There is a popular series of books on nutrition entitled “Eat This, Not That” by David Zinczenko. In these books, he suggests healthier alternatives at restaurants as a method of losing weight. For instance, a Big Mac has less calories and fat than the Angus Deluxe. He isn’t suggesting that one burger is healthy and the other is not. He is just saying that one is less bad for you than the other. Switching out one burger alone is not going to lead to a slimmer you – but multiple choices over a long period of time can have a cumulative effect on your weight.
So, I have decided to play with the idea a bit and suggest more and less healthy alternatives for growing a church. These observations are based on my countless visits to churches – some that are thriving, some that are dying, and a lot that are in the middle. You may or may not agree with these, but it has been my observation that:
1. Churches with no dress code (or casual dress code) tend to be growing and attracting more young adults than “suit and tie” churches.
2. Churches with a clear system of greeting, following up and connecting new people are growing more effectively than churches with no clear system.
3. Churches with good contemporary worship are growing and attracting more young people than those singing from the hymnal. (Notice, I said “good” contemporary worship. There is nothing worse than a bad attempt at contemporary!) Sure, there are traditional churches that are growing, but their growth is connected to other factors.
4. Churches with a strong missional connection to the community surrounding them tend to be healthier than those with no connection to their community.
5. Churches with a “leader led” style of governance are more effective than those with a committee driven or a purely congregational style of governance. (“Leader led” doesn’t mean dictator driven. It means the church allows their leadership team to make decisions and set directions.)
6. Churches with high quality children’s and youth ministries are obviously going to attract younger families better than those without these ministries.
7. Churches with a clear compelling vision of the future are more likely to be growing than those with no future vision.
8. Churches willing to take “faith risks” are healthier than those in a risk-averting survival mode.
9. Churches with multiple venues (different services targeting different demographics) tend to be growing better than churches with one service or with two identical services. The exception to this rule is a younger, rapidly growing church with a highly effective worship style. In this case, multiple identical services are effective.
10. Churches with strong relational networks usually do a better job of ministering beyond their walls than “lone ranger” churches.
These observations are not ranked in order of importance. And, simply doing one or two may not be the answer for your church. However, like the “Eat this, Not That” idea, a steady diet of making good choices will have a long range effect on the overall health of your church. The big question is this: Are you willing to do what it takes? Like with a diet, you must be willing to make changes to your current lifestyle. I find most church people are not willing to change, and that is why their churches are in trouble.