I have three very practical suggestions for breaking the 100 barrier. I also have a suggestion of how to make your church seem “smaller,” a real issue as your church begins to grow.
First, follow the late Lyle Schaller’s suggestion to “staff to grow, not plateau.” Schaller was a Methodist with practical suggestions about church growth. I discovered Lyle Schaller about the same time that I became pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, LA. He impressed me so that I bought twenty-four copies of his book “Growing Plans” and distributed them to the key leaders of our church. Schaller had a number of excellent philosophies to help churches grow which I wanted our people to think about.
One of the key ideas was that one pastor can only shepherd about 100 people. At that point, the pastor has all the people he can relate to. The remedy is to call an additional pastor who can relate to more people. This can be a part time or full time addition. It can be an assistant or a youth worker. It doesn’t matter. Schaller calls this staffing to grow. With this addition, the church is now equipped to move beyond the 100 barrier. Almost all churches are staffed to plateau–to remain right where they are.
Second, place a vision before your people. Give them a practical book on church growth. “Growing Plans” is still a helpful resource. One idea of church growth that I have consistently followed is to invite the leaders of the church to a “Vision Meeting,” a meeting where I laid before them my vision for the future. This usually comprised ministries that I wanted to start and changes that I wanted to make.
I find that this kind of meeting takes the edge off of change. It also sets a real expectation for your people. Once the pastor throws out the idea, the people start seeing it as viable. I have often been asked when I was going to get it accomplished. That is, of course, exactly what I wanted them to ask.
Third, learn to relate to groups of people (Another of Schaller’s ideas). John Maxwell calls this walking slowly through the crowd. The pastor must relate to the people and be accessible to their needs. As the pastor does this, he makes the church feel “small” and he removes the prejudice against a large congregation. Relating to groups of people instead of one at a time, allows the church to move through the 100 barrier.
In the coming weeks, I will take all three of these concepts and explain how to put them into effect.
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