I have been reading House Church Networks by Larry Kreider and came across some startling statistics:
Kreider's solution is the House Church Network. I have a different solution:
In short, we need to remember Judea.
Jesus taught us that our evangelistic strategy ought to work in concentric circles. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. We need to return to this model.
Churches very rarely think this way. They think about growing their own church, but don't care too much about helping the Capital-C church in their area. I talked to a pastor about setting up a regional Double Your Class Seminar. "Well, I hate to say, but I don't really care about the other churches in the area. I just care about my church." That says it all, and it is all too common. Bluntly, I think God cares about the other churches in the area and I think we ought to care as well.
How to set up a regional church growth center
The key is for growing churches to help the rest to grow.
Church growth is complex. It involves doing a lot of things right. It is in the details. This is why we need growing churches to reach out to their Judea to help the whole county come to faith.
I did this a number of times when I was on church staff and learned a few things that might be helpful.
Lesson #1: Don't expect non-growing churches to be eager to learn about church growth. There is a reason some of these churches are not growing. In some cases, they don't want their church to grow, or, it simply doesn't matter to them. Your job will be as much to inspire and recruit as much as to teach. The best way to do this is through relationships. The better you get to know the pastors in your area, the more likely they will follow you. As John Maxwell says, people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.
Lesson #2: you are busy; use a video based curriculum. Go through the Purpose Driven Church DVDs. Because I visited Saddleback back in the 80s, I tend to assume everyone has heard all about the Purpose Driven Church Paradigm. Wrongo! I am amazed as I travel how many are unaware of the good stuff that is out there. Most of Willowcreek's leadership conferences are on DVD as well. John Maxwell has some great stuff you could watch and discuss. The Catalyst Conference is also available. Much of our problem is with the sermon itself. Bring courses like Rick Warren's Preaching for Life Change. My own You Can Double Your Church in Five Years or Less could be used for this purpose. Bring these resources to your area. Watch them. Discuss them.
Lesson #3: don't expect everyone to get it. This can be discouraging work. Move with the movers. Still, think of the potential. If you could get 10 churches of 100 to achieve 10% annual growth you would see 100 new people attending because of your ministry. There are not that many churches in America that are growing by 100 a year. You can do it by helping 10 other churches to grow.
How does this work in the real world? For a working model, look at Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, GA. Their web page is http://www.hebronchurch.org/
They work with 12 - 15 churches a year, hosting 6 on campus trainings as well as 4 trainings at the participating church's site. At the end of the process, they encourage these churches to mentor other churches. Each church pays a fee that covers about half the overall expenses of making this happen. Dr. BILLY BRITT is the director of this program. Hats off to you, Dr. Britt! If I were anywhere in Georgia, I would want to take advantage of this help. Dr. Britt told me they have never had to advertise and have had plenty of churches wanting to sign up.
If you are not a growing church, seek to be mentored by someone.
You would be surprised how eager some are to help. Work with your State and Association to discover who is really growing. Sometimes we assume large churches are growing when in reality they are plateaued. It might be more helpful to find a church that is just larger--50% larger to twice your size. Humble yourself to learn from them.
You might encourage your mentor to do a class as described above. These don't have to be life-long commitments--a semester by semester works great. Volunteer to do the leg work to make some calls to get some people there.
Who will be the first church in America to care enough about their Judea to help the churches in their area to grow?
Growing churches helping others to grow. What a concept.