Thursday, August 21, 2008

What causes a Church to Grow or Decline

I came across this interesting article from a website.

Some of the contents might SHOCK some of you out there.

Adapted from "What Causes Churches to Grow or Decline?" Written by Dan Garland

Olson’s conclusion correlates with the research findings of Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts, by Dr. Thom Rainer and Sam Rainer. The main question addressed in Essential Church is, "Why do so many young adults (18 to 22) leave the church, and what will it take to bring them back?"

The book is based on a study of one-thousand so-called "church dropouts" who were interviewed about why they left. Their answers are quite surprising, having less to do with "losing their religion" and more about the desire for a community that isn't made stale by simply maintaining the status quo.

Thom and Sam Rainer offer churches four concrete solutions toward making their worship community an essential part these young people's lives again:
1) Simplify - develop a clear structure and process for making disciples.
2) Deepen - provide strong biblical teaching and preaching.
3) Expect - let members know the need for commitment to the congregation.
4) Multiply - emphasize evangelism, outward focus, and starting new churches.

The churches that reach and keep young adults, that is churches who have experienced growth in the 18-22 age group, are churches who have addressed the internal structures, processes, expectations and elements of church. Namely, these churches have focused on the four internal factors of simplify, deepen, expectations, and multiply.

First, the church has learned to simplify.

Eric Geiger and Thom Rainer deal with this reality in their book, Simple Church. They maintain that church has become too complicated and too busy, filled with activities that have little coherent purpose. There is no clear process or path/structure for making disciples. The churches who are essential to lives of young adults work hard to communicate a clear process/path for becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

Second, the church moves its members to deepen their knowledge of God’s Word and His truths.

These essential congregations have done three things to deepen the discipleship of their members:
1) Relevant biblical preaching is found in the pulpit every Sunday.
2) Group Bible Study is a high priority and a core value of the church. An important finding is shown in the chart below: 83% of new members who became actively involved in a small group bible study class remained active in the church after five years. Those who attended only worship, only 16% of them remained active after five years.
3) The members are encouraged and expected to study and learn the Bible for themselves. In other words, they are taught and equipped to feed themselves from the Word of God.

Third, the church has high expectations of its members.
*SAB: YES. You see this rightly*

One of the keys to raising expectations is to have a clearly communicated membership process that explains the expectations of membership to new members. Essential churches believe they are called to make a difference and to call their members to make a difference in the name of Christ. This is clearly communicate on the front end and expected as one of the checkpoints of discipleship.

Essential churches have simple structures that move believers along a clearly defined process of maturity. The process can be easily communicated and understood. Essential churches make biblical teaching and preaching a core value in all they do. Essential churches create an environment of high expectations for the members.

Finally, the research revealed an essential church is committed to help its members multiply spiritually.

Evangelism is part of the heartbeat of the church. Missions and ministry are common in the lives of the members. Essential churches have an intentional strategy to reach the dechurched and the unchurched.

In short, the essential church focuses on four critical areas:


Questions that you may have asked before:
- why is it that our church always emphasize the importance of being a devoted follower of Christ?
- why is my CGL always asking me to attend bible studies, pray and read the bible?
- why is it that our church is always talking about making a difference, asking me to sacrifice or make a commitment?
- why is it that our church is always having activities and always asking us to bring friends?

* so much more that you and i can do*