In old houses, there weren’t many electrical outlets.  They didn’t need them.  There were no microwaves or computers.  Most kitchen gadgets were hand powered.  TVs didn’t come until the 50s and 60s. Maybe a record player. A couple of lights per room.

Today, everything plugs in.  Even the battery items need daily recharging.  Modern building code is a double outlet every six feet.  And you can’t daisy-chain extension cords around the room.  Gone are the days of the 14 cords into the single outlet.

multiple plugs in full socket

There’s a similar concept I learned from “Sticky Church”. You can’t plug in a new cord until another is removed. There are only so many spaces. He used the idea of a lego block, but it’s the same concept. If you don’t make space for new people, there is no place for them to join. And in the same way, if you don’t keep some connections, the marginal members will walk away.

Plan for Growth

The first rule in growing is to plan for it.  Isaiah says to “strengthen the pegs and loosen the cords.”  I’ve always taken that to mean we should have a good organizational structure of reports and accountability, but also make room for more.

Rather than splitting a group, you build new teachers and launch them into new spaces.  This builds a cadre of apprentice and substitute teachers while preparing you for growth.  I’ve spent time as a church’s ‘permanent substitute’ – able to teach any class with short notice, in case of last minute illnesses or car trouble.  A church needs those people, and a ready supply of substitute teachers lets them get experience before giving them their own class.

This is how we used to do church planting.  Identify an area, hire a pastor and recruit a cadre of families.  They will start meeting in separate small groups while still connected with the main congregation.  Eventually they will start worshiping together, in the sponsor’s building.  Once they have the rhythm and habits of the new congregation established, the church will rent new space and launch the new congregation with a commissioning or sending service.