A big factor in our growth at Nativity was getting over our unwillingness to learn and borrow methods from growing, often non-Catholic, churches. But in the process we also had to learn what to look for. We realized that adopting successful methods from other churches required first paying attention to their ministry’s purpose-driven strategy, not just their outward success.
Today, we love welcoming visiting church staffs to Nativity and sharing what we do, but we’ll be the first to tell you church ministry is not one size fits all. Whenever you encounter a thriving form of ministry, the crucial questions your staff should be asking is why successful churches do what they do and how it fits within their overall mission, vision, and strategy.
So before you invest all that money in your new campus cafe (probably a good idea), save yourself some confusion and first consider these three questions with your team…
- What’s the purpose?
Healthy church growth is not accidental; it is purposeful and strategic. Before you learn exactly how a thriving church is doing something, find out why. Investigate and ask church leaders the reason they do what they do. At Nativity, you’ll see that our sound, lighting, and visual display is all about creating a context that clearly and effectively communicates our Sunday message. If you don’t start with a clear purpose, how will you develop an effective method?
- Does the purpose fulfill your vision?
All Catholic churches share the same mission: Make disciples (Matt 28:19). But every parish should have a unique vision and strategy (which, by the way, is clearly stated on your website). Make sure the proposed method meshes with every aspect of your strategic purpose. A clear vision and strategy acts as a filter for evaluating what methods will work best with your organization. For example, if you’re looking at small groups (another good idea), examine the purpose behind a successful church’s ministry and then evaluate their method in light of your own church’s vision. And remember, when implementing new methods, sometimes the best “yes” is a clear “no.”
- Does the method fulfill your purpose?
Even if your purpose and vision fit, chances are you’ll still need to tweak your method to achieve its maximum potential. A relevant ministry that serves its purpose is both creative and well researched, which will vary from place to place. Make use of your staff and volunteers’ unique gifts, talents, and knowledge of the local community to shape your method.