There has been a lot written about church growth barriers, what they are, how to break them and get past them. The reality, though, is a church will only grow as much as the leader grows.
Every church experiences barriers at different points, but they are usually around the same size: 60, 100, 200, 400, 800, etc. While barriers can happen at other times, these are usually the ones discussed.
I was talking to someone the other day about how things change at different times in a church, and it got me thinking about the barriers and what changes at each one.
1. What new temptations do you face? As a church grows, leaders face new temptations. There are new ways to cut corners, new perks that creep up, and it is easy to start believing your own press. It is also easy as a leader of a growing church to start to think you are too big for some things, and while your job changes you are still a leader, and leaders are to serve.
When you start a church and there are just a few people on your launch team, you face unique temptations. While some temptations follow a leader through the life cycle of a church, some temptations are unique to sizes of a church.
2. What things must you stop doing? Peter Drucker asks, “What can you stop doing that nobody would notice?” John Maxwell thinks a leader could stop doing 80% of what they are doing, and nobody would notice. While that might seem high, there are a number of things you should stop doing. It might be because you aren’t as good at those things, but usually the things you do keep you from doing what only you can do. As a church grows and as you grow, the things that only you can do, the things that you are wired to do, might change. This is why it is important to consistently ask this question.
3. What things must you start doing? A helpful grid to think through is, what things must I do or else this thing falls apart? Another way to think about this is, are there things I am not doing right now that I need to start? Or, are there things I need to give more time to than I currently give to those things?
4. What is keeping you and your church from going to the next level? A leader lives in two worlds: the world of the present and the vision of the future. This is a tension of leadership, but it is one you should invite because you are the leader. A leader must continue to ask, “What do I need to do to keep my church healthy and growing? What can I learn or grow in to take my church to the next level?” That next level is not always a size issue. It might be growing in personal productivity, preaching or care. It might be getting better at reading culture or developing leaders. There is always a next level to go to.
For me, each year I think through one aspect of my job that I need to grow in. I ask for input from those closest to me, and then I look for resources and people doing that well and learn from them.
5. What am I afraid of now? I heard Matt Keller say this on a podcast recently and felt very convicted by it.
If you think about it, you make a lot of decisions as a leader out of fear; fear of people, finances, success, failure, your team, what you look like to others. While every pastor has fears throughout his ministry career, there are specific ones at each size. What are they? They will be unique to you as a leader, but you must identify them. You must be on the lookout for them.