growing church

Today I want to share with you the 6 main problems I’ve faced in working at a growing church. I’ve attended Seminary – I’ve even taught at Seminary. None of that prepared me for the practical challenges I’ve faced at work in ministry. To be fair, my degrees are in Old Testament so if you ask me about that I can offer good answers, but practical ministry can be just as tricky as parsing Irregular Hebrew Verbs.

 

Now, what do I mean a growing church? At Greenwood, we had 721 total this past Sunday. A year ago on the same Sunday we had 465. So we had about 50% more people year over year. Now I’m not pitching some kind of growth strategy here, I want to talk about the challenges it causes. I should tell you that a majority of our growth is from either new believers, or people who did not attend church regularly before coming to Greenwood. Before I dive into the list, I want you to know that I’m ecstatic about the lives that God has changed in the past year. I am not griping here. I am sharing my challenges so that you can be prepared for the day that your church grows exponentially (I sincerely hope it does). So what are the top challenges I’ve seen as a Small Groups and Media Pastor?

 

  1. Discipleship is a real challenge. I thought we had a bad ratio of people involved in small groups a year ago. Now it’s just plain terrible. On top of that I’ve actually lost some small group leaders to life circumstances (they are still around just not able to lead right now). So we’re kicking off 3 new groups this fall, and hopefully 3 more this spring. To be honest, this won’t really solve the problem if we remain a growing church – it will just make a dent. I inherited no concrete plan, and I have not come up with a concrete plan. I’ve been fighting to keep up with problem 2, 3, and 4 because they the ones that other people complained about. Having thought about things – I wish I would have addressed a Discipleship system first.
  2. Digital Bandwidth. Hundreds of more people want on our wifi. Our internal network does not support it. We had to kill our public (open) wifi just to keep essential resources online during Sunday. We had to update our 10yr old server with a new machine, and still need to update some components of the network. If you thought your network was in bad shape, imagine a world where your internal network DOES CRASH every Sunday. That was a horrible month. I contracted a consultant to solve that problem.
  3. People Systems were not adequate. We had to migrate to a new church management system because our old one was sub-par. It turns out the new one will likely be sub-par in a few years time. I have learned that your database is only as good as the information that your administrative assistant inputs, and only stays updated if you fight for it. Because we have a growing church, we had to create a standard conversation sheet for new-member meetings to make sure that we were all saying the same thing, because we had 2 or more staff members meeting with multiple people for membership most weeks. We had to purchase new check-in stations for children to meet the increased demand during worship service turnover.
  4. Our Website was all wrong. I’m not claiming it is perfect now, but I was able to do a complete redesign this past January. Now the site is at least responsive, meaning it works right on phones and tablets. I’m going to re-vamp the thing in the next few months to make it more user friendly, but it won’t be perfect even then. I heard Daniel Girradier say that a website is never a finished product – it is always changing. I think he’s right because if nothing else, our church isn’t static. Every time we change something that changes makes something on the website outdated and in need of change. Web stuff has eaten a lot of my time.
  5. Not Enough Physical Space. I’m sure you think this would be a great problem, but in a growing church it is still a problem. We had to add a third worship service. Great right? Think about the way your volunteers would view being required to add another hour (or more) of service on Sunday. Now, we are nearing the need for a fourth service… We literally do not have any more chairs in our 1-4th grade class, or any children’s classes. The kids do not mind as much as the parents, thankfully. We do not have the required number of rooms to rotate the expected attendance of children at VBS next year. I don’t know what we’ll do on that one yet – any ideas? We have been and will continue to start some off-campus small groups for adults. We also no longer have a space that can accommodate the whole church gathering. Think about that. We had to rent a facility down the road just to have a volunteer appreciation event. OK, that one was really fun…
  6. Leadership Pipeline was not strong enough. I’m really thinking hard about how to build a pipeline that develops people to lead new small groups – discipling others. I will be starting a brand new group in the fall and at the first meeting, I will tell them that the goal of this is for one or more of them to take a group through the same curriculum in a few months time. I started about 18 months ago, and the church was just starting to average over 400 people on a Sunday. I have not added enough small group leaders, or disciplers, fast enough. That’s on me. I’d love to know if you have any suggestions for doing that.

 

Thankfully, we have some really good Bible Study leaders, so the quality of our Bible Study is still strong. I’ve started using social media to try and leverage that channel for some small bit of discipleship. I post bible verses, uplifting stories, and articles about Christian living that people actually engage with.

 

Please know that I am open to ideas! If you have any suggestions please leave a comment or send me an email.

 

One comment on “6 Problems with a Growing Church

  • Hey Justin,

    I’m glad you are in a growing church. I will brainstorm on some of your current issues. I’ll pass some ideas along if I come across any. As far as the website, I do work for a company that has developers. I’m not sure what kind of budget the church has for their website, but maybe I could run it by my boss and the team and see if we could tailor something for you. I know when we sell a whole site we offer hosting and monthly maintenance upgrades. .. If you’re interested in a quote let me know .

    As far as Seminary, my dad went to southwestern and there was some much the school did not prepare him for. Real ministry. Not just knowledge. You’re not the only one.

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