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Perhaps it is time I get to the point. You want to know how to double your church in five years or less? Here it is: You Can Double your class in five years or less by equipping Sunday School teachers to double their class every five years or less. If you use a home group system, rather than a Sunday School system, equip home group leaders to double every two years or less. If you want to double your church every five years or less, get someone else to do it.
This is true for several reasons. One has to do with how disciples are made. We will deal with that in the chapter on Saintmaking. Suffice it to say that disciples are made in small groups. That is how Jesus did it and that is how we must do it.
Another reason why the best way to double your church every five years or less is to train small group leaders to double every two years or less has to do with the nature of the church. Most of what it means to be a church happens in small groups. We will deal with this in the chapter on the priority of small groups. Suffice it to say that much of what it means to be a church happens in a small group. Small groups are the church, or at least, a very legitimate expression of what it means to be the church. Most of the caring and loving and teaching and growing and admonishing and encouraging that goes on in the body of Christ goes on in, through, and around small groups.
Those are two theological reasons having to do with the nature of the church and the nature of saintmaking why training Sunday School teachers to double every two years or less is the best way to get your church to double every five years or less. In this chapter, I simply want to explain the mathematics of how simply this can be done. Doubling a church every five years is not easy, but it is simple.
Suppose you are the pastor or a church averaging 100 in Sunday School. Because of the size of the church, you do not have any other staff. Your Sunday School is made up of the following:
Two preschool classes
Two children classes
One youth class
One young couples class
One middle aged adult class
One older ladies class
One older mens class
One singles class
Your Sunday School is composed of about 10 classes averaging about 10 each. Most Sunday School classes in most churches average around ten. We want to get them to double every two years or less. Here is what you need to do:
Get involved in one of the classes so that you help it to grow. You may teach, or you may serve in some other way. Whatever else you do, get that class growing at a pace of doubling every two years or less. Faster if you can; speed of the leader, speed of the team. This is very simple to do. I will deal with the details in the chapter summarizing how to double your class every two years or less. In that chapter, I will remind you of the formula: You Can Double your class every two years or less by inviting every member and every visitor to every fellowship every month. This is especially easy for the pastor to do because lots of people naturally like to pall around with the pastor. If the pastor is going to be at the fellowship, it will be easy to get a crowd. This crucial step of being involved in a group personally and helping the group to double is the necessary first step to doubling your church every five years or less. The next step is equally crucial.
Pick at least one person who teaches one of the other classes to be your disciple. Tell him you are going to be doubling your class every two years or less and you want to show him how to do the same thing. Both of you need to be working in adult classes, for reasons I will explain later. If you can get several teachers to step up to the challenge of doubling every two years or less, all the better. But one is all you need. With one, You Can Double your church every five years or less. If you will double a class every two years or less, and teach one other person to double every two years or less, you will double the church every five years or less. That is all you have to do. Simple.
Here is how the math works out. Doubling a church every five years or less works out to 15% annual growth. In other words, it means a church of 100 growing to 115 in one year or a church of 500 growing to 575 in one year. (The formula is current attendance X 1.15) In order to double a class Every Two Years or less, you will need to grow the class at a rate of 40% growth. This means that a class of 10 will pick up one new person per quarter in average attendance during the first year. The second year will see 15% annual growth again, but this time this translates in to one and a half people per quarter.
Back to a church of 100. The church needs to increase by 15 in attendance during the first year in order to double every five years or less. Fifteen is what we are shooting for. You, the pastor lead one class of ten to 40% annual growth for 4 additional people. You teach your disciple to do the same. This puts you up by 8--4 for your class and 4 for your disciple's class. Where do the other 7 come from? Simple, the children of the people in your class. If you grow two adult classes by 8, you will have 8 more kids. Parents do not come alone; they always bring their kids. The average Sunday School has about half the attendance in preschool, youth and children's departments. If you grow two adult classes, you will grow you children's class or your preschool classes or your youth classes.
Of course, if your disciple teaches a children's class, and you teach an adult class, you could both show 40% growth and the church not show 15% growth overall. This is because you are both reaching two halves of the same family. Thus, their is no residual growth. But if you are both teaching adult classes, it will all work out nicely.
There is no reason, of course, why you have to stop with teaching just one disciple. Teach every teacher in the Sunday School to do this if you can. I am trying to point out in this chapter that if you don't get every group to double every two year of less you can still double your church every five years or less.
If you church is very much above one hundred, two things will need to be true in order for this to work out. First, you will need to maintain a staff ratio of at least one staff member, including yourself, for every 100 you have in Sunday School. If you have 400 in Sunday School you might have a Minister of Music, Minister of Education, Minister of Youth and a Senior Pastor. Second, all the staff must be involved in helping to grow groups so that they double every two years or less and teaching one other person to do the same. Whatever else you pay your staff to do, pay them to help make disciples through the Sunday School. Whatever else you pay them to do, pay them to grow your church.
If you employ the method of many part time staff members, as I will discuss later, have them working in classes as well. Put it in their job description that they will give Friday Nights to Jesus at least 2 Fridays a month. Write it down somewhere that they have to be in groups helping with the disciplemaking process.
Of course, we don't just ask the staff to be in groups because this is an effective way of doubling the church every five years or less, we do it because being in a group is vital to what it means to be the church and to the process of saintmaking, as we will discuss later. If the pastor of the staff is not in a Sunday School class, you send the very loud message that Sunday School is not all that important. Having all your staff work for you in Sunday School is a huge advantage. Not having them in Sunday School sends the message that Sunday School is kids stuff.
Some will argue that the Minister of Education should not be in a group because he needs to oversee the whole system. I disagree. I believe he needs to lead by example. The best example he can set is being a cracker jack teacher who can double a class every one year or less. Yes, I said one year or less. He ought to be better than the rest of the pack. Speed of the leader; speed of the team. The pastor and the Minister of Education really ought to be able to reproduce every single year. Imagine what would happen in your church if this were true.
Some will argue that the pastor cannot be in a small group because he must be preparing himself mentally and spiritually for his sermon. I would argue that if the pastor says small groups are important, yet is not involved in one himself, people will quickly follow his example and ignore his words. You remember the slogan: What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.
Some will argue that it will create jealousy if the pastor is in a small group because it is showing favoritism toward one group. I would argue that pastor and people alike must reckon with the fact that the pastor is human. His soul craves the friendship that only a small group can provide. The pastor doesn't just need to be in a small group because of the example. He doesn't need to be in a small group because of the strategic and mathematic example. The issue is not others. The issue is the pastor and the nature of the church and the nature of discipleship. People need to be in small groups. That is either true or it is not. If it is not true, it makes little since to tell people that it is true. If it is true, why allow those in leadership to be the exceptions?
Some would argue that it is best that the pastor not be in a group because. . . well, he sort of ruins it. His authoritative presence stifles the free flow of conversation. I have watched the truth of this in action. For this reason, it might be best if the pastor lead the group rather than sit on the side lines. This way, he can ask the questions and he is not expected to answer, even though presumable he know the answer. Also, he can lean the art of leading a good Bible study discussion. This is very different from delivering sermons. It is a tremendous thing for a pastor to learn how to lead people in a discussion about the Bible and life.
Some would argue that the Minister of Music can't be in Bible study because he must rehearse the choir. I would argue that we need to get down on our knees with an open Bible and prayerfully decide whether we think being in a small group is important--even vital--to Christian discipleship. If we preach that all Christians should be in small groups, but the Minister of Music can't because he is getting ready for choir and the Pastor can't because he is getting ready to preach and the Minister of Education can't because he is administering the whole system, our actions betray what we really believe. If we believe small groups are important and no disciple was ever made outside of these kinds of relationships we must practice what we preach. We must do what we ask them to do. Speed of the leader; speed of the team.
You Can Double your church every five years or less by training laymen to double their class every two years or less. You lead by example. Speed of the leader; speed of the team.
How to create a climate so groups can thrive
In addition to leading a group themselves, there are two things churches can do to make it easy for groups to double every two years or less:
The pastor needs to be the cheerleader of the small group system. He needs to be saying from the pulpit on a regular basis that small groups are vitally important to the process of Christian discipleship. We need to host banquets on an annual basis that say thank-you to the people in the trenches. We need to send birthday cards to teachers and workers. We need to acknowledge when groups have an unusually good Sunday or an unusually bad Sunday. An in expensive spreadsheet can be set up to flag both categories so they can be acknowledge. When attendance is unusually low, we can bet a teacher is discouraged. When attendance is unusually high, we need to verbally pat people on the back.
Another category of cheerleading is measuring. The rule is business and in Sunday School is, "Whatever gets rewarded gets done." One of the easiest ways to reward is simply to measure. Measuring is a way of noticing. Measure each classes attendance and display it visually on a graph that is publicly displayed. Here is an example. Suppose you had a Sunday School with following attendance.
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To report this information is a start, but it is not enough. Consider reporting the same in formation in a different way--in the form of a graph displaying February's attendance as above or below January's.
As you look at the graph, notice how the answer's to the following questions are immediately obvious:
Who might need some encouraging?
What class showed the largest single month gain?
Which classes achieved the goal on having one more in attendance than the month before?
Graphs have a way of communicating that sheer columns of numbers do not. They are a very effective way of cheerleading that is happening in group life. I like Rick Warren's slogan: "We count people because people count." Go, therefore, and make charts and graphs of all nations.
Be careful to explain graphs carefully. As obvious as they are to the creator, they will nearly always need some explaining before everyone understands what is being displayed. In a later chapter, we will explore another way to use graphs to help your church double every five years or less.
In addition to cheerleading, pastors need to resource their groups. This means getting them everything they need to be successful in their ministry. It means making sure they have the teaching equipment they need. It means giving the access to the secretarial staff of the church. We are fond of saying, "every member a minister." Who would ever hire a minister and not provide secretarial support? Yet, we do it all the time with our most important ministers: our lay ministers.
We used to say to our people:
our secretaries are your secretaries
our equipment is your equipment
our stamps your stamps.
If you want groups to write absentees, make it easy for them. Distribute cards with your records each week with instructions to leave the addressed cards on the secretaries' desk. Have your secretary do the mailing for them.
One of our slogans for doubling a class every two years or less is to invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every week. One of the ways we invite is through the mail. Make the church office available to help with this. Make it easy on teachers to get a sheet of labels for everyone in the class and all recent visitors that would make good prospects. Use the church offices desk top publishing software to create attractive flyers. Let the church pay for the postage. If we make it easy on people to do ministry, they are more likely to do more ministry. If we make it difficult for people to do ministry, they are more likely to do less ministry. I recommend you make it easy on them. Resource people for ministry.
In summary: You Can Double your church every five years or less by:
leading by example in helping a class to double every two years or less and showing at least one other person to follow your example
Cheerlead small groups.
Resource small groups.
Perhaps it is time we explore how to double a class every two years or less, since that is the basic building block of doubling your church every five years or less.
1. How has God expanded your vision for the church in recent weeks?
2. What good things are happening in the church that you are excited about?
3. What are you discouraged or frustrated about? How can we pray for each other today?
"Heart and Soul" Chapter
4. Summarize the heart and soul of the double your church in five years or less plan.
5. What are the advantages of working through the Sunday School to double your church? Name at least three.
6. Contrast this approach to other approaches. What are some other means of growing a church? Do you feel working through the Sunday School is the best approach?(1)
7. Someone review for the group the mathematics of how a pastor helping a group to double every two years or less would work out to double a church every five years or less.
8. Why do you think it is important that every professional staff member be involved in helping a small group to grow?
9. Suppose you have a staff member resistant to this idea. What ideas would you have for getting them on board with their heart as well as their actions?
10. How can we go about selecting a disciple to teach how to double a class every two years or less?
11. Specifically, how do we go about training someone to grow a class? What steps do we take?
12. Does anyone have a success story of how you have helped someone to develop the skills necessary to double a class?
13. What pitfalls are down this path?
14. In addition to modeling, what two things can a pastor do to help small groups?
15. What are some examples of cheerleading?
16. What are some examples of resourcing?
17. How have you used measuring tools, and especially graphs to help your church grow?
18. What do you think of Josh's idea of giving Sunday School teachers access t the church office and church secretaries? What problems do you foresee? What ideas do you have for solutions?
19. What are the five most important concepts in this chapter and discussion?
20. What one thing do you want to do differently in weeks to come?
1. Note that working through the Sunday School is not necessarily incongruent with many other means of growing a church. We must fight to keep it as a central means. The role of leadership is to keep the main thing the main thing.