all four of these methods. You told us to encourage personal evangelism with the Constant Contact Consciousness (CCC) ministry.”
“Right. Well, in this section of the chart you see these same four evangelism methods listed. The big question is this: How many visitors, Bible studies, CCC contacts, and Sunday school growth is needed in order to see that quarter’s goal for converts obtained? To determine this, we use the equations that you see listed at the bottom of the spiral chart. By applying these equations to our goals, we find out much we need to do of each in order to see sixty-four receive the Holy Ghost.”
Mark looked shocked. “You got to be kidding! You mean to tell me that you can determine how visitors, Bible studies and contacts your church has to make in order for sixty-four people to get the Holy Ghost? That’s crazy!”
Brother Baker smiled patiently. “Mark, my daddy was a dirt farmer. He planted about sixty acres of corn each year. When it came time to buy seed, he knew exactly how many sacks of seed he needed to purchase to plant those sixty acres. It was an exact equation. He knew if he sowed a certain number of pounds per acre, he would reap a maximum harvest. Well, this is not so very different. We have found through experience that, on average, you have to reach a certain number of people with truth in order to see a convert. The equation is not perfect, but it does give us a general idea — and it almost always works. When we reach our evangelism goals, we almost always see our Holy Ghost goal obtained as well.
“So let me see if I understand you correctly,” Mark said. “Starting at the top, your first quarter’s goal for converts is for thirteen to receive the Holy Ghost. Then you have your first quarter’s beginning and ending dates. Then you follow the spiral on around to the second section and you have your first goal for visitors. The visitor equation is ‘three times the quarterly goal.’ Three times thirteen is thirty-nine. So you need thirty-nine first-time visitors to attend your church during the first quarter, right?
Brother Baker nodded. “You got it. And the second quarter we need forty-five first-time visitors (3 x 15), fifty-one the third quarter (3 x 17), and the last quarter we need fifty-seven (3 x 19).”
“Okay,” Mark continued, “the home Bible study equation is ‘two times the quarterly goal.’ So the first quarter you need twenty-six home Bible studies to be taught. The second quarter is thirty, the third quarter, thirty-four, and the last quarter, thirty-eight.”
“Good. Keep going,” Brother Baker said.
“Now, the equation for CCC contacts is, ‘fifty times the quarterly goal.’ Your first quarter’s Holy Ghost goal is thirteen, so fifty times thirteen is 650, then fifty times fifteen is 750, then fifty times seventeen is 850, and then fifty times nineteen is 950 for the last quarter.
“Excellent!” Elder Baker exclaimed. “Now figuring Sunday school is really easy. At the end of the year we averaged about 320 in Sunday school attendance. Our goal this year for Sunday school is 362. The equation states, ‘divide your Sunday school goal into four steps.’ So we did this, setting our first quarter’s attendance goal at 330, the second quarter’s goal at 340, then 350 the third quarter and 362 the last quarter.”
“So, your first quarter’s evangelism goals are these: 39 first-time visitors, 26 home Bible studies, 650 CCC contacts, and a Sunday school attendance average of 330?”
“You got it! The Psalmist David said, ‘He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Ps. 126:6)’. When we do our part, God always does His part.”
Mark continued staring at the chart. “I have so many questions. But before I ask them, finish explaining. What’s the ‘Member Commitment’ section all about?”
“Well, we regularly ask our people to be active in evangelism. I normally do this with a commitment form. I preach a good sermon on the need to win the lost and then pass out a form asking who is willing to bring a visitor, teach a home Bible study, be involved in the CCC ministry, and help with Sunday school and bus ministry. So, as you can see, the first quarter we had 122 people commit to bring a visitor, 33 people commit to teach a home Bible study, 102 people commit to be involved in CCC and 34 people commit to work in Sunday school and bus ministry. The second quarter the numbers were slightly different. But each quarter we bring people back to the need. You have to ask people to be involved. That’s the message of Matthew 20: the householder called for laborers at the third hour, sixth hour, ninth hour, and so on. If you want laborers, Mark, you have to call over and over. We can’t be shy. We have a harvest to gather!
“Okay,” Mark injected, excitement in his voice. “Now let me guess. This last section is labeled, ‘Quarterly Results.’ This is the actual results you had for that quarter. Your goal was 39 first-time visitors. You had 52 visitors. Your goal was for 26 Bible studies. Your church taught 37 Bible studies. Your goal was for 650 ontacts. You had 1,172 contacts. Your Sunday school goal was for 330 in average attendance. You had 337 in average attendance. You reached all your evangelism goals the first quarter.”
“Exactly. The second quarter we fell a little short of our home Bible study goal. But we are planning an ‘Open Your Home to a Home Bible Study’ promotion next month, so we should see a solid jump in that area.”
Mark nodded. “So tell me, Elder. What benefits do you see from using the church growth spiral?”
“Quite a number. First, it gives us a good idea of how much seed we need to sow to see a given result. Mark, you will reap in direct proportion to what you have sown. Sow sparingly, reap sparingly; sow abundantly, reap abundantly. If we have an idea of how much we need to sow, we have a better chance of achieving it. Secondly, it keeps us focused on the four most successful methods of evangelism: Visitors, Bible studies, personal witnessing, and Sunday school. Thirdly, it brings people to a commitment of evangelism involvement. If our involvement numbers begin to drop, it’s time to do some encouragement. Finally, it keeps us result oriented. Each quarter we look at our results and if we have fallen short in any area, we can develop a simple strategy to strengthen that area. So we end up over all with a more balanced evangelism program.
“I don’t know about your church, Mark, but my church responds well to this approach. They truly want to grow. And they understand that growth will come as the direct result of sowing seed. They just need to know how much and by what method. The spiral shows me all of this, and more.”
Mark continued to stare at the chart and nod his head. “So do you show this chart to the whole church and explain how it works?”
“Occasionally. But the church growth spiral confuses some people, so I don’t make a big deal of it. It’s enough for my church to know that we have a goal for the four evangelism areas and that I need their help to reach them. Mostly I use this tool with my leaders. They all understand it well. This chart will lift out of the display case and I often carry it into my monthly meeting with my leaders. We talk about our results last quarter and develop plans for the next quarter. Each year our center goal gets a little larger. So we are always reaching for more visitors, more Bible studies and so on. Understand, Mark, that the church growth spiral is simply a motivational tool – and it will work if you work it.”
Mark continued to nod, then finally he sighed. “Brother Baker, you never cease to amaze me. This is so cool and it makes so much sense. We do our part and God does His part. We sow the seed, God makes it grow. Set your goal, break it into steps, set your dates, work out a plan of action, recruit your workers, and evaluate your progress. It covers every aspect of effective church goal setting.”
“Oh, it doesn’t cover every part.” Brother Baker said with a grin.
“What part’s missing?”
“The praying part! You gotta’ get some calluses on them knees of yours, son! Folks want to go in a church where they can feel more than just the air conditioning vent. In fact, your church doesn’t need ‘air-conditioning’ as much as it needs ‘prayer-conditioning.’ This thing won’t work without prayer! You gotta’ pray, pray, pray!” Elder Baker shook his fist in the air and danced a little jig as he said it.
Mark laughed at the Elder pastor’s playful camp meeting rant. “Okay, okay! I get it. Come on, Elder, let’s find that portable sound system before you have yourself a stroke.”
Chuckling, they both went in search of the equipment.
For a copy of the Church Growth Spiral worksheet with instructions, call 1-800-800-0247. Cost is $3.00.