Team Building

Posted by Dr. Ray on 31 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Team Building

As a church consultant I interview ministry staff and program staff of churches. Successful leaders know how to develop effective team ministries. One helpful tool to use in team building is the Personality Profile “DiSC.”

The Personality Profile assists individuals to understand why and how they affect other people the way they do and why other people affect them the way they do.

The “DiSC” profile helps individuals to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses. The profile helps individuals develop a positive attitude about self, which causes others to trust and to have confidence in them.

When you know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses you develop the ability to study situations and people and adapt appropriate behavioral strategies.

The “DiSC” stands for the following:

D – Dominance

I – Influence

S – Steadiness

C – Conscientiousness

The high “D” and high “C” person tend to be task oriented, and the high “I” and high “S” person tends to be people oriented.

The high “D” personality is usually outgoing and fast-paced. They like to be on the move. This person has the motto, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!” Some of the descriptive words for a high “D” person is: dominant, driving, demanding, determined and decisive doer. About 10% of the U.S. population is a high “Ds”.

The Apostle Paul was a “D” time leader. Without the control of the Holy Spirit, he was out to destroy Christians and churches. Under the control of the Holy Spirit he was motivated to help people, start new churches and write mush of the New Testament.

The high “I” personality type is a people person. High “I” individuals are outgoing, people oriented, inspirational, influencing, inducing, impressive, interactive, interesting and interested. About 25-30% of the U.S. population is high “I” type personalities.

“Is” believe life is too short to be miserable, the entire world is a stage, and they are the main attraction.

The Apostle Peter is an example of a high “I”. He was impetuous and impulsive. Peter wrote only two short NT books.

High “Is” want recognition. They tend to talk a lot. They are very friendly. They know no strangers. High “Is” are compassionate, carefree, outgoing, enthusiastic, warm, and personable. They are the life of the party.

The high “S” personality person tends to be reserved and desire a great deal of security. They are submissive, stable, steady, sentimental, shy, status quo, specialist, servant and supportive. High “Ss” make excellent support staff personal in a local church.

The Apostle John is an example of a high “S”. He was quiet, unassuming apostle whom Jesus loved.

The basic need for “S” type personality is appreciation. They love routine because it makes them feel comfortable. In leadership they tend to lead as a coach, rather than a dictator. High “Ss” make up 30-35% of the U.S. population.

One of the high “Ss” weakness is they want to keep peace at any price and therefore are indecisive.

The high “C” personality is reserved and task-oriented. They are cautious, competent, calculating, concerned, careful, compliant, conscientious and contemplative.

High “Cs” love detail. They want quality answers. They are very analytical and sensitive. They tend to be perfectionists and have an eye for detail. High “Cs” make up 20-25% of the U.S. population.

Personality types hear words of appreciation in different ways. If you tell “D” types, “I appreciate you,” they might respond, “You ought to! As much as I do for you. There would be a lot of people who would be grateful to have someone around like me?” High “Is” may respond, “Well, what do I win?” High “Ss” may respond with a smile and “Thank you.” High “Cs” will wonder, “I am being manipulated? Are you trying to get something by me?”

Studies show that at least 80% of the population is dominant in at lest two areas and two areas they are less dominate.

Hippocrates and others give different descriptions to the four personality types:

“D” – Choleric or Lion

“I” – Sanguine or Otter

“S” – Phlegmatic or Golden Retriever

“C” – Melancholy or Beaver

For additional information see Personality Plus by Florence Littauer and for products contact the Carlson Learning Company.  You can e-mail me at raywellis@aol.com.

Consulting Network Training

Posted by Dr. Ray on 07 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

September 28-29, 2010 a great training event will be held at the Free Methodist World Ministry Center, 770 High School Rd., Indianapolis,  In.  Our trainer  will be Nelson Searcy, Sr. Pastor of the Journey Church in N.Y. and President of Church Leader Insights.  www.churchleaderinsights.com.

For information on the training see www.churchconsultingnetwork.org.

Update on services provided by Church Consulting Network

Posted by Dr. Ray on 21 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

The natural drift of local congregations and conferences is away from multiplying churches toward maintaining programs and buildings. We need to constantly remind ourselves that the story of the early church is about church planting and the multiplication of churches.

I encourage every FM Conference to have a Great Commission mind-set. Here are five reasons to make church planting one of your priorities:

1. The nature of the church requires the multiplication of new churches.

Fruitfulness is a sign of health and fruitlessness is a sign of sickness

and sin. (John 15:1-8)

2. Christ’s command demands the multiplication of churches. Jesus said:

“Go make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

3. The early church is our model. The primary ministry focus of the

Apostle Paul was planting new churches. (Book of Acts)

4. The growing diverse population in North America demands the

multiplication of new growing churches.

5. The changing needs of people require the multiplication of new

churches.

The Church Consulting Network is available to assist you in the following ways:

· Meet with your Conference Task Force on Church Planting to assist in the development of church planting strategies for the Conference.

· Provide assessment of future church planters using the interviewing and evaluating process developed by Dr. Charles Ridley that assesses thirteen qualities needed for effective church planting. Five of the thirteen qualities are essential to qualify as a prospective church planter. (A list of the thirteen qualities is available. If you would like a copy, send me an e-mail at raywellis@aol.com.

This assessment requires a full day to complete per individual or couple. A comprehensive report of the findings on each of the thirteen church planting qualities is given to the participant and the sponsoring conference.

· Church Planting Assessment Center – A Team Approach to Church Planter Assessment includes the following:

Provides coaching on the church planting project design & strategy,

Development of church planting timeline and action initiatives needed from conception to first public worship service.

Evaluation of each participant preaching a sermon as if prepared for the first public worship service,

Behavioral interviews covering the thirteen basic qualities needed for effective church planters,

Case study by participants of a church-planting project, and

An evaluation of prospective church planters presented by the teaching team in a one-on-one interview at the close of the Assessment Center process.

· Provide a local church consultation for churches stalled or needing to

move to the next level of their potential. (Three-day consultation – Friday through Sunday)

· Provide coaching of a cluster of pastors who are committed to becoming Great Commission pastors. Groups of five to seven pastors meet one-day sessions meeting once a month for five consecutive months. (A curriculum of the training is available upon request)

· Provide a two-hour seminar on “Team Building” using the Personality Profile – DiSC. This training is especially helpful to pastors working with a local church board as well as paid and volunteer staff.

Summary

All of the above resources are available to local churches and conferences. Contact Dr. Ray Ellis for more information and scheduling.

Ministry of Church Consulting

Posted by Dr. Ray on 19 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Ministry of Consulting

Dr. Ray Ellis

September 29, 2009

Proverbs 25:11-13, “Timely advise is as lovely as golden apples in a silver basket. Valid criticism is as treasured by the one who heeds it as jewelry made from finest gold. Faithful messengers are as refreshing as snow in the heart of summer. They revive the spirit of their employer.”

Providing consultation for local congregations is a ministry. As consultants we are involved in diagnosis and analysis, but one of our key opportunities in working with pastors and leaders is to bring about positive change.

If the church has lost its Biblical focus of bringing people to Jesus and making more and better disciples we help the church leadership to get a Biblical Focus and bring together all their resources to become a Great Commission church committed to the process of making disciples: going – evangelizing, baptizing – convert growth, and teaching to obey.

Prayer is one of the keys to a successful consultation. There is usually resistance to coaching churches toward health. Satan wants to keep churches toxic, ingrown and sick. Through fasting and prayer the congregation can defeat the powers of the enemy to keep the church ingrown and toxic.

The Apostle Paul gives us this reassuring Word in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.”

With Jesus as our guide we come alongside the pastoral staff and people and identify the toxic elements in the church. In the power of the Holy Spirit the Devil is defeated and the church is coached along toward health.

Churches that I have worked with in the past tend to get stuck in SOS – same o same o. We all know that the sign of a dying church is an unchanging church in a changing community and culture.

To the local congregation that feels like they are surrounded by insurmountable blocks and obstacles to grow as consultants we bring hope and options back toward health. I believe the Presence of the Lord is surrounding every congregation where people are gathered to seek the Lord with authenticity. The Lord wants to come and bless if they will only listen to His voice. The consultant comes alongside to help open new ways to see the Lord at work.

In 2 Kings 6:15-17 Elisha’s home is surrounded by the army of Aram, troops, horses and chariots were everywhere. When the servant of Elisha saw that they were surrounded he cried out: “What will we do now?

This is the cry of many churches that are stuck and declining or holding on till Jesus comes. “What will we do now?” Elisha prayed for his servant: “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” “The Lord opened his servant’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” 2 Kings 6:”17

As coaches and consultants we have the opportunity to pray and ask the Lord to open the eyes of pastors and church leaders to see new ways of doing ministry to become a Great Commission Church. The power of God is available if only their spiritual eyes are open.

As consultants and coaches we put on the full armor of God. We are in constant prayer to have eyes to see and ears to hear what God wants us to identify as possible blocks and barriers keeping the church sick and unfruitful.

As consultants we help churches discover and focus on their strengths. As consultants we are involved in the ministry of encouragement. Proverbs 16:24 “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

We look at the background of the congregation but we don’t dwell on the past we focus on the future. Our task is to help the church prepare for the future.

The Apostle Paul was committed to the ministry of encouragement.

Colossians 2:1-2 “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,”

Colossians 4:7-8 “Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.

1st Thessalonians 4:18 “Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

1st Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Discouragement is a destroyer. It sees the obstacle but faith sees the way out. When you are discouraged, you are telling God that He cannot help you. Joshua sent out spies to spy out the promise land they brought back a report that discouraged the Israelites; they saw the people of the land as giants that they could not overcome. They had forgotten that it was God who said they should go and possess the land. They should have known that since He said they should go, He would be with them because the battle is the Lords and He will fight it. These people eventually provoked God to anger and they all perished in the wilderness. They did not get to the promise land.

Rather than thinking about the worst of the church’s situation we need to trust God and think about the best of their situation. We need to practice what Paul says in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Surround yourself with positive people. With positive people by your side you can turn obstacles into opportunities. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 4:8-9 (Living Bible), “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.”

I realize that part of our mission as a consultant is to give a spiritual check up for churches and assist them in taking a reality check. On some critical issues we care enough to confront, but we also need to help churches focus on their strengths.

We can determine to be an encourager. Ephesians 4:29, “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear you.”

When working with Pastors and leaders we come along side as a “Barnabas.” Barnabas was called the “Son of encouragement.”

An encourager we believe the best in the churches situation. We magnify the good and minimize the bad. Proverbs 16:24, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Encouragers look beyond the immediate pain or suffering and see what God is painting on the big picture. Encouragers lift the vision of people so they can seek how their current challenging circumstance can be used by God to bring good.

Someone has written:

I watched them tear a building down;

band of men in a busy town.

With a `HO-HEAVE-HO’ and a lusty yell;

They swung a beam and a sidewalk fell.

I asked the foreman, `Are these men skilled?

And the men you’d hire if you had to build?’

He gave a laugh and said, `No indeed!

Common labor is all I need.

I can easily wreck in a day or two,

What builders have taken a year to do.’

And I thought to myself as I went on my way,

Which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care?

Measuring life by the rule and square?

Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,

Patiently doing the best I can?

Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town,

Content with the labor of tearing down?

As coaches and consultants we are builders. We build people up and give words of encouragement.

Let’s look a the good and build up, life up, cheer up, call up, praise of the church of Jesus Christ and everyone in it.

Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my hart be acceptable in your sight O Lord my strength and my redeemer.”

Cluster Consultation Process

Posted by Dr. Ray on 15 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Church Consultation

Posted by Dr. Ray on 07 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Value of Having A Local Church Consultation

The value and effectiveness of a local church consultation and coaching varies according to church size, setting, condition, abilities, and preferences. Only particular assumptions and objectives from the following may be appropriate.

ASSUMPTIONS

God is pleased when churches are healthy and grow and reproduce.

· The Great Commission is best carried out by growing and reproducing local churches. Growth and reproducing disciples and congregations are signs of good health.

· God Provides for the health and growth of local churches by equipping them with gifted leaders and members with spiritual gifts for ministry.

Local Churches and Leaders evidence certain needs.

· Local churches tend to turn inward and often resist goal-oriented and growth-directed activities.

· Local leaders often fail to observe trends, focus on growth goals, or target responsive populations for evangelism.

· The position of senior pastor requires special support to cultivate good church health.

· The pastoral staff often lacks mutual understanding of the organizational skills needed for their current job assignments.

3. Consultants fulfill a legitimate and vital role in local church life.

· God uses gifted and trained consultants/coaches as agents of renewal. Their efforts enhance the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit, who is already working in every congregation.

· Churches and their leaders encounter dilemmas that often require outside help.

· Due to their greater objectivity, external consultants can more accurately assess a situation than can those internal to the church.

· Consultation fees are appropriate to the service rendered, and they increase the impact of the consultation.

4. When done in correct process, the local church consultation facilitates solutions to growth barriers and maximizes growth potential in the local church.

· Data gathering activities, including surveys, interviews, and research into church history, are, in themselves, interventions and therefore potentially therapeutic.

· Properly conducted data gathering will guide staff and leadership through a discovery process and prepare them for change.

· Permission to move ahead with solutions and implementation of action plans result from a mutually-held perception of root problems and possible solutions.

· Commitment to some form of accountability or continuation process will enhance a church’s capacity to achieve its desired outcomes.

OBJECTIVES

1. Enhance the overall health and growth of local churches.

· Stimulate spiritual awakening where conversion, repentance, and restitution may occur, restoring unity and love.

· Affirm those programs and leaders that contribute to health; supplement weakness and probe blind spots.

· Reduce tension in relationships by teaching new communication skills.

2. Encourage numerical expansion and multiplication

· Develop and implement strategies that result in tangible evidence of new disciple making, convert growth, numerical growth, and multiplication of cell groups.

· Help the church identify responsive target populations and develop programs to reach them.

· Assist in helping daughter congregations in sponsoring new congregations.

3. Provide adequate diagnosis and direction.

· Describe the church’s current situation ~ including the key hindrances preventing growth ~ in a way that is clear, concise, and agreed on by the church leaders.

· Provide a range of options that are workable within the means of the particular church.

· Guide leaders to form long-range plans with specific recommendations for future programs and insure that the church has adequate facilities and staffing to support the plans.

· Provide documentation that can serve as a benchmark, useful for measuring progress at a future date.

For additional information on the Local Church Consultation Process e-mail Dr. Ray Ellis, raywellis@aol.com

The Work of the Holy Spirit and Church Revitalization

Posted by Dr. Ray on 22 Jul 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

The Holy Spirit and Church Revitalization
Dr. Ray W. Ellis

The work of the Holy Spirit is vital to the revitalization of a local church. The entire process of revitalization is based on seeking spiritual health prayer and the energizing work of the Holy Spirit. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in the life and ministry of a local church all efforts are in vain. A local church may experience numerical gains in attendance, but without the ministry of the Holy Spirit the church will not experience redemptive,

Kingdom of God growth.  The work of the Holy Spirit in revitalization can be compared to the human body. A person can live and breathe without arms and legs. A local church is an organism a part of the Body of Christ. A local congregation can love the Lord but not make an impact for the Kingdom. Church growth, New Testament principles give the local church arms and legs — purpose and direction to make a significant impact for the Kingdom of God. Without the blessing and energy of the Holy Spirit a local church is merely like a secular organization that experiences sociological growth.

Vision from God.  Spiritual renewal begins with a vision from God. We get our vision as we take time to fast and prayer. Nehemiah is an example of a leader who was filled with passion and empower by the Holy Spirit to bring about a renewal of leaders in Jerusalem. Before Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem he “sat down and wept. For some days he mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4

The Apostle John was in the Spirit, praying and meditating as an exile on the Island of Patmos when the Lord gave him insight on the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2-3. The work of leading local congregations toward renewal is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit and secondarily the work of intervention, inspiration and information. I like what the authors of the book, Marketing for Congregations – Choosing to Serve People More Effectively say: “The best marketing plan in the world cannot compensate for spiritual lethargy or confusion, so that none are able to listen in the silent closets of the heart where God awaits to communicate with us. Nor can a marketing plan counterbalance a lack of vision.” (Page 380)

Climate for Growth.  A businessman purchased a tropical plant. He put the plant in his office and did every thing he knew to keep the plant healthy. He gave it water, plant food, sunshine and lots of tender loving care. After two weeks the plant was turning brown and dying. He called the Florist and asked if the plant had a guarantee because the plant was dying. The Florist asked how he was caring for the plant. He said he was giving it water, plant food and sunshine. The Florist asked: “Are you misting the plant?” “What do you mean, misting the plant?” The Florist replied, “The plant you purchased is a tropical plant and it needs high humidity. Take a spray bottle and spray mist on the plant for a week or two.” After two weeks of spraying the plant it turned green and was revitalized.

Without a proper climate in the local church you can do everything right and not experience health and vitality. God cannot bless a toxic church climate. A proper climate for growth is the work of the Holy Spirit in response to the leaders in the church practicing and modeling Biblical qualities.
Unhealthy churches are filled with conflicts, spiritual carnality, leaders who are more interested in control than allowing the Holy Spirit to lead. The focus of toxic churches is inward. They are ingrown, lack vision, lack passion for souls, are comfortable, apathetic and satisfied to play church.

Unhealthy churches are characterized by five deadly diseases.

1. Toleration of known sin — gossip, carnality, and critical spirit. Healthy churches practice the Biblical principles found in Matthew 18:15-17.

a. Lack of reproductive ministries. Healthy churches have a plan to equip leaders for ministry. Leaders are mobilized according to the teachings found in Ephesians 4:11-16 and 2 Timothy 2:2.

b. Lack of desire to grow. Healthy churches have a compelling passion for Kingdom growth and recommitted to carrying out the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20.

c. Lack of commitment to pray. Healthy churches not only talk about prayer they pray with a deep passion for lost people who need Jesus.

d. Overly organized for the size of church. Healthy churches have a simple organization with a focus on having time for ministry and not attending more meetings.

Characteristics found in the Seven Church in Revelation cause a local congregation to be sick:

· The church in Ephesus left her first love for Christ and Christ’s love for the lost. A prime characteristic of a sick church is one that has no passion for the lost.

· The churches at Pergamum and Thyatira had compromised their faith and had allowed sinful practices to prevail among leaders in the church.

The church at Sardis had the reputation of being alive, but they were dead. Here is possibly an example of a church with financial and numerical growth, but no convert growth. They may receive church growth awards but they are not advancing the Kingdom of God.

·The church in Laodicea was satisfied to merely maintain ministries. They had money in the bank and were able to care for their own needs. Every Sunday they sang, “I’m so glad to be part of the family of God so let the rest of the world go to hell.”

Turning Point In Ministry.  In my first year of ministry I began with a zeal to bring new people to Jesus. I helped the church focus on outreach and evangelism. I went door to door making contacts, but at the end of the year there was little fruit and no conversions.

The second year of my ministry I lead the congregation in the relocation of church to a new ministry area. We built a new church and parsonage and experienced some transfer growth in new location. But there was little convert growth with more of our energies given to building the new church and parsonage. I had moved from being mission driven to maintaining ministry.

During my year of ministry I became involved in many ministries outside the local church. I became an officer in the Greater Kansas City Evangelical Fellowship, served as a trainer of counselors for a Billy Graham Crusade held in Kansas City and as a follow-up to the crusade, I helped coordinate Billy Graham Gospel Films in local theaters in Kansas City Kansas. In the midst of all these activities I developed stomach pains. I began to take tranquilizers, that I called “I don’t care pills.”

Over a period of weeks the Lord showed me the primary problem, self pity and self pride. I deserved better treatment from my local congregation.

Break through came when I made confession of my spiritual pride. I became broken in my spirit, and repented of my self-centered attitudes. I repented of my lack of soul winning. God gave me a theme for my life and ministry, “I would rather blunder than falter for the sake of the Gospel.”

Confession, repentance, and brokenness released new spiritual energy in my ministry. Lift off occurred as the Holy Spirit came with His burst of energy and Presence. Spiritual renewal occurred because I asked for help. I asked for the help of several individuals to come along side and assist me in my ministry¼Free Methodist evangelists Charles Kingsley, Lucien Behar and Elmer Boileau gave me practical on-the-job training. I surrendered anew to the work of the Holy Spirit. In the Spring of my third year we saw 25 people make professions of faith in their homes. We experienced a spiritual of revival and revitalization.

There were several characteristics that we experienced as part of our local church revitalization:

• As pastor I began to practice and model the value of evangelism. I made it a practice to present the Gospel message to adults in their homes.

• We used all means to save some. Everything we did focused on bringing our congregation to having a great concern for ministry to the unchurched in our community.

• There was a contagiousness about our people and a sense of expectancy which attracts and holds newcomers.

• People began look forward to worship services each week.

Spiritual health and renewal are possible when we begin to seek the Lord with all our heart and allow the Holy Spirit to give us His vision and energize us as His leaders in the church. When we get out of the way and permit the Holy Spirit to lead, we can follow His vision for the church. Jesus is the Lord of the Church and he alone deserves the glory for the great things He is doing. A healthy, Spirit-filled local congregation grows naturally.

Healthy Churches Grow, Sick Churches Don’t

Posted by Dr. Ray on 08 Jun 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Healthy Churches Grow, Sick Churches Don’t
By Dr. Ray Ellis

As a proponent of church growth, I often get asked the question, “Can a church be healthy and not grow?”  My answer is, “It all depends.”  As a general rule, healthy churches grow and sick churches don’t. However from my experience in observing churches in various locations I would have to answer, “Some churches are healthy when they maintain their average attendance and don’t show great gains numerically.”

A church located in an area where the population is declining or in a rural community with a static population may be healthy if it maintains an average attendance that can support a full-time pastor or in some cases support a bi-vocational pastor.

If a Church is located in areas where the population is growing but the church is either on a plateau or declining church leaders need to ask, “Why aren’t we experiencing growth?”  If a local church is healthy there should be spontaneous growth.  The early church grew from 120 in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost to three thousand and then 5,000 with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

To better understand why some churches grow and others just maintain ministries or decline, it’s helpful to look at the life cycle of churches from birth to death.  Robert Dale in his book, To Dream Again, describes the life cycle of a church using a bell curve starting with birth and moving through the growing stage, the plateau stage, the declining stage and finally to eventual death.

Birth – Growing Stage

I have had the privilege of serving as pastor of established churches as well as planting a new congregation in a metropolitan area.  People involved in a new church planting project have a clear purpose to reach out in Christ’s love to non-Christians.  It usually takes much longer to engage in outreach strategies when leading an established congregation that has plateaued in attendance or is in decline.  It usually takes a church growth oriented pastor two or three years to lead an established plateaued congregation into a growing phase of the church life-cycle.

A new church is birthed when a leader and a small core group of believers have a dream of starting a new congregation.  There is much excitement and dedication of time and energy to the new congregation.  People who make up the launch team are passionate about reaching out to people in the community who are confused and searching for meaning in life.  During the growth years, biblical truths are taught and members joyously participate in worship.  Goals of the new church focus on the mission of reaching new people with the good news of the Gospel and nurturing converts to become mature disciples.  Organizational structures are put in place to train and reproduce leaders.  Ministry programs are developed to meet the needs of all age groups with a special emphasis on serving children of young families.

The trends set during the first three years of a church planting project determine the future health and growth of the church.  If the church has not grown sufficiently to support a full-time pastor during the first three-year period, the chance of continued growth is limited and a new strategy with new leadership needs to be considered.

Plateau – Maintaining Ministry Stage

Approximately 70 – 80 percent of churches in the United States are on an attendance plateau or declining.  During the plateau stage the church is able to maintain ministries and pay all of its expenses.  The tendency for churches on a plateau is to become inwardly focused and spend the largest part of the church budget on themselves and allocate very little for missions and outreach evangelism.  Members tend to spend more time in meetings than in actually doing ministry.

Churches on a plateau desire to maintain comfort rather than take risks in developing new ministries.  They would rather maintain ministries than make changes to be relevant to their community.  One of the signs of a church headed for decline is when the church refuses to change while located in a changing community.

A church only stays so long on a plateau maintaining ministries.  After a period of time there is a tilt either upward with a renewal of vision or downward into the next stage of decline.  The tilt downward happens when the congregation lacks visionary leadership, effective prayer, intentional evangelism and discipleship training.

Decline Stage

Churches grow primarily in three different ways: biological growth, transfer growth and convert growth.  The mission of every church is to grow through convert growth.  Convert growth is Kingdom of God growth.  When people are won to Jesus the church continues to grow and more and better disciples are made.

Nostalgia is the first stage of decline.  When the church focuses more on the “Good Old Days” of the past rather than strategizing for the future the church has entered the first stage of decline.

The next stage of decline is the stage of Questioning.  The questioning stage happens when members play the blame game.  The pastor may be blamed for the church’s lack of growth.  People may have a critical spirit and say, “If our pastor would win more people to Christ, work harder and preach better sermons, our church would grow.  Negative comments are made about the congregation as to reasons why the church is declining.  “Members are not committed, not loyal in attendance, don’t tithe, are not willing to serve in ministry, and the economy is bad.”

The natural progression in the decline of a church moves from nostalgia, to questioning to Polarization.

Polarization happens when the congregation forgets its primary purpose and reason for existence.  The primary purpose of the church is, “To continue the work Jesus started of seeking to save the lost and make disciples of all ethnic groups.”  When members of the church are not united in a common mission of outreach their focus turns inward from mission to maintenance.  Conflicts arise over the most trivial issues.

Years ago I led a building program that included a new church and parsonage.  During the year of building our primary focus was on the construction of the church and parsonage.    When the parsonage was nearly finished I ordered a white telephone to be installed.  At the next church board meeting I reported that I had ordered a white telephone.  The church treasurer questioned my action, “Why didn’t you order a black telephone?  A black telephone is cheaper.”

The Church Board debated the issue.  Some of the Board members agreed with me and others agreed with the Church Treasurer.  The Board became polarized over the purchase of the white telephone.  Whenever you find a church polarized over any issue you find a divided, weak church.

The final stages of decline are Apathy and Death.  When too few people are wearing too many hats they experience burn out and leave the church.  People only have so much energy so when they burn out they become indifferent and have no energy to provide leadership to see the church turn-around.

With dwindling membership and limited funds the church takes on a survival mentality and if there is not radical intervention the church will die.

Many churches in the stages of decline find it helpful to bring in an outside coach or church consultant to make an assessment and give an objective diagnosis of the state of the church.  These suggestions can help the church experience a renewal of vision.  (The Free Methodist Consulting Network provides coaches and church consultants for churches desiring help.)

Renewal of Vision

Renewal of vision and dreaming new dreams to turn the church around and get back into a growth phase happens when a few people begin to fast and pray, seeking God’s help to become a Great Commission Church once again.

“When the church shuts herself up to the power of the prayer closet, and the soldiers of the Lord have received on their knees power from on high, then the power of darkness will be shaken and souls delivered.”  Andrew Murray, The Believer’s Prayer Life.

The prophet Zachariah proclaimed that ordinary people of God when totally yielded to the Holy Spirit fulfill God’s mission.  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”  Zechariah 4:6

Prayer Triplets

Organizing the congregation into groups of three to meet together and pray any time during the week and any place is one way to renew vision of the church toward mission and outreach.

The early church was a praying church.  The church in Antioch is an example of a church that experienced God’s blessing through prayer.  While members of the congregation were worshipping and fasting, the Holy Spirit said: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.  (Acts 13:2-3)

Leaders in the local church may launch new programs and organize new ministries with little results.  But you cannot fast and pray and remain the same.  Out of a time of fasting and prayer the Holy Spirit speaks.  It is through concentrated prayer that God imparts vision and His master plan and mission to His people.

Change

One of the greatest growth inhibitors that prevents moving off the plateau can be summed up in one word, “change.”  A congregation will say they want to grow, “…If we don’t lose our nice family feeling.”

What is actually needed is a paradigm shift, a completely new way of doing ministry.  To have a relevant ministry the church must be continually changing ministry programs.  To some congregations protecting the churches history and tradition becomes more important than being faithful to the harvest and carrying out the Great Commission.  Jesus speaks forcefully to those who have exclusive attitudes,  “Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.”  Matthew 15:6

New Start Strategy

When a church located in a growing populated area declines to a weekly attendance of below 50, one possible strategy would be to adopt a re-start strategy.  A congregation of 35-50 can make up the core group to launch a new church.  A new start strategy may mean making some radical changes.  It may mean moving out of the church building into a rented facility.  It may mean selling and relocating to a new ministry area.  It may mean closing down the church for three to six months and starting anew in the same location with a new church name.

A new start helps the congregation to refocus ministry priorities for reaching out with Christ’s love to new people and making more and better disciples.  A new start will help get the congregation back into a growing phase of the church life cycle when immersed in prayer and using effecting church planting strategies.

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