Monday Morning Insights

Photo of Todd

    Church Growth Conference Helps Pastors Feel Like Miserable Failures

    "I came here thinking my church was doing all right. Now I see we're so dinky and dumb, it's not even funny," says pastor Steve Irvine of Reno, Nev., who went to his hotel room and cried after each session.

    Several faith-filled conference speakers shared how they grew their churches to tens of thousands of members with various ministry techniques. In the foyer afterward, many participants wore tight grins. Some broke down on the spot.

    After paying $400 to attend the conference, pastor Ryan Delacourt of Eugene, Ore., left feeling "about three tons worse" than when he came.

    "I don't know why I go to these things," he says, noting that his church has been trying to break the 100-member mark for twelve years.

    After the conference some pastors hit the local Cracker Barrel restaurant to commiserate. Some vowed not to return.

    "If I want to be this depressed again, I'll rent Apocalypse Now, or read my e-mails," quipped one.

    OK... an (hopefully) obvious humorous article.  But... have you ever come away from a conference feeling like this?  I think it's all a matter of perspective.

    I'm a big conference promoter. I love going to conferences and seminars.  I'm looking forward to going to the Leadership Summit; and a couple of multi-site conferences yet this year, along with the Innovative Church Conference (one of my favorites) at Granger this fall.

    That being said... why do we go to conferences in the first place?  Hopefully it's not to try to carbon-copy anything.  Past experience has shown thousands of pastors that this doesn't work.  However, I think it's great to sit and learn... learn what works in different places... hear others share how God is working in a certain area... and, yes, maybe find some practical new ideas that can be tweaked in the ministry that I'm involved with.

    If I go strictly to compare my situation with the hosting church's ministry, I've missed the boat, and will probably come home more depressed than before.

    I guess it's all just a matter of perspective.  What do you think?

    (PS -- a little side promotion... check out my website for upcoming conferences near you!)


    This just in from  The "Bigger Church, Bigger Impact" conference wrapped on Friday, leaving participants feeling drained and dejected…


    if you want a Globally Recognized Avatar (the images next to your profile) get them here. Once you sign up, your picture will displayed on any website that supports gravitars.

    1. bernie dehler on Mon, July 11, 2005

      You know, I think it’s spiritually sick when people want to play the numbers game.  Why the focus on numbers… ego? 

      Think about it.  You get a new convert.  That’s one.  Then he leaves to go on the mission field.  Oops, lost one.

      What about other measurements, such as spiritual growth, impact, etc.?  You will always have small numbers anyway if you’re a church planter.



    2. Anthony D. Coppedge on Mon, July 11, 2005

      I’m not into any “numbers games”, so I can’t figure out why this conference was put together if this is any indication of the kind of ROM (Return On Ministry) these attendees are receiving.

      At the same time, if something isn’t growing, it’s dying. I don’t look at sending anyone out to missions or to plant a church as “losing a number”. That’s multiplication, not subtraction.

      I think that measuring numbers is only one of several gauges that needs to be monitored. If you’re not winning anyone new or reaching the formerly churched, then what are you doing? Yes, numbers are one indicator, but other measurements need to be considered as well.

      I think many churches miss the mark when it comes to using any kind of metric system (measurement) at all. Most are either looking at attendance out of context or are not sure how to hold their staff and lay leadership responsible for their areas of growth, whether it’s numeric (growth in people) or spiritual growth (marked by more people serving and/or stepping up to lead) or ministry growth (how many ministries did you add and how many needed to be shut down).


      Let’s face it, finding Pastors who will not only lead with vision, but hold their people accountable to evangelism, discipleship and service has become a rarer species.

      You’re totally accurate about not trying to carbon copy (I call this “Xeroxing the Megachurch”) what others of doing. Leadership, staff, lay leadership, locale and cultural context all play into downloading relevant ideas/strategies/methods for your church - and that’s hard (if not impossible) to simply duplicate.

      My 2 cents on the pile,



    3. bernie dehler on Mon, July 11, 2005

      Anthony says:

      “I don’t look at sending anyone out to missions or to plant a church as “losing a number”. That’s multiplication, not subtraction.”

      I know it’s true multiplication, but those who focus on numbers would call it a subtraction, because it’s no longer a number under their total control.  The person who left is now a true peer, working along in ministry, as they should be.  For those who count numbers, their numbers have to be under their authority.



    4. Larry on Tue, July 12, 2005

      In all fairness, I wonder how many pastors walked away from the same conference thinking it was a great confernce?  I remember being with a friend at a conference and afterwards he stated how worthless the confrence was to him because it seemed to focus on larger churches than his.  I, on the other hand walked away with some ideas to help our church grow and develop.  To me it was a great conference.  Maybe, it is in what you are looking for.  If you go to a conference wanting to compare yourself with the other churches there then you won’t get anything out of it.  On the other hand, if you go asking what one thing can I take back to help my church grow and develop then you may not be disappointed. It sounds as if the one pastor may be frustrated with himself and his church after being unable to break the 100 barrier after 12 years.  He should try a conference on how to break the 100 barrier.  I think he would find it energizing and very worthwhile.

    5. Todd Rhoades on Tue, July 12, 2005

      Just so no one is confused… this is article was a piece of satire… it never happened; totally made up for humor’s sake.  I thought it was funny because I’ve heard pastors say that this is exactly how they felt after attending a ‘church growth’ conference.


    6. Wayne Cook on Tue, July 12, 2005

      I would love to host a conference for “smaller” churches and find ways to help pastors who need to break the 100 barrier or who just need encouragement.

      The smaller church has some unique qualities that can make it GREAT in the kingdom of God.  Some of the greatest pastoral leadership is happening in churches that don’t have such high numbers.

      Anyone interested?

    7. Ken Bishop on Tue, July 12, 2005

      When I first started to read this article I believed it to be true. Why? Because I have been to these seminars and seen the hurt and despair in other pastor’s as they have felt belittled for being little. Some may have thought that Jesus’ ‘little’ mobile church of twelve was insignificant, but obviously it wasn’t. I actually heard a big name speaker tell the hundreds of pastors at a conference, thhat if they had less than 100 they shouldn’t be calling themselves a church yet, they were still a cell group. Attending this conference were many pastors from small rural churches in Montanna, Alberta and Saskatchewan. There is always good nuggets to take home though, but for those who are already struggling and hurting, it seems to me that we ought to encourage them and see them sent home fired for the work of the ministry. Do I believe in numbers? Yes I do. The Bible seems to count numbers and record them, unless there were so many that they record ‘multitudes’. Wish we had that problem in our churches around the country.

    8. Belle McAdams on Tue, July 12, 2005

      I would like to direct your attention to

      PASTOR TO PASTORS MINISTRY through Church Dynamics Inc at which exists to help pastors and church leaders develop healthy, dynamic, disciplemaking churches worldwide ... the average church in America today is less than 150!! 

      Pastors Round Tables are those times strictly for the pastor of a small church struggling in the “mega-church society” and how to “close the back door” through equipping the people for ministry!!

      1,400 PASTORS PER MONTH LEAVE THEIR POSTS!! Of course the enemy is at work destroying their zeal and focus and HOPE!!


    9. Franklin Reeves on Tue, July 12, 2005

      Does a growing church indicate health?

      Does a church that is not busting numbers indicate sicknesses?

      I heard a minister say that when she first started, and now, people claimed that she can not teach men. She said that I am sharing the gospel all over the world now. That proves that a woman can teach men.

      While I am not wanting to talk about women teaching men, I want to look at the fact that one’s success proves that God approves.

      Did the book of Job not reveal that God causes the rain to fall on the wicked and the good?

      Can numbers alone prove that it is true or good?

      Anyone struggling to see your church grow, answer me these questions.


      Are you looking to bring in the un-churched?

      Are you looking to create an atmosphere where those of the world are comfortable?

      Are you hoping to attract the dissatisfied in other churches?

      Do you want to see your church grow because that way you will know it is healthy?

      Do you want your church to grow so that you can go from bi-vocational to full time pastor?

      Are do you want to seek and save the lost?

      Do you want these new converts discipled so that they grow in Holiness. Are you equipping them to seek and save the lost as well?


      I want to add I am not talking about crusades, but one-to-one evangelism.

      Are you the pastor or church staff being obedient to Christ in sharing the gospel with those you meet on a regular basis?

      Are you setting the example that your disciples can follow and be obedient to the Lord.

      Jesus said,

      Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

      Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;

      John also records Jesus saying, “If you love me, you will obey me.”


      Jesus was content to preach to 5,000 and to minister to one.  Peter preached to at least 3000 and he ministered to one family.

      A friend of mine recently planted a church. He has reached the 80 mark, but was expecting it to grow faster than it has.  The other day I challenged him with this question.

      Are you willing to serve this congregation, which God called you to plant, if it never grows any larger?


    10. R.S. Harrell on Tue, July 12, 2005

      I too have been to conferences where the “big boys” make it sound so easy.  After 31 years in the ministry, I am convinced that most churches will never break much beyond the 100 mark, and that that is not a measure of success or failure.  Personally, I think it is much more biblical to be a part of a smaller group, because you have more accountability and involvement in relational ministry. 

      In addition, the purpose of ANY church and ANY pastoral ministry is not to amass the largest crowd we can get, but rather to reach out to as many people as God gives us opportunity to, to do three things:

      LOVE them to faith in Christ through Evangelism…

      LEAD them to maturity in Christ through Discipleship…

      LAUNCH them into their respective calling in Ministry for Christ. 

      It’s really very simple.  God does not measure us according to others, He only measures us according to Christ.

    11. Private Person on Wed, July 13, 2005

      The best thing I have learned in the past 20+ years of ministry is that the church needs to reach it’s own community. I have visited churches that are no more than college towns and yet do nothing to reach out to students because, “they do not tithe”. Shocking but true.

      I was invited to come and speak at another church who thought it was silly to have a women’s ministry program at its church…65% of it’s membership was made up of women over 18 years of age.

      Both of these churches wanted to integrate or were bringing in large expensive programs to reach “people”.

      I know of a large church in Florida that’s mission budget is almost three times that of its children’s ministry…they run over 250 children every week, but they are one of the top ten givers every year.

      I believe that missions are important to every church. We were called to reach all nations. I just feel that it is our responsibility to reach those around us.

      Stop looking to the large model churches to obtain or dulicate their goals. Using programs, conferences, and speakers to help reach the mission or goals of your church are fine but make certain that you are striving to prepare your church to be the church God ordained it to be.

      The glory of GOd is not in the numbers but in the relationships we build for HIm.


    12. the cutting edge on Wed, July 13, 2005

      the american church is in need of a serious shaking…the numbers game is played in seminary so it makes perfect sense to me that folks who get their degrees got grand “visions” of megachurch numbers in their eyes…

      not that i’m saying that all preachers dont care AT ALL about numbers…we’re kidding ourselves if we want to preach to empty chairs week in and week out…

      but my feeling is that God is ultimately concerned with the quality of discipleship and not with the quanity of alleged converts these church growth types hype to faithful pastors…JMO


    13. Wayne Cook on Wed, July 13, 2005

      Boy!  You guys have really hit the mark…it’s time we used God’s standard of success instead of allowing a marketing trend, seminary professor, or another pastor explain what the standard of effectiveness is in God’s work.

    14. drbob on Thu, July 14, 2005

      Getting back to the satire ... I go to worship conferences, first of all for personal refreshing and inspiration, secondly to get new perspective on ministry. we as a staff have been reading “Culture Shift” and they address in that book the concept of “cookie-cutter” programs don’t work for every church. I have always been seen as a “change agent” in the churches I have served. Being in music ministry it is always a challenge to “change” the way our church worships. One of the biggest challenges to our church right now in our worship style is that our culture in the church is a “white southern” hymn traditional with some choruses; yet we are in a community that is 50% black that we do some food ministries with, but we do not attract them into the doors because when I try to do some songs with some “life” to them they are labeled “Black music” we aren’t that kind of church. So conferences can be frustrating, yet also challenging to continue to disciple your sheep to see outside their fold.

    15. Pastor K. Kumar Raju. on Sun, January 29, 2006

      Dear Brother,

              We would like to invite you to preach with us here in India into a pastor’s conferences.  Please let us know if you like to attend?  Pray for us.



    16. Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 >

      Post a Comment

    17. (will not be published)

      Remember my personal information

      Notify me of follow-up comments?