Updated: Mar 16, 2019
In the current milieu we have an ambivalent relationship with growth. The topic of church growth has become out-of-favour, recognizing the importance of healthy and sustainable growth, but sizes of churches and missional effectiveness are still hot topics amongst pastors when they gather. I deal with this inconsistency at greater depth in my forthcoming book, The Impact of Church Consultancy (Wipf and Stock), which should hit the shelves in a matter of weeks.
One of the churches researched in that book invited a church consultancy to deal with some growth issues and I outline their journey below.
The church is located in the developing suburban ring in Western Sydney and had an attendance of ninety-one at the time of the church consultancy.
In this suburb, the country of origin is Australian born for 68 percent of residents (Sydney 61%). The largest age group is those aged 20 to 39 (34%; Sydney 33%), with a correspondingly high proportion of those aged 5 to 19 (25%; Sydney 14%) indicating that this is an area where young families settle, with many purchasing homes (46%; Sydney 23%). Occupational groupings are mixed with intermediate clerical/sales/service (10%), professionals (8%), and tradespersons and related workers (6%) the top three.
Rather than seeking to address a serious problem, this proactive consultancy is mainly focused around growth issues: how to inculcate vision to those who are joining the church, structures that will be effective for this stage of the church’s growth, and enhancing communication in the context of the church’s development. While there will always be issues to address in any church, inviting outside assistance early to assist with navigating expansion issues is perhaps a more effective use of the church consultancy process, enabling such churches to take the step to the next level of growth.
Church Consultancy Objectives
The following objectives were established by the church leadership for the consultancy:
1. Develop and implement appropriate communication processes within the church.
2. Define and share a vision in a way that the church owns it.
3. Design the most effective structures and strategies to achieve the church’s vision.
Indications Towards the Impact of Consultancy on the Church’s Health and Growth
The leadership team and the church accepted the report. The church had already taken “significant steps . . . to address communication, vision and structure issues” addressed in the consultancy report at the time of its writing. NCLS-2006 indicated that a clear and owned vision was the church’s strongest core quality indicator, and this had increased 67 percent from NCLS-2001. The core quality indicator of inspiring and empowering leadership increased 121 percent over this time, reflecting that effective structures and strategies (along with strong empowerment of attenders for ministry) to achieve the church’s vision had progressed. Considerable increases were recorded for each of the nine core quality indicators, leading to an overall increase of 63 percent. Attendance grew to 150, an increase of 65 percent over the period to 2006.
The benefits of using church consultancy proactively to address structures and strategies surrounding growth (rather than reacting to problems) is underscored in this case. Most churches will benefit from outside assistance to navigate growth issues, yet few call for that. Christian Schwarz’s survey of one thousand churches in thirty-two countries revealed that among the key variables related to leadership, the factor with the highest correlation to the overall quality and growth of a church, is leadership’s regular use of an outside consultant or advisor (used by 58 percent of growing, high quality churches, but only by 12 percent of declining, low quality churches).
Growth isn’t supreme. It certainly does need to be sustainable and healthy growth. It may (or may not) be an indication of how missional your church is in the local community. But if your church isn’t growing because you haven’t connected with a coach or consultant to deal with some of the bottlenecks that are probably there, maybe that is something worth reconsidering.
© 2018 Ian Duncum. All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission. This is an extract from Ian’s forthcoming book, The Impact of Church Consultancy. Click here
to pre-order a copy, or to receive an invitation to the book launch.
Dr Ian Duncum is a trained and accredited (with John Mark Ministries) church consultant with 20 years experience of working with non-profit enterprises and churches across a number of denominations. This has also included denominational leadership in church health and development. An accredited minister with a track record of growing churches, Ian also trains church consultants, facilitates training for ministers and leaders, and mentors/coaches pastors and other leaders. He can be contacted at www.ianduncum.com.au or email@example.com
 ABS Census of Population and Housing, Suburb Profiles—Demographics.