What is the strength of your church?  What is its mission?  Who are the target audience?  Are you focused enough to check progress, or are you scattering random seed to the wind?  You have to plant the right seed in the right soil to gain the expected harvest.  Anything less will be a disappointment.

The “National Survey of Megachurch Attenders” has been released by Leadership Network (www.leadnet.org) and Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research (http://hirr.hartsem.edu/). Officially called “Not Who You Think They Are: The Real Story of People Who Attend America’s Megachurches,” it says that megachurches (over 2000 attending consistently) are more likely to attract younger, unmarried, better educated and more affluent.  It also says they attract based on paid staff (pastor and worship team), and have higher rates of uninvolved attenders.

45% of megachurch attenders never volunteer at the church, and 40 percent are not engaged in a small group, the mainstay of megachurch programming.

By contrast, the small church is focused around family or community / neighborhood.  Your task, in leading a church through a turnaround, is to know what God has called your church to do and to whom you are to minister.  Start by assessing the community needs and the available resources already available within the congregation.

For example, if your neighborhood has widows or single mothers of young children, and your congregation has mechanics or handymen, you could provide

  • free labor
  • training for minor/routine repairs
  • advice on picking a professional

All 3 are valid expressions of love and concern, and get you into the community.  True, megachurches could do it better, but the survey suggests they won’t.  That’s for you.

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1.  http://hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/megachurch_attender_pressrelease.html

2.  www.leadnet.org/megachurch

3.  http://hirr.hartsem.edu

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Dr Tom at Simple Discipleship Blog has a post on Baptist Church Decline that suggests one  reason for the continued decline and death of churches in America is the lack of discipline in defining who can join the church, using the rise of baptism in younger (<6) children as his example.

I think he may have hit on something.  Part of the decline is consolidation within the “industry.” What used to be a large church (3,000) now barely qualifies in the megachurch rolls. But most large churches are merely catch basins for emigres from smaller churches, folks no longer willing to be missional, who would rather “sit and soak” while the paid staff does the work. Theirs is a “radically individualistic” faith focused on self-improvement. And the denomination rewards that behavior. There is no incentive to seed smaller churches with the spillover from larger congregations. Our method of church planting used to be to carve off a few hundred to start a mission. Now we let them stay while we send a young seminary grad off to build a house church.

The lack of training in well-rounded spiritual formation lets people think they are maturing in the Christian life when they feel good about themselves, and are “ministering to one another in love.”  But that is like exercising only your arms while your legs atrophy.

The solution to health in the church at large is for the leadership to set conditions that encourage, facilitate and demand participatory membership.  Children may get saved earlier, but they will have a solid understanding of their faith, and their parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents will be their role models.

To continue our current practices of consolidation will surely see the decline and death not only of community churches, but also the vibrancy of our faith to those communities.

In the Dec 21, 2007 edition of Forbes Magazine, Dale Buss reported that “CEOs may have a lot to learn from their counterparts running evangelical megachurches.” The pastors and business leaders interviewed for the article say that business has a lot to learn from how churches are run. In fact, a lot of today’s business manuals are based on the idea of “servant leadership,” a concept straight out of the Bible!

Running a church of several thousand is in fact a lot harder than running a substantial for-profit business. For example, in a business, the motivation to show up each day and work hard is money and career aspirations, and it is the company leadership that provides that external motivation. In a church, the motivation is all internal – the people come for their own intrinsic reasons. More than that, they often give time and money to the organization because of only a 30 minute speech by the “Chief Encouragement Officer.”

Using data from Harvard social scientist Robert Putnam, Buss gives us 8 key lessons from the pastors of the healthiest megachurches in America, lessons such as casting a vision and showing gratitude, doing regular reviews and saying no so you can do the important things well, and focusing their passions in ways that help the organization, instead of boosting their own ego or status in the community.

I encourage you to read the article for yourself. There’s a lot of meat in that one quick page. This is the stuff revolutions are made from (though some of the people who have commented so far don’t quite “get it”).