For the Church to Grow…

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No organization out runs its leader. This is especially true of the church. The church will develop growth capacities only as fast as the pastor does.

Jeff Cornwall, Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship, Director Center for Entrepreneurship and Professor of Marketing at Belmont University, wrote an article in the February 13 edition of The Tennessean entitled, “As Business Grows, Entrepreneur’s Role Must Shift.”

As a new business grows, Cornwall points out: the role of the entrepreneur has to change from doing the business to running the business. This transition is notoriously dicey and the failure to negotiate this transition has kept more than one good idea from being marketed successfully.

We are familiar with the story. An inventor designs a new widget and begins a new business. The business grows quickly to the point where employees have to be hired and procedures delegated – in short, the entrepreneur has to go from designer and implementer to manager. If the entrepreneur can’t makes this transition, the business fails as fast as it was growing.

I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend of mine who pastors another church. He was sharing his frustration that his church, for some reason, could never take the next step. They would grow so big and then, fall back to their previous numbers. As we talked, the roadblock became obvious. He, as pastor, had a capacity problem. He had developed the skills and systems to handle a church of a certain size, but hadn't made the necessary changes in his own ministry to allow the church to grow to the next level.

As congregations grow, pastors have to expand their capacities. If the pastor can’t or won’t grow, neither will the church.

Church growth experts recognize churches face natural barriers to growth.  From 100 to 200 in attendance is a more difficult transition than most people realize. Other barriers are 200-400, 400-800 and from 800-1,000. Each growth spurt means the congregation will have to adjust to the new demands of running a larger church.

And the pastor has to adjust as well. As the church gets larger, the pastor simply can’t keep doing everything like he did in the past. How do you decide what you do and don’t do?

The first question is “What are you best at?” While there are some things no pastor can delegate, a lot of things can be handed off. As pastor, you get to choose what you keep. So, what do you do best? Preaching… teaching… pastoral care? Whatever your gifts, be sure they are prioritized in your time and resource allocation.

The next question is obvious as well. “What are you not good at?” or, “What do you not enjoy?” While every job has “rent-paying” responsibilities, a lot of ministry administration and implementation can be delegated through either effective staff hires or the establishment of lay teams to make better use of the spiritual gifts in the congregation.

No organization out runs its leader. This is especially true of the church. The church will develop growth capacities only as fast as the pastor does.

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