Brian Cutshall has an interesting post using the nemonic of 5 ships of change in a church: Leadership, Worship, Discipleship, Stewardship and Fellowship.

It’s a good example of what’s right – and what’s wrong – with traditional methods of church growth.

Brian says the impetus for growth comes when the leadership all agree something needs to change.  However, history shows that change often comes from the bottom up.  Dean Kelly’s “Why Conservative Churches are Growing” illustrated that leaders of small churches are often resistant to change, since it means upsetting a system they are comfortable with.  Many evangelistic movements, the Sunday School movement and shifts in worship music were often repressed by established leaders until after the lay people who pushed them were successful in spite of the clergy.
As for worship, he says what’s important is “flow” – minimizing interruptions; he says that points to spiritual growth.  While I agree that professionalism is expected, and long gaps of folks not knowing what they’re doing, or waiting for the musicians to get in place get in the way of worship.  But the way of worship that facilitates growth is more about passion and focus on God that the mere mechanics of running a service.

He equates Discipleship with doing small groups as a programmatic way to maintain conneciton.  I agree with small groups and keeping connected, but discipleship is the process of creating authentic followers of Jesus our Messiah, in thought word and deed.  You cannot grow a reproducing church without strengthening the spiritual base of the membership.

The fourth ship in Cutshall’s model is Stewardship.  He says the offering plate is a measure of growth.  He says that “churches need to create income streams that fuel their ministry budgets.”  You will need cash to operate the organization, and expanding ministry will often need bigger budgets.  That means the pastor must preach on cooperative giving, but also on living in faith and trusting that God will fund what he ordains being done.

Cutshal finishes the posting well with Fellowship.  Here he at least understands the need for connectivity in the body, and that growing churches need to pay attention to facilitating connectedness.  His words are:  “The church is in the relationship business. We create an environment where individuals can have a personal relationship with God and the family of God. Friends can change the hearts of another friend much quicker that the best ran campaign.”

If you are to grow the congregation, following someone else’s acrostic 5-step plan is rarely enough.  You must be willing to change, and follow the leading of the spirit, and to tailor good ideas (like those on this site) for your unique situation.

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