There’s a lot of buzz about declining congregations these days. Here’s one example and another opinion piece. Maybe it’s because there are so many churches struggling to stay afloat. Did you know we lose approximately 4000 churches in America every year? I hear many justifications for the losses like blaming location, leadership, culture, tradition, competition, finances or the non-committed in the pew. But, are these really adequate reasons? Instead of lamenting the losses, maybe we can learn from the wisdom of others.
I’ve experienced both scenarios – declining and growing congregations. Sometimes it’s for a season and at other times it is the life cycle of the organization. Over the years I’ve noticed something about growing organizations as opposed to declining ones. Here’s a short list (not exhaustive) of some observable characteristics of growing churches.
Growing organizations are:
- Highly relational – there’s a high priority and practice in relating. In other words, relationships are essential. It’s about loving God and loving others.
- Generous – people are living generously among one another and in community. They give, help, volunteer, serve and then give some more.
- Missional – they’re living faith as everyday life. A Sunday faith isn’t acceptable; it’s about an authentic and genuine demonstrated daily faith.
- Living beyond – followers are practicing attentiveness to the needs of others. These are lives portrayed by grace, mercy and compassion.
- Discipleship oriented – they’re prioritizing the practice of making students, apprentices and learners. The goal is to develop Christ followers not just in a classroom but also through life’s experiences.
- Creative – people are willing to risk.
- Gospel driven – followers are pursuing the Gospel as one’s vision and practice for life.
- Presence people – they’re practicing an awareness of God’s presence. (See Exodus 33:12-17)
- Scripture principled – followers understand and believe the Scriptures to be God’s inspired, revealed and true word to man and essential for every day practice, life, hope and future. There is truth, you can know it and it can set you free.
- Organizations in motion – people experience significant momentum facilitated in part by vision and contagious people.
- Jesus only people – followers believe Jesus to be God’s Son and their only salvation.
Again, this list isn’t exhaustive. You might even want to add something to this list and please do so. I’ve seen this list demonstrated in whole and in part in growing congregations over the years and across the country. Can you find any of these present in your church community?