One size does not fit all. As church leaders, we are familiar with the pains of growth depending on the size of the church. I usually discuss five possible phases of growth.
1. Start-up Phase: Highly relational, led by a Pastor or two.
The size of this phase is small, but it should never affect your vision. In this phase, you want to grow, but you do not want to lose the feeling of being a family.
2. Ramp-up Phase: Program-driven church, led by a Pastor, volunteers, and staff.
The cost of growth is discomfort. In some churches, you see that the perfect family-like circle starts to break down as new visitors join. Sometimes the older members start criticizing the newcomers. The “in crowd” may start to feel a little left out.
3. Maturity Phase: The organizational structure is stronger, led by Pastors and teams.
Pastors in this phase need to realize that it is okay to lose some original members who used to be part of a tight group. The preacher may feel guilty of not knowing everyone as a shepherd knows the sheep. He will have to stop memorizing names and start equipping team members instead.
Growing churches will require a Pastor to make choices in this phase. Small groups must be promoted for members to connect. The Pastor’s role in communicating the “why” behind what your church does will be critical to ensuring strategic alignment.
A good pastor must hire good staff. There will be criticism from some people who will say that “the staff runs the church” in this phase. Volunteers may have to yield to paid staff. Procedures will have to be standardized. The leader cannot implement new processes all the time. Strategy and planning must take greater priority. However, lead Pastors will lose touch with what is going on in some areas. Leaders will have to let go of implementation decisions made without their personal input.
4. Expansion Phase: Traditional to Social Church Relationship Management (CRM), led by Pastors, staff, teams, and supported by technology.
Due to the number of people Pastors meet every week, pastoral care issues will increase during this phase. It is impossible to visit every family at the church in a year. Creating a pastoral care program will become more important. Lines of communication will need to be strengthened.
As the church continues to draw more people, the vision will have to be recast. Church vitality will have to be maintained. Pastors at this stage must understand that things will happen without their involvement.
A lack of volunteer recruitment and multiple platforms living in silos will need to be addressed. As a leader, you will need to lead while volunteers, staff, and church members carry out the ministry of the church. By equipping others to lead, you release others and free yourself to do other things that demand your time and attention.
5. Mega-churches: Are organized differently based on size, structure, and multi-campus requirements.
Reflection Question: Will you free yourself by equipping others to do the ministry?