Growing Your Church the Old Fashioned Way!

Now that the summer season is fully in swing, many churches across America experience declines in attendance.  Due primarily to vacations, mission trips and an overall focus shift in families, summer months are peak seasons for one-day trips to the lake, mountains or recreational parks, for job-related travel, or for family reunions and much needed getaways-all of which result in declines in church attendance that are felt quite heavily.

My Experience as a Young Pastor

When I was a young pastor, the months of June, July and August were depressing.  The majority of our congregation worked agricultural jobs and when the harvest season ended many of them had to go north to seek employment, while others went back to their homelands to visit families.  Such downturns in church attendance usually discourage pastors to the point of closing their churches, because when attendance is low, so is morale, and oftentimes tithes and offerings, too.  I exhort you not to entertain those thoughts.  Let me share with you a way in which you can use the dog days of summer to grow your church.  When pastors think of church growth, they often focus on the masses of people that join the church after receiving Christ or that transfer from another church.  While this is good growth, churches that thrive on it as the only kind of growth do not produce lasting fruit and often result in a high stress, high turnover ministry.

Discipleship Begins

In 1994, shortly after the launch of our church, the Lord showed me a quick vision of the children of our church serving in the church as adults.  I knew from then on that the highest quality of church growth would come from the discipleship of the children.  My wife and my sister began to give fine arts instruction to the children of our church.  As part of a personal discipleship program, they spent quality time engaging in their lives and imparting unto them a real skill that they could use in life to serve the Lord.  One particular child with whom they often spent time was Ivan.  His parents had come from Mexico just a few years earlier and had given their hearts to the Lord while at one of the church services.  While still in Elementary School, Ivan eagerly participated in our church pantomime and drama teams, led by my wife and sister, in addition to the children's choir my wife was also directing.  With Ivan's musical interests continuing to develop, it was not long before he was the youngest member of the Sunday worship team, and practicing on a weekly basis with my wife.  Focusing on the trumpet skills he was cultivating in his Middle School band class, my wife created special solos and trumpet parts for each of the worship songs they would be doing in the upcoming Sunday worship.  Meanwhile, seeing that Ivan was eager to also learn the piano, my wife (and sister) spent time teaching him whatever they could about that instrument, all the while celebrating and encouraging him in his gifts and calling for the Lord.

16 Years Later

Today, Ivan at age 23 is the worship leader of the same church that my wife and I helped to start. His parents and three sisters continue to be involved members of the church and to play a vital role in its leadership. I believe this is directly related to the discipleship and ministry that the children received during those vital years. The summer months usually allow you additional opportunities to spend time investing in the children of the most committed families.  By doing this you are preserving posterity and you are sowing time into quality growth for your church.  One day, it is possible that Ivan will marry and he and his wife will create a beautiful family that will continue to serve in the church.  

A Case for You to Continue

Do you feel discouraged?  Is your church not growing?  Please do not throw in the towel.  Get a new vision for growth.  Think long-term growth by seeing the children in your church serving the Lord as adults, and then do everything in your power to disciple them through the Word and through creating opportunities for them to be developed and involved.  I am not saying to create more children's programs that will attract masses. I am saying to create more room for one-on-one impact into the lives of the children in your midst. Notice their interests, gifts and talents-their world, so to speak-and then create meaningful ways for you or other mothers and fathers in the faith to dive into their world and walk with them there. After all, didn't Jesus do that with us?

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