With an increasing number of Americans claiming spirituality but turning away from organized “traditional” denominations, growing an established church can be difficult. If you’re a church leader, you’ve undoubtedly experienced these non-growth pains yourself. However, if we can open our minds a bit, maybe there’s a lesson to be learned from other churches overcoming the same issue.
In an article this week at OnFaith, deputy executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Roger Dermody dropped something of a bomb: By 2022, the Presbyterian Church plans to add 1,001 new worshiping communities. The catch? In order to do so, they’re willing to think outside the box:
“Tamara John, an evangelist in our mainline Protestant denomination, started a church in Southern California in her custom RV with a 10-by-12-foot chapel in the back. ‘I’m talking with people who have walked away from God,’ she says. ‘To those who are struggling to trust God again.’”
A church. In an RV. Sound crazy? Sure it does! But, that’s also the point – historically, churches have grown by employing aggressive (if not unconventional) methods. Martin Luther didn’t grow the concept of Protestantism by hanging a sign outside his door that said, “Please come in, we’re done with the whole ‘transubstantiation’ thing, I swear.” Why would any current church expect appreciable growth via the same tactics they’ve been using for decades?
If the Presbyterians succeed, it will be because they had the foresight to not only get an idea of who their base is, but who their base isn’t. For instance:
“Nearly 50 percent of our new worshiping communities have been started by racial/ethnic minorities and new immigrants in partnership with our denomination’s judicatories. This is great news for a church that is 90 percent white — the average Presbyterian is a 63-year-old woman.”
If you’re struggling to grow, maybe it’s time to take a look at what your church is lacking and then determine what it is those would-be community members are looking for. Plenty of people out there are looking for a way to express their faith – they’d be happy to be part of your community if you’re willing to give them an outlet.
In case you doubt the payoff for thinking differently, consider this: Hope For Life Chapel, the RV church, now includes 52 recreational vehicles in its park, each housing up to six people.
How’s that for growth?