In 2002, there were ten churches in our denomination that averaged between 600 and 750 in worship attendance.
A look at the 2007 statistics, showed me that only two of these congregations grew numerically over the next five years. Now, I understand that numbers aren't everything -- and that a church ought to be measured by more important things, such as spiritual commitment and life transformation. However the growth or decline of worship attendance is certainly one indicator of congregational health and vitality.
This confirmed my theory that breaking through the 600 barrier is a challenge for churches -- almost as difficult as moving beyond 200.
As our church is in the transition tunnel between 600 and 700, I wondered why 80% of these churches declined or plateaued -- and why only 20% grew. Five years from now, I hope we'll be in the 20%.
I contacted the senior pastors of the two growing churches (Joe and John, both my good friends) and interviewd them -- poking and prodding around for some common threads between them.
Here's my conclusion about the common factors these breakthrough churches shared:
1) There was continuity with the senior pastor -- The people love the pastor. He stayed through the bumps. (The people trust the pastor, and know that he loves them.)
2) They were willing to take the building risk (the big faith step) , wheni t was the right and necessary time and for the right reason.
3) They developed a good staff -- self starters -- productive leaders with a focus on mobilization of the laity. Staff members became "equippers for ministry" rather than just "doers of ministry"
4) They brought people along -- did the hard relational work necessary to take the faith step.