Karl Vaters on How Churches Should Know When to Break Through Growth Barriers

Image: Maarten van den Heuvel | Unsplash

You can’t pastor a church of 500 the way you pastored it at 100. Or a church of 100 the way you did at 25.

But how do we know if we should break through from one size to another?

For at least a generation there’s been an underlying assumption that every church should strive to be bigger. It’s never a question of whether-or-not we should break through growth barriers, just whether-or-not we’re willing to do what it takes to get there.

What if we tapped the brakes on that for a moment?

Assume Nothing

Assumptions are dangerous.

As my church growth friends like to tell us, we can’t assume that what got us to one level of growth will get us to the next. But shouldn’t that also apply to assumptions about whether-or-not we should get to another growth level?

Yes, we need to obey the Great Commission. Seeing people come to Christ must be at the heart of every healthy church.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that a bigger church is 1) the best way to do that, or 2) the inevitable result of having done that.

Question Everything

How do we know that a congregation will not grow beyond certain sizes (typically called “barriers”) unless the leadership changes the way they lead? Because that’s been studied, researched, footnoted and proven for decades. You simply cannot lead a church of 1,000 in the same way as a church of 100.

But we haven’t spent much, if any time doing similar research to ask whether-or-not we should break growth barriers. For instance, if you Google “how to break church growth barriers” you’ll get a ton of great material on how to break church growth barriers.

Then, if you Google “why break church growth barriers” you’ll get a ton of great material about … how to break church growth barriers. Nothing on why we should. (At least nothing came up on the first few pages when I did it. Unless this article shows up now, of course.)

No, a Google search isn’t definitive, but it is indicative. It tells us what we’ve been paying attention to – and, in this case, what we’re ignoring.

It’s assumed that we should break church growth barriers. But is that a valid assumption?

Don’t Assume An Anti-Growth Bias

Please don’t assume that I’m against church growth. Or against big churches.

I’m not.

I’m against untested assumptions. On everything. As Carey Nieuwhof correctly noted in a recent article, we need to stop making unfair assumptions about megachurches, too.

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Source: Christianity Today