Church Growth, Health…or Survival?

I came across a quote by a long-time pastor that was in a newspaper and it said this: “In the first five years of ministry I had a sign on my desk that read Win the world for Christ. My second five years of ministry I put up a new sign that said Win one or two for Christ. And then now, later in my ministry I have a sign on my desk that says Try not to lose too many.”

I thought that was kind of funny, but I think a lot of people are facing that reality right now. On the church level, I’ve seen the church go from the Church Growth movement of the ‘90s into Church Health, which I think was actually a step in the right direction. But in a lot of ways, we find ourselves today in Church Survival mode. 

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The Pivot No One Is Talking About

If there’s one word that I find more irritating than covid right now, it’s the word pivot. Everybody’s pivoting. They’re pivoting from offline to online and physical to virtual, and all other kinds of pivots. It’s all the same thing, really. 

Before this whole crisis where pivot became the most popular word next to covid, I always just thought of pivot as a basketball move, but now it’s something that businesses and churches and people or are all doing. 

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Scary Question for Ministry Leaders

A few days ago I got the tires on my pickup changed over. And since the tire shop I like to use doesn’t have a branch in the community in which we live, I drove an hour and half down the highway to the nearest shop.

But it’s a beautiful drive, mountains on both sides most of the way, river valley, deer and elk often along the side and in the clearings. Plus I wanted to go to a computer shop and do some price checks on a new tower since my old laptop, which is absolutely perfect for 90% of what I do, really struggles with video production.

When I hit “produce” on a 20 minute segment, or in some cases an entire one hour service, my computer is out of play for 45-90 minutes. Generally I can plan my day around that block, but in some cases, like right now when I am involved in two different churches often producing content for both in the same week, it’s a real pain.

Anyway, on the drive I listened to a few podcasts, one of which was a couple marketers talking about how things are sold online, particularly training and courses- generally referred to as information products. They were discussing the common practice of adding a lot of bonuses to a given product to increase perceived value, and make it seem like a good deal.

One of the marketers then raised an interesting point. He said “What if you simply planned your product- your teaching, training, whatever- around this question: If I only got paid for results, I’d do this?” To put it another way, if you only got paid for results what would your product be?

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The Two Step Online Ministry Plan

Whenever a crisis hits we get bumped into survival mode. But then the new context is normalized and we begin to get our bearings. As soon as you move beyond survival mode and into ministry mode you need to develop a ministry plan for the current context.

You will likely need to learn some new technical skills and new tactics along the way such video recording and streaming, holding meetings and services online, working from home. But then you will be on your feet, feeling more oriented than disoriented and it will be time for the ministry plan.

What we all need to realize is that crisis or no crisis, the basic task is the same as it’s always been: be a disciple who make disciples.

Once you reaffirm this calling, it’s time for the two-step:

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