Nov 272013

I work with a lot of Pastors and Church Planters on leadership development both for themselves and for their leadership team. I’m always a bit concerned with how much emphasis is put on attendance numbers. “How many people are coming” is an often-heard question when church leaders gather. Unfortunately, size of congregation often determines pecking order in the church world.

Raw attendance is a relatively unimportant number when talking about the “strength” of a church and its leadership. I think a better way to think about the congregation is as a set of concentric circles. Each circle represents a subset of the congregation that can be identified with a descriptor. The leadership’s job from one aspect of a congregational development viewpoint is to facilitate movement from the outer circle to the center circle. The goal is to “more ‘em toward the middle.”

The farthest from the center are The Curious. They are looking for something. They seem to be better at describing it than defining it. The unspoken question of The Curious is “What’cha got for me?” They are the ecclesiological version of “lookie-loos.” They depart after short stays unless you can capture their interest. Sometimes you only get one shot at that. It is just as valuable for The Curious to realize you’re not what they’re looking for as it is for them to discover that you are.

The next closest in toward the center are The Consumers. They take what you provide for their own benefit. The unspoken request (demand?) of The Consumers is, “Gimme!” I don’t disdain The Consumers. After all, serving others doesn’t mean just those outside the church as might be suspected from the way some who advocate for churches to be more “missional” seem to excoriate “inward-focused” churches. In my opinion, churches must be both inward and outward focused. Try breathing either by just inhaling or exhaling and you’ll get my point. Both inward and outward needs are part of the mission focus of the church.

People who attend church move to middle ground when they become Contributors. Contributors are those who provide time, energy, and money in support of what the congregation is doing. The often spoken question of The Contributors is, “Can I help?” The answer is always an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Nothing says “This is where I belong” more than active participation.

You know people have moved into the circle next to the center when they become passionate about the mission of the church and are inspired by the vision toward which the church is moving. These are the people I call The Committed. The mark of The Committed (in addition to the time, energy, and money that they continue to give as they move from being a Contributor to being one of The Committed) is that they can explain the mission (what we do and why we do it) and the vision (where we’re going) to others. They exemplify the values the congregation holds in common. The Committed are your pool of potential future leaders.

Finally, at the middle of concentric circles that define the congregation are The Core. Members of The Core have “elected” you as their leader and will follow you even when they have to give you the benefit of the doubt. You may not relate to the word “elected” unless you have a Congregational form of governance. But no matter how the church is organized and governed, the leader is constantly standing for re-election. The people are constantly voting with their feet. The Core believes not only in the mission and vision, but they also believe that you are the one who can lead them there. If the attitude conveyed by The Core could speak it would say, “Let’s do this thing!”

Some readers will read this and say, “Aha, the goal is to get everyone into The Core.” Actually, the answer is, “No.” The goal is to keep the outer circles flowing toward the center. If everyone resided in The Core homeostasis develops and the congregation would slowly turn into a “holy huddle” of mutual admiration. A growing church grows from the edges in while serving from the inside out—specifically and intentionally including outside the walls of the church.



 Posted by at 11:17 am