Monday, September 11, 2023

Branching Out

Even if I could get you to believe that the best model of church growth is branching outward like a family, I know what you're thinking - Aidan, we can't even get folks to do things inside our church; how are we supposed to get them to do things outside of it?

And that is kind of exactly the problem with our ideas of church structure and church growth.

So often, we start with our church. We start with our programs and all of the things that we think we need to run our programs - all of the volunteers and man hours and resources that it takes to put together this thing that we call "church." 

We spend our time trying to convince our people that we really need them in such-a-such ministry. We need them to teach a Bible class. We need them to teach a children's class. We need them to supervise the nursery. We need them to pass the plates. We need them to greet visitors at the door. We need them to man the welcome center. We need them to run the audio or video or lights. We need them to make the coffee. We need them to collect the attendance cards. We need...

Sound familiar? We need, we need, we need. All of these things that we think we need to run our church, to even have the basic foundation of a church in our building. 

And what's happening here is actually two things that are preventing church growth. 

First, we're establishing such a tight church structure and a hierarchy of programs that we're teaching our people what ministry means. We're teaching them that this is what it looks like. We're trying to plug them into our stick somewhere and help it be strong, but we're not really teaching them to branch out at all. We're teaching them only to fit into our structure. 

And second, we're burning them out before they even get started. Burning them out and, weirdly, filling them up. Our people are so tired from serving in the church that they don't have the energy for the ministry opportunities that present themselves in their day-to-day lives. Or, if they do, they convince themselves that it must be someone else's problem because they are already serving so much. Certainly, God couldn't want them to be serving more than they already are.

Yet somehow, we're still stuck in this space where most of our churches don't have enough volunteers for the work. So how do we branch out - how do we grow - how do we become disciples making disciples and shift the ministry to a new grandma's house - if we don't have enough folks to fill our current needs and the folks we do have are glued into our structure and burned out?

The answer is delightfully simple: you don't. 

Branching out isn't a program. It isn't a structure. It isn't something you design and try to implement or put into motion. Branching out just happens naturally - the way the tree just starts reaching in new ways for the light. Nobody tells it to grow that way; it's just what happens. 

Your people have passions. They have a heart for something. There is something they can hear in this world and not ignore. So the idea behind church growth, real church growth, is that you just have to teach your people how to take those opportunities when they come...and encourage them to do so. 

This is where most churches are struggling in the area of growth. 

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