You’ve probably heard this statement in your leadership circles. While the statement is true, hearing it may not feel helpful, especially if your church is not growing. What does it mean if you’re not growing? Do you ever feel your team and ministry are healthy but you’re not seeing the results you hoped for? Is your staff excited, but you seem to be in a season of plateau? Regardless of where you are, feeling stuck can take its toll.
I know how you feel because I am you. You’re a church planter, and so am I. You’re passionate about life change, and so am I. We’re both passionate about seeing our cities forever changed by the gospel. I understand it’s difficult to separate who you are from what you do. It’s hard not to take it personally when things aren’t growing. I need this reminder often, and maybe you do, too: God cares so much more about the posture of your heart than the work of your hands. Take a deep breath; you’re doing great!
If you feel your church is stuck, consider the following.
Whom you put where. I believe leadership development and discipleship can happen simultaneously. As people become more aware of who God created them to be, they become more alive; but only as they fall in love with Jesus do they become leaders worth following. As your church grows, your challenge will be finding the areas of ministry where your individual leaders can excel, promoting the growth of your church.
If leaders can’t find their niche or keep pace, it may be necessary to have some tough conversations along the way. These discussions can be difficult, but sometimes they’re necessary to continue infusing life, energy, and growth in your overall ministry. If you are in a season of plateau, ask yourself, “Is our growth out-pacing any of our leaders?”
It’s hard not to take it personally when things aren’t growing.
How you do what. We launched UNITED Church in September 2015, with 515 people on the first Sunday. By Christmas 647 people attended, and in January, when we expanded to two experiences, our attendance jumped to 817. People are often shocked by our church’s growth, and they ask me how it happened. Of course Jesus drew people to UNITED Church, but I think it’s important that we delivered exactly what we promised.
We promised a life-giving atmosphere, and that’s what we provided. We promised a safe and fun environment for kids to learn about Jesus on their level, and that’s what we provided. We promised world-class worship, and that’s what we provided. We promised messages that would connect with people, and that’s what we provided. If you are in a season of plateau, consider this question: Where have we over-promised and under-delivered?
When you do what. Every church experiences seasons of growth and plateau throughout the calendar year. Identifying when such natural rhythms occur in your church can help you strategically place sermon series, events, and even a budget that best complements these seasons. If you are in a time of plateau, ask yourself, “Have we tried to gain momentum during a season that is naturally down?”
Don’t let plateau discourage you. Keep the posture of your heart open before God and connected to Him. You’re doing so much better than you think you are. Keep going!
Kenneth and Sherry Wagner are the lead pastors of UNITED Church in Dover, Delaware. Kenneth served as a youth pastor at Calvary Wesleyan Church for seven years before stepping out to plant UNITED Church (ARC church plant number 527). In only a few years their church has grown to nearly 2,000 people. Their vision is to “love Delaware until their heart beats like His.” To learn more about UNITED Church, visit unitedchurchde.com.