Over the years I’ve noticed that a good number of church plants grow for two or three years and then plateau and then decline. It’s not unusual for a church to grow to 150-200 over a three year period and then go nowhere. My experience has been two reasons are cause of this failure to continue to grow.
1. The pastor changes his or her focus from getting butts in the seats to taking care of the membership, tinkering with organization, and formalizing leadership. This shift seems to be due to a couple of things: one, the laity begin to whine about not being taken care of; and two, it is easier to work with participants than to continue bringing butts into the seats. I’ve found that until the church reaches 500 in worship the pastor’s main focus should be on getting butts in the seats.
2. As the church grows the pastor fails to hand-off ministry as soon as possible. Often the pastor enjoys ministry so much that he or she hoards all the good ministry and robs the laity of the joy of serving. The more the pastor continues to do the more self-centered the laity become and the cycle continues to deepen.
So what’s the solution? Keep your focus on getting butts in the seats and handing off ministry like crazy. And as you hand it off watch and see how well people function- your future leadership may well come out of some simple hand-off.
Now if you have a need to be needed and just can’t hand-off ministry you shouldn’t have planted a church- shouldn’t be a pastor either of any kind of church. Remember Eph. 4:11-12? It’s the role of the pastor to equip the saints.
I teach these truths with football images. Pastors, like coaches, don’t play they game; they coach the players (laity). Pastors, like coaches, are also scouts or have scouts who recruit, that look for future players. The key is to scout, recruit, and coach people into becoming all God intended them to be. That’s the gist of Eph. 4;11-12.
Why Church Plants Plateau
A more knowledgeable person than Bill Easum on churches, church leadership, and related issues does not exist. Everything Bill writes is worth reading, in my opinion, such as this short blog post (from BillEasum.com) a friend recently shared with me: