We are currently preparing for our REUILT 2018 Conference in which we’ll be welcoming parish leaders from 30 states and 10 countries. We’ll be spending two days talking about church health and growth.
Healthy churches are growing churches, because healthy things grow. Growth might come in different ways in different seasons: growth in discipleship, worship, service, mission, and other ways too, besides growth in attendance. But, however its growing, a healthy church is a growing church.
And of all the things that limit health and growth, a leader’s mindset can be the biggest obstacle. It was for us for sure. And until we changed our minds about a few myths we’d bought into, growth was beyond our grasp. There are lots of myths about church that churchpeople buy into.
Here are 6 we hear everywhere we go.
- What Works There Won’t Work Here
When we first visited Saddleback Church we were blown away, but walked away with the conviction that there was nothing there for us to learn. We confront the same myth everywhere we speak. The attitude is other parishes can’t learn from us because we’re a “rich” parish, or a northeastern parish, or a suburban parish. What works there won’t work here. Really? Why? Are you honestly that different? When it comes to what works where – it’s often your attitude that determines the outcome. Henry Ford once commented: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
- My Church Won’t Change
It is true people resist change, they always do. It is the inevitable reaction to any renewal or rebuilding effort, and the first one, so it can always slow you down or trip you up. But it’s just not true that you can’t move most people through change successfully. It’s work for sure, but it can be done.
- If You Build It They Will Come
For generations the story of the Catholic Church in this country was “build it and they will come.” And they did. And they still do (on Christmas Eve or when it’s time for their kids’ First Communion), but to a sharply diminishing degree. And yet, lots of pastors are still operating like this myth is true, despite the empty pews. We’ve got to do more than open the doors on Sunday morning to get our parishes growing.
- If I Only Had…
This was us for so long. We just looked at healthy churches and ached with jealousy for what they had that we didn’t have. And instead of doing something about it, or just being grateful for what we did have, we used it as an excuse for inaction instead.
- My People Don’t Give/ My People Won’t Serve
Maybe they don’t, but whose fault is that? Just because they don’t doesn’t mean they won’t if you make a compelling and consistent case for it in all your preaching and teaching.
- People Don’t Like Big Churches
The data doesn’t support the view that people don’t like big churches. Many large churches keep growing. And many smaller churches keep shrinking. Sure, it’s important to keep your church relational and preserving fellowship as a core value of your community. Our investment in our weekend café is one way we make this happen and our Small Groups program is another. It’s not a question of whether people like big churches or small churches. People like effective churches.
For another, more comprehensive take on this, check out careynieuwhof.com