What (SOME) Church Members Mean When They Say They Want Their Church To Grow

This is a great article by Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Resources.  As someone who regularly communicates with hundreds of pastors, I always appreciate his perspective. -Matt

I heard it again just a week ago.

And I bet I’ve heard it nearly a thousand times.

“The search committee,” the pastor began, “said they really wanted the church to grow. Now I am leading them to do some things to reach people, and those same people are out to get me.”

You will rarely find a church member who says he or she is not for growth in the church. But many church members have unspoken, perhaps unknown, conditions attached to the statement. In other words, I am all for growth in the church unless it impacts me in some way.

Let’s look at seven of those “unless” conditions:

I really want to see growth in our church . . .

Unless we have to change the worship style.
Unless we have to add more worship services.
Unless I lose my parking spot and my seat in the worship center.
Unless the new people who come to our church look differently than we do; dress differently than we do; or speak differently than we do.
Unless we have to spend a lot of money on “those” people.
Unless the new people mess up my current fellowship circles and groups.
Unless we have to change the facilities in any way to accommodate the growth.

For certain, not all church members have such attitudes. Similarly, don’t assume those church members who act enthusiastically about potential growth have really considered the consequences. Stated simply, reaching people with the gospel always has a cost.

Unfortunately, many church members do not want to pay that cost.

Let me hear about your perspectives and experiences regarding this issue.


4 thoughts on “What (SOME) Church Members Mean When They Say They Want Their Church To Grow

  1. Hey Matt,

    Ok… so this means we’re leaving Castle Hills and moving on to Leon Springs? If so.. fine. I’m not crazy about it because I’m in the 15% of our church membership who live near our present location. It’s only 5 minutes away. But, you’re worth listening to even if I had to drive all the way to New York City. My attitude regarding the above (your post) is that sometimes people think of practical issues when they object. Here’s what I mean:

    I’m writing you for our elderly church members. They haven’t asked me to do it, and don’t know I’m writing this. I’m thinking that one of the big reasons why they don’t want this move or any move is because they’re worried about how they’re going to get there. Many of these folks are in their 80’s or close to it. I know them because I’m in one of their bible study classes. (a group of them branched out to do a different form of bible study last year or so) These sweet elderly gentlemen and ladies were the only ones who took in my son, Danny, who has special needs.

    Truly, if you ever want to see a real life angel, come by and listen to them. They’re amazing. Get this, not only did they welcome Danny, they made room for his housemates, all of whom had special needs, some worse than his.

    The president of that class* had twins and had looked all over town for a church who would accept his family when they moved to San Antonio. He found Castle Hills. Over 50 years later, we prayed for one of them to get over a serious medical ailment. Ed talked about his son when he asked us to pray for him the same way i do mine sometimes, with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat.

    Anyway… like I said, this isn’t about me. I’m thinking in this post, that even though none of these dear people have said it, I think their objection to any move is more of a practical one. I believe that we can organize a shuttle or VIA trans so that they can have a safe way to travel to & from Leon Springs. We’d be honoring them as we should, and perhaps then they might not object so much to the change.

    After all, if we can send church members out to China and Africa in one summer like we did last year, surely we can figure out how to get church members out to our new location for their golden years. My apologies if I’m wrong about Leon Springs, but this post is good for any new far away location.

    God Bless…

    I’m Liz Woods.

    *”President” is an old term. This class has been in existence since the very beginnings of Castle Hills Church, and it’s how they’re organized. In our class it means that he tells the class what’s going on, (church & class events), takes prayer requests and prays for us all. Then our teacher takes over.

    • I agree on change completely. By the way, we are not moving to Leon springs, that is a new campus – operate from our current or future campus. there is no desire to leave anyone behind. If the new campus seems too far from the current, we have a plan to keep one here in Castle Hills! Thanks!

  2. hmmm… well, Matt, I left an awesome reply last night, but it might be to early to see any responses. Then again, it didn’t directly relate to this article. So here you go with something that’s a little closer to home:

    I think most people aren’t fans of change, no matter what it is. Try and tell people, especially older folks that women ought to have more say in the running of a church or God forbid, be a preacher! Run for the hills if you do that! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not aiming for a revolution here, only mentioning the above as examples of people’s resistance to change.

    Btw, anyone who thinks women can’t preach or aren’t capable of being in charge need to meet some girls I know. And when you consider that these days more children are being raised by single women than ever before who are managing their households without the benefit of any male, you should seriously look at the idea of encouraging more church ladies to be leaders, so they can reach them..

    A big deterrent to change, you see, is when people can’t relate to those who are trying to get them to change. And this late at night I, wonder if I’m making any sense, anyway.

    The point here is that no one really likes change. We’re creatures of habit. Change is like going to the doctor. You do it, but you’re not happy about it. That’s probably the biggest problem . inertia. It’s ok to think about it, but to do it.. hmmm well, that’s a different kettle of fish, no matter what the change is or how good for you it may be.

    But I say there is hope. You see, while no one’s crazy about losing their favorite parking spot or whatever… if you’ve taught your flock that the important thing is to love God and do His thing, not yours or theirs, and if you’ll let them in on at least some of the decision making, you’ll find them a lot more cooperative.

    People like positives, and they like to help. You’ll be surprised at how much ordinary folk know, and can do if only called upon, and treated like an equal; even we, the unwashed masses. Try looking at the coming change(s) as having a new baby. It’s a pretty big change that most of us go though one way or another, but it’s also kind of fun too.

    Babies are notoriously expensive, and a monster hassle, especially in those rough early months when you wish you could remember what sleep felt like, but when they give you that first real smile… it’s all worth it. So is God!

    So, think of the benefit(s) as much as the cost, and hang in there when things look bleak.

    Here’s a guide to my experience with change: In the past (almost) 40 years, I worked in child day care and was a Camp Counselor and an asst. Camp Director at a resident summer Girl Scout camp. I also wrote and sold ads for the Houston Chronicle, and was a salesgirl at Dillards dept store in North Star Mall. In all of these jobs, I had to get along with a wide variety of people. I did the same thing in my years serving burgers at Whataburger. (It’s amazing what an English degree qualifies you for!)

    One thing I learned about people is that no matter how big or little, young or old they are, they have a lot of things in common, and resistance to change is one of them!

    Many blessings to you, my dear Pastor Matt…

    I’m Liz Woods.

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