I believe that if a Church is healthy, and the right components of growth are in place, then God will expand the ministry. Think about this logic, God wants people to come to Him. He has set-up a way for people to come to Him, the Church. God wants His plan to succeed and grow. So therefore, God wants growing churches who reach as many people as possible. Makes sense, right?
So why aren't most of our churches doing what God planned it to do... grow? I heard that the average size of a church in America is around 300 people. If that is true, then it would take 56 churches that size to reach most of the people in the town I live. We only have 9 churches that size or larger.
Then what's the problem? It seems like we are not living up to the fullest potential that God has planned for His church. There are many theories as to why we are so ineffective in reaching our communities and not growing our churches. Some would say the reason is that churches don't have a strong and clear vision. Some would argue that churches don't have the correct methods of growth in place. Others would say that it all falls on the leadership to grow the church, and a lot would express that numbers don't matter because we should be focused on getting people deep into the Word. I have even heard people say that the church has forgotten their passion in reaching lost people because they are too busy reaching Christians from other churches. I don't know which one is correct, they could all be right! But something is missing...
Before I go on, I want to say that I am not trying to be ultra-critical of all those methods, or be critical of our smaller struggling churches. But I feel there is one thing that all those ideas have in common. What I have found is no matter how strong your vision, or how solid your strategic plan, or even how committed your leadership is to growing the church; if you are not tapped into a renewable energy source then you will eventually run out of energy. Growth needs energy. The same way a car needs gas to run, a church needs a continuous energy to grow.
It was about 9 years ago when I first discovered how to tap into this infinite energy source. At that time, I was a bit green in working with people. I was a couple of years out of college working at a hotel. A local pastor asked me to run their youth ministry at their country church. There were two high school students in the whole church and only one of them wanted anything to do with youth ministry. I met weekly with that one student, his name was Dan and he was a junior. We started plotting and planning on how we were going to grow the youth group and reach his friends!
By the second month, we were sitting around a camp fire, alone. We didn't get one person to come to our meetings. No matter what we tried, no one would come to our youth group. (They didn't even want to see chubby bunny, youth pastors will get this!) That night, Dan told me how discouraged he was by saying, "That's it, I quit!" I told him to hang in there and made him promise to give me three more months. As I was driving home, I was a wreck. I was out of ideas.
I am an entrepreneur by heart so it drives me nuts when things don't work right and ministries don't grow. But it seemed like I was spinning my wheels and not getting the results that I wanted. To be honest, I was thinking about quitting too, but I knew I couldn't. It made me think of what my dad would tell me, "If one man can do it, you can do it better!" So it hit me, I will ask my dad! He was very successful in building youth football programs, so why couldn't he help me in building a youth ministry. The next day I went over to my parents' house to pick his brain. As we sat on the couch sipping on some cokes, I asked, "So dad, what did you do to get all those students involved with football?" He looked at me and said, "That's easy, I just posted a sign-up sheet on the bulletin in the hallway." That didn't help. So, I asked, "So what made your programs so successful?" He smiled and replied, "I didn't do anything!" I think he was catching on and he loved messing with me, so at this point I wanted to jump across the couch to shake him while screaming, "Just tell me what I need to know, old man!" He continued, "I, really didn't do anything, it was my team that made us successful! I just found the best people I could find, then poured everything I could into them!"
Apprenticeship = Energy2
That was it, I knew that was what I was missing! The next week, I asked two college students to help me with our youth group. At first, they were a little reluctant to be leaders of a youth group with no students! For the next three months, I took my TWO new college apprentices with my ONE high school student and I poured everything I could into them. Over time, my apprentices came up with some fresh ideas and some real excitement for the group. And then it happened. A few weeks later, two of Dan's friends decided to check out the crazy things we were doing. They loved it and the next week they brought two more of their friends. This trend continued throughout those three months. By the end of those 3 months, we had over 60 students involved. Needless-to-say, Dan didn't quit!
Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that all the church needs is a few college students willing to serve and now you have an unstoppable growth engine. It is the act of apprenticing people that is the renewable energy that feeds explosive, continuous growth. After a while of me pouring into my apprentices, they starting pouring into others and so on. This one time a mother came to me and thanked me for helping her son get excited about God. I was confused, I never met the kid before. Come to find out, it was my apprentice's apprentice who was pouring into this kid and getting him excited about God! To break it down for you, I apprenticed my college student, who turned around and poured himself into another leader, and that leader took everything they learned and poured into a student who got excited about God.
The point is that getting your team to apprentice others causes reproduction at all levels. This is the renewable energy that a church needs to reach its fullest potential of growth. Now some of you are convinced that apprenticing people is important but maybe you don't know where to start. My next post will be called, "The Power Of Apprenticing" and it will give you helpful tips to get you started.