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Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Thirty Barriers to Growth

  • Dr. James Emery White
    James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
  • 2013 Apr 15
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Rather than asking “How do I grow my church?” the more penetrating question is usually “What is keeping our church from growing?” 

The Holy Spirit wishes all churches to grow – and specifically through conversion growth. So if a church isn’t growing, what is keeping it from fulfilling its full redemptive potential?

The dynamics of an effective church haven’t changed for 2,000 years. We are to evangelize the lost, assimilate those evangelized, disciple those assimilated, and unleash those who have been discipled for ministry and ongoing evangelistic impact. 

Recently, with that in mind, I asked our staff to consider the following 30 areas and rank each one on a scale from 1 to 10. It’s not a unique list -- it’s pretty basic to any veteran. We then compiled the average score for each area. The key was to highlight the lower scores, which reflected areas that might be hindering growth and, as a result, stand in need of attention. 

Let’s just say it was a conversation starter. 

And a darn good one.

Here it is. Maybe it will get you and your team talking too.

**********

Teaching

(offering both engaging content and effective/dynamic communication)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Assimilation

(enfolding newcomers into community within 3 months; small groups; membership)

 _____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Invitation

(creating a culture of invitation; ease of invitation)

______________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Evangelism

(intentional evangelism among attenders; evangelism training)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Structure

(lack of bureaucracy; ease of decision-making; letting leaders lead)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Location

(ease of access from major roads/interstates)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Facility

(seating/parking capacity; cleanliness; signage; first impression)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Atmosphere

(warmth/friendliness; guest services; sensitivity/orientation toward first-time attenders)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Worship/Music

(reflective of contemporary tastes/styles; audience engagement; leadership; quality; ability to embrace as a first-time attender)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Children’s Ministry

(quality/attractiveness of program; security; parental engagement/affirmation)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Student Ministry

(effectiveness at outreach to student community; quality/attractiveness of program; effectiveness at reaching students from existing families/weekend attendance; parental engagement/affirmation)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Participation

(members and attenders are actively participating in ministry opportunities, serving teams, church-wide events, etc.)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Serving Recruitment

(enlistment for serving teams; discovery of spiritual gifts; new ministry development)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Internal Communications (among staff)

(internal awareness of events and programs; professionalism)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Communication to Church Members/Attenders

(alerting them to upcoming events and activities; website; weekly emails)

_____________________________________________­­________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

External Communications

(community awareness of church; regular media coverage; engagement within the local community)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Marketing

(clear branding of the church; brand known to the community; effective marketing campaigns)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Discipleship

(Meck Institute – classes, seminars, specialized small groups and studies; knowledge of such resources; enlistment into such resources)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Next Steps

(clear next steps to move people from the “crowd” to the “core”; classes to take, ways to get involved)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Vision

(clearly articulated vision of future and growth/outreach)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Mission

(strong sense of mission, clear target on the wall, turned outward vs. inward; knowledge of who we are trying to reach)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Internal Morale

(spirit of the church, enthusiasm toward the church and its staff/leadership, energy and commitment levels)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Volunteers

(engaged, encouraged, and enthused volunteers pursuing the mission; commitment of volunteer base; clear communication of need and opportunity for volunteers)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Staff Morale

(attitude of staff; unity of staff; staff’s perception of appreciation)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Staff Quality

(abilities of staff; capacity of staff; professionalism of staff; effectiveness of staff)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Leadership

(staff well-led at all levels; vision and direction clearly articulated; wise decision-making; effective communication; staff training and development)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Volunteer Leadership

(identifying and training key leaders; finding those who understand the church’s DNA – the mission, vision and values)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Macro-Thinking

(sub-ministries of the church relate to each other and the church as a whole does not seem to fall into “silos” where they think only of their own interests)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

The Relay Race

(if the goal is to evangelize the lost, assimilate the evangelized, disciple the assimilated, and then unleash the discipled … how are we doing at handing the baton off at each juncture?)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

 

Prayer

(clear reliance on God through prayer on the staff level, team level, volunteer level, church level)

_____________________________________________________

1         2         3         4         5         6         7         8         9         10

There you have it. 

Thirty areas for thoughtful reflection. I’m sure there are many more areas for consideration, but at least this gets your conversation started.

Like it did ours.

And again, the point is not “How do I get my church growing?”

It’s “What is keeping our church from growing?”

And then answering the question.

James Emery White

 

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.