by Stan Granberg, Executive Director
Is anyone else tired of the New England Patriots? Season after season New England rules the NFL, almost no matter who is on the team.
Tony Morgan, chief strategic officer of the Unstuck Group, developed a useful look at the church lifecycle with a unique twist to it. While the lifecycle idea is standard, the twist is seeing the two sides of the curve through the lens of “what got you here, won’t get you there.”
The left of the lifecycle curve is the growth side. As a church planter gathers, launches and builds momentum he can become the center of gravity for growth. Momentum growth can be accomplished on the basis of personality, individual relationships, and sheer effort. But once the new church breaks through the crowd size of 80 and into the low 100s, personality-based growth momentum typically stalls.
What got the planter through launch and into the momentum growth phase is insufficient to break through the barrier to strategic growth. Strategic growth is based around developing perpetuating processes that shift the focus away from a single person to a defined process, i.e. a system. This is master’s skill of Bill Belichick. Belichick has created a system for the Patriots that has been able to sustain itself despite the constant change of players.
If a church gets stuck at or below the 80 level it’s a SYSTEMS problem.
The right side of curve is the maintenance side. The issue here is one of focus. When the focus of the church turns inwards, towards its own people, the slide to decline begins. It’s pretty easy to test for a maintenance problem. Throw out a new idea and listen to the feedback.
If feedback to a new idea centers around how “our people” will respond,
It’s a MAINTENANCE problem.
If your church is stuck on the left side of the curve, build your systems.
If your church is stuck on the right side of the curve, refocus your priorities to people not yet in your church.
Creating Missional Partnerships to Lead Community Shalom, Justice, and Healing
excerpts from an article by Ron Clark
Church Planter at Agape Church of Christ
After twenty years of preaching/ministry in established congregations (rural and urban), my wife and I felt called to plant a new congregation in downtown Portland.
I was beginning to “detox” from the traditional church growth teaching I received in graduate school. Preaching in a large congregation was a constant reminder that we were experiencing and pandering to what John Drane labels a McDonalization of Christianity.15
I was also aware that Christians in both leadership and congregations were failing to engage their culture. While it did seem as if many Christians felt that they were in [exile], it was even more clear that there was little being done to connect with their communities or offer a fresh view of Jesus. It seemed that we who were following Jesus were reacting to change rather than affecting it.
After launching Agape, we became intimately involved with local agencies through our work with houseless individuals, with those living in transitional housing and camps, with those in prostitution/sex industry, with addiction support groups, with survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), with college students, with millennials, and with married couples. By developing relational communities, Agape’s home groups became public gathering spaces for people from various locations in Portland. These home groups enabled others to develop relationships and offer services to their own community through spiritual gatherings and inclusive communities. This comunitas(a community that gathers in the context of a shared ordeal or mission that lies beyond themselves) for captives became a pattern with Agape people serving their neighbors.27
Our beginning work with PUAH (Portland United Against Hate) has indicated that some of the group members perceive those who profess Christianity as the authors of many hate crimes and attacks on the LGBTQ community. Law enforcement, houseless advocates, and community trafficking/prostitution agencies strongly believe that faith communities need to partner with them in addressing social justice . . .
We believe that we are called to develop relationships with those in our local agencies through our ministry and expressing agape love, while restoring a positive view of Christians and the God of the Bible. Missional theology provides opportunities to heal open wounds from those hurt by people of faith . . .
We have also been able to work with anti-trafficking agencies and anti-prostitution groups by addressing cultural masculinity and its role in the sex industry and in the oppression of women, children, males, and transgendered youth. The God of mission continues to call Agape to partner with our community as leaders and with other leaders to offer a vision of hope, justice, and shalom.
For the full article, which includes the development of Agape's theology and the way its dedication to practicing what Jesus taught on love, social justice, and the incarnation, go to http://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-8-2/authors/md-8-2-clark