Only Two Things Grow a Church

Mystery of Christian ConversionI’ve taken up a pattern of walking most mornings to help clear my head  and gather my thoughts  during this season of the year.

I’ve subscribed to the podcast from Church Talk Radio, and most segments are about 45 minutes to one hour.

I’ve got it on my MP3 Player and while walking, I consume some great teaching.  Its length helps me judge my walking time — exercise is faster when my mind in not bored!

Only Two Things Grow a Church

I was listening to one from their archives from March of 2008

Only Two Things Grow A Church (Follow the link to listen or download)

Let me spoil it for you.

  • Awe-filled worship
  • Awesome Children’s Programming

I found myself reflecting upon my own church experience over the past two years before we made a fresh transition again to helping a pastor plant a new church.

Awe-filled worship

Church #1

We recently had a Sunday morning off and were able to attend a neighboring church that continues to grow and is already outgrowing its building and overflow rooms.

It’s Christmas time, so the choir led in some traditional carols, as well as some modern choruses.  The band provided excellent musical underscore.

It’s a bi-lingual church, so the Christmas carols were sung one verse in English, one verse in Spanish.  Not the same verse 2x, but a progression through the song.  As one who speaks in both languages, this expression was deeply meaningful to me.

Then, the choir did a solo from their cantata.  The orchestration and vocals (again, bi-lingual) were off the chart, even with occasional funny pronunciations of words in the other language!

A brief slide show of a recent missions trip to another town gently tugged my heart to say “I want to go to!”

Then a family got up and led us in an advent devotion, using the advent wreath and candles which many traditions use.  Wow, I didn’t realize how much I miss that symbol of the Christmas season.

The sermon was biblical and inspired our family devotions this week.  I felt myself convicted to make some changes to grow my own faith and the faith of my family.

This particular church doesn’t collect an offering during the service.  Rather they have little boxes at the exit door – members know that, but I didn’t, so I didn’t get to sow into that ministry.  I found myself disappointed that I couldn’t give.  Wouldn’t you love visitors who were desperate to give an offering?

While there was nothing overtly special about these service components, nor was there a “performance” drive from the musicians or choirs who were humbly joining us in worship singing, nor was the preacher a skilled orator, the entire service was awe-filled for me.

  • Unable to talk.
  • Teary at times.
  • Amazed.
  • Speechless.

Maybe it was just a point in my life where the Spirit of God wanted to minister to me.

Several times, I found myself unable to sing, just lost in the mystery of what God has done for us in Emmanuel.  I found myself in awe of God and was very aware of the Lord’s presence.

Church #2

In what follows, I am not complaining, but simply describing what happened.  It simply was clear this church wasn’t a fit for this family.

The Pastor is trying hard to do the work with the resources available and it works for the many people who regularly attend.

We were connected with a church for one year in our journey before we dropped out (Read Church Dropouts — why people find it easy to leave) to focus on a church plant

Many Sundays, the worship was awe-filled.

But after a while, it got stale – the same songs, same order, the same, the same.  No songs connected to any holiday season, and no songs or preaching about anything other than some theme related to victory.

Sermons were hit or miss in terms of quality, relevance, and impact.

My wife served in the children’s ministry and missed most of the worship experience.  It eventually got to the point where when she asked me what the sermon was about, I could only say “something about walking in victory.”

We began to lose our motivation to go.  Church had become a chore.

The lack of awe-filled worship, and our desperate thirst for the richness of Biblical preaching eventually helped us drop out.

Awesome Children’s Programming

Church #2

Again, we have no complaints, but simply want to describe our experience.

In this same church, my wife served in Children’s ministry on Sunday mornings for several months.

  • Chaos ruled.
  • Teachers didn’t show up.
  • Supplies were not readily available.
  • Planning with ministry leaders didn’t happen.
  • It appeared to be unorganized and last minute nearly every Sunday.

My kids grew tired of it.

My wife grew tired of trying to make do.

Soon my kids started protesting going to church in general.  They couldn’t wait to leave!

There is some truth in that the parents decide which church to go to, but that the kids decide if they are going back.

It became clear that when the kids didn’t want to go, and we ourselves weren’t motivated to attend.

This church wasn’t a fit for us.

So we dropped out.

Church #1

Looking at the bi-lingual church we just visited, our kids loved their children’s programming.

Spanish speakers had their class, English speakers had theirs (the church was big enough to make this happen).

The kids made friends.  The kids want to go back.

They’ve experienced the VBS of this church, and we’ve visited this church four times these past 12 months when we have a Sunday off.

Reflections

If this church #1 was easy for our family to get to, and if we weren’t involved in a church plant, we’d move mountains to get there.

Maybe it’s like this every week. It’s been that way the 4 times we’ve visited in the past 12 months.

As we plant the church we are currently in, we’ve been inspired to look at these elements to see how we can grow them.

There is some truth to the observations that two critical elements to growing a church are

  • Awe-filled Worship
  • Excellent Children’s Programming

In that 40 minute podcast, Bill and Kris give several ideas about how to develop those ministries in your local church, church plant, and small church.  It’s a worthy listen.  Throw it on your IPOD and go for a walk – you’ll find yourself energized to figure out how to grow your church.

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Comments

  1. Paul Steinbrueck says

    Interesting post. I wouldn’t have guessed those 2 things, especially from the EVANGELISM coach. :)

  2. says

    Maybe I need to clarify that the speakers were focused on some programmatic elements to growing the church.

    These church elements certainly support the work of personal evangelism, particularly as I define it — a part of that definition is active membership in a local church.

    As to my own reflections, we are a family trying to find a church home to support our spiritual growth and service while in the planning and launch phases of a new church.

    Chris

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