this is a reprint of an article we shared in our august 07 vertigo, the online journal of spiritual dizziness at the refuge. we know some of you have already read it but we wanted to put it up for those that don’t get vertigo (if you are interested in subscribing, click here). plus, this way you can comment, too.
when we planted the refuge 15 months ago, there were many people who thought (and secretly hoped) we’d replicate the “attractional” church model that we had been part of. it could have been so simple–a few good messages, amazing, upbeat music, a few light trees and fog machines, and we would have been golden. good communicator, solid care pastor, it was the formula for success. one problem–it violated so many of our core beliefs about what “church” is supposed to be. so instead we have chosen this harder path in the wider Christian community. at this point we aren’t sure if we’re smart or stupid.
but we do know there are many church leaders out there who are overwhelmed by the exponential growth they’ve experienced in the past few years (they definitely followed the manual we seem to have misplaced). they don’t quite know what to do because their budgets and staff keep increasing, they’re running million dollar building campaigns, and sunday programming continues to ramp up to near-hollywood levels. we have heard their cry and offer our heartfelt and sympathetic advice. you see if there is anything we feel competent at, it is managing rapid growth. in fact, we are confident we can solve the problems of churches that are too big. our answer? our area of expertise?
we call it “Church Shrinkage”….
just apply these 8 easy principles and we’re 100% sure your church will shrink (but who knows, maybe in the end you’ll live out some of your dreams of the way you’ve longed church could be)
1. shoot the sheriff.
don’t build what is called a faith community on any superstar other than Jesus. remember, He said He was the head of the thing, although people usually want a more tangible and handsome superstar, one hero who makes all of the decisions. hmm, no telling where it all went awry, but as far as we can tell the early church was just a group of men & women who loved God and each other and wanted others to know Him, too.
2. tell the truth.
be more honest about where each dollar goes, who gets the biggest salary (and the least), what the real agenda is. do 25 million dollar buildings really help poor Jesus out, or are they in fact ways to proclaim power and comfort? what is hidden is always bad news for the poor.
3. embrace brokenness.
sounds good when it is a program for others, but is confession a way of life for leadership or are the stories of brokenness someone else’s and the speakers seem to have more “victory” than the average schmoe? what happens to people when they aren’t getting “healed” fast enough?
4. demand equality.
look around, do women have equal status & power? enough said.
5. defer to the least of these.
are the folks in charge the ones Jesus would notice, or do they seem more from wall street? are poor, uneducated, but loving servants of Jesus on the elder board? or does the board look more like a fortune 500 company? is success measured in dollars and numbers? whose phone calls get returned? who is getting invited to play golf with the pastors?
6. be generous.
where does most of the money go? what is spent on “the show”, programming, creating comfort versus single moms, struggling families or hungry children?
7. let people speak.
why are we so afraid of dialogue? why do only the “professionals” get to speak?
8. value people above strategy.
what happens when someone is passionate about something but it doesn’t align with the personal preferences of church leadership? do staff people seem to come and go on a regular basis? someone is being sacrificed for a strategy, and that strategy is about being bigger.
see, anyone can have a smaller church, if you lay down power, control, and personal comfort. if you are willing to be honest about what happens behind closed doors, then your church can also have the joy of shrinking. we’ll be glad to help.