Revving a Church’s ‘Growth Engines’

Raj Gupta

A church should always be structured around the foundation of the Word of God and prayer. God speaks to us through His Word and by His Spirit. And churches have erred by reducing the significance of the authority of the Word, or by slipping to trust more in human means than in God. Servants plant and water, but it is God who gives the growth (cf 1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

And yet, both a natural and good question to ask is how one can plant and water in a way that may be most effective. Faithfulness is certainly critical, and at the same time effectiveness should not be ignored. We want to see as many people come to know Christ as we can. Most (both ministers and lay people) would testify to having too much to do, and at times it can be a struggle to know where to focus.

In this context, I am thrilled that Dr Paul Borden has recently made his second visit to work with churches in our Diocese. On this occasion, he also ran the course ‘Turnaround Churches’ at Moore College.

With the experience of working with over 500 churches over more than a decade across many countries, he suggests the following three human ‘growth engines’ of a typical church:

  1. Welcoming and Integration – over time, and unwittingly, churches have a tendency to more resemble clubs for insiders, rather than being genuinely welcoming of outsiders. The problem is that most churches think they are welcoming, because the conclusion is reached by those who are insiders, rather than from research among those who have visited. The May edition of Southern Cross featured a number of tips for welcoming and integration.
  2. Sunday Church Meetings (or whichever term you may prefer). If regulars have gone through the effort and work to invite friends, the ‘shopfront’ is the Sunday meeting. The Word of God is central – so the quality of preaching is important, as is every other aspect of the meeting. The atmosphere is also important – if it looks like a dump, what first time impression does that convey? Regulars get used to and tolerate many things because of the strength of and value of relationships. But visitors think differently.
  3. Children’s and Youth Ministries – all people are important before God. However, focussing on Children and Youth (and particularly children’s ministries) is a way to reach the whole family. Indeed, I recall Frank Retief saying that this was the way in which the extraordinary church of St James, Capetown was established. Parents often go through a period of reflection about values when they have young children. In other words, they are ripe to hear of Jesus saving love.

There is so much to do. It can be difficult to work out where to start. Here are some priority suggestions from one of the world’s leading church consultants.



Feature photo: Daniel