Imagine a married couple are expecting a child. Now imagine that during that 9-month period they do absolutely nothing to get ready for that child. They do nothing to provide a nursery, a bed, or a place to change diapers. They don't think through how their work schedules are going to change in order to care for this child, or how they will afford childcare outside the home should the wife decide to go back to work. They don't add the child to their will. They don't provide life insurance for the child. Worst of all, they don't secure medical coverage for the child once he or she is born. How could they could have possibly been so short-sighted. And imagine them responding by saying "we are doing just fine right now. We don't have a baby yet, and there is no need to do any of that until we have one."
You have just observed a couple who live consistently in the present, and think nothing of the future. How many churches do you know like this?
Churches are often accused of "living in the past," but if the truth were told, too many churches are simply "living in the present," and simultaneously wondering why there is no growth, no excitement, and no vision.
Not long ago I was consulting with one of our congregations, and made some recommendations on steps forward they needed to take. My work with Baptist churches means that I don't have any final authority over the churches I serve, but I also figure they wouldn't be paying me if they didn't want my input from time to time. However, one particularly strong objection to my recommended changes was punctuated by the phrase, "besides, we are doing just fine as we are."
"That may be true," I replied, "but you are not doing just fine as you will be."
A church with 100 active members will always--ALWAYS be at around 100 members unless it begins living in the future, and as such, behaving as if it were at 200 or 300. But that sort of behavior demands change that can be uncomfortable.
1. Governance. Smaller churches can have monthly business meetings and discuss everything....and I do mean EVERYTHING. I once sat through a meeting in which the church body had a 45 minute discussion about how to spend $100. Unfortunately, they were also very kind and civil to one another while having this conversation, so I couldn't accuse them of being ungodly. But I did come very close to offering to write a check if they would simply stop talking!
But once a church begins to grow, monthly gatherings where every member of the body has the opportunity to offer input become increasingly impractical. In Baptist churches, this means that our congregationalism becomes less "democratic" and more representative. And this may be the hardest thing to change because everyone wants to be heard! Problem is, once a church gets to the 250 mark, its not possible for everyone to be heard any longer, and if you want to get there, you have to start behaving like you are already there!
2. Staffing. Conventional wisdom where church staff are concerned is "we will hire them when we can afford them." To be sure, I have sometimes consulted with churches that are "over-staffed" and did so with the false notion that simply filling a position would somehow create excitement and subsequent growth. But hiring the right people will create growth. Generally speaking, you shouldn't wait until you can afford them. Instead, you should hire who you can't afford to lose, and then watch them earn their keep!
3. Budget. The ministry budget of a church is the real statement of a church's core values, and without faith-filled and calculated risk playing a role in the budget process, churches will inevitably budget "in the present." Instead of starting with "what we took in last year," churches should instead start with the financial necessities involved in meeting the needs of its community and the world. Too many resources that could otherwise be invested in Kingdom advance stay in the hip pockets and purses of God's people simply because we fear dreaming big, and being straight with the church about what it will take financially to live that dream! We aren't "all about the money," but we are all about Jesus and His Kingdom, and church members should be challenged to give sacrificially based on a future vision.
Churches that grow and impact their communities and the world are churches that live in the future!
This article was originally published on May 29, 2012 at this site