Church health and church growth fascinate me.
I’m always on the look out for church growth strategies that work. I’m interested in proven tactics that get the job done.
I’ve asked six pastors from Brisbane, Australia to share with us church health and church growth strategies that work for them in their context.
They pastor a wide range of different size churches from various movements.
However, they have one thing in common.
They all pastor in Brisbane, the vibrant capital city of the tropical paradise of Queensland.
Have a Clear Picture and Preach Jesus
Our church health strategy is defined by the following points:
Having a clear picture of what we are trying to achieve and establish. We do this by understanding our core values, beliefs and goals.
Add to this, preaching Jesus and his character which has enabled us to grow a very healthy church with great relationships.
Having said that church for the most of us is seven days a week not just on Sunday.
Another growth strategy we employ is to invite people and a key role is played by our community outreach arm, The Cage, which is a self funded charity, consisting of social enterprise businesses, school engagement, counselling, partnerships, events, many other community engagements and by providing practical support.
This operation provides countless opportunities for loving our city and presenting Christ to people.
The Things That We Measure Are The Things That Drive Us
For most of us church leaders if we are honest that is: Attendance, Giving Levels and Baptisms.
Now these three things are important (especially the middle one if you want to keep the power on), but they can also drive us in an unhealthy direction.
I believe it is possible to be doing well in all three and not have a healthy church.
At Catalyst we have recently conducted a process that took nearly a year where the church themselves came up with 12 indicators that they were growing in their walk with God.
Our church leadership tipped in a few as well (including the before mentioned measures) and we ended up with a score card that we can measure ourselves against over time.
We measure by doing an annual survey which will determine growth.
While it is early days we can already see the difference.
We now lead toward what we are measuring.
Things such as how ensuring people regularly read their bibles or that mums and dads are equipped to share the gospel with their kids.
These sorts of indicators are easily missed but maybe the most important in the long run.
God’s Heart Is For The Poor
One of the best church growth strategies for us has been our weekly Soup kitchen.
We have an average of 40 guests from local homeless shelters each week, and we feed them & give them a gospel message.
Our team of about 10 volunteers serve up a 3 course meal and we offer clothing & bibles and follow up support.
We’ve seen many of the guests get saved and some of them are now serving on our teams.
We have also sent a number of them to our Rehab and seen some amazing success stories.
I felt the Lord challenge me a few years ago that if New Hope Brisbane was taken out of Brisbane, who in the community would notice other than our church members?
God’s heart is to care for the poor among us.
This has significantly changed our ministry, and many in our church are actively involved in making disciples of these new believers.
Profile Your Church Members
There is no doubt that ‘healthy things grow’ and this is true for churches.
One of the strategies that we have discovered is to identify the ‘profile of a healthy member’ and to intentionally focus our preaching, teaching, pastoring and programming on encouraging, endorsing and fostering the development of healthy members.
A healthy member has experienced full spiritual development:
Born of the Spirit
Baptized in the Spirit
Speaking in Tongues
Baptized in water
Sanctified life – repentance and forgiveness
Identifies with the Vision and Core Values of the church
Regular in worship and service attendance
Taken the necessary steps of affiliation
Made friends in the church
Supports the church financially with tithes and offerings
Member of a Small Group
Contributes through serving
Involved in the inclusion of the unchurched
Participates in leadership training
Cultural Change Takes Time
I have pastored Chuwar Baptist for 8 and a 1/2 years and have experienced both blessing and major challenges over that period of time.
Cultural change that allows sustained growth takes time.
When we arrived at CBC it had come through a very turbulent time with the previous pastor.
The church attendance had dropped to between 25 to 30 people.
It had never risen above about 90 people in its 25 year history and was known among Baptist churches as being quite troubled.
Even after 7 years, we had our hardest year last year because of systemic issues that had been there since I began.
They have only just been resolved.
As such we are only now for the first time entering into a phase of peace and growth. We are still only a congregation of about 130 people now but some fundamental shifts have taken place that can allow sustained growth.
The following points have been proven true through trial and a baptism of fire.
1. Get a biblical church governance document/constitution that allows the pastor to lead and ideally to have an open call.
Stability and authority in pastoral leadership is vital. It can only happen if the pastor has the authority to do so from the documents that control church governance. I believe the biblical model for a church is to be eldership led and congregationally confirmed. Much Baptist church culture gives an unbiblical authority to the congregation where the pastors/eldership are unable to lead or sow in a sustained vision and growth strategy.
2. Sow in grace, teaching, encouragement and peace into all your leaders.
You reap what you sow.
3. Develop Cell group leaders
They are the church’s primary means of pastoral care as the church grows.
4. Preach through the whole bible
Then have cell groups go through the Sunday sermon. CBC goes through the OT once and the NT twice in three years in our readings, then the cycle starts again. This is my third time through. I preach from something in the ten chapters we have read during the week.
5. Assess and measure everything
Service attendance, preaching, youth ministry, worship ministry, kids ministry, pastoral care, finances – everything. If it’s not measured it can’t be accurately assessed. Never be afraid of the numbers.