The essence of congregational growth

Sometimes I tend to get caught up in the details of congregational life: increasing efficiency of administration; figuring out how to get the database to sort the data in useful ways; making sure we have adequate supervision for the children on Sunday mornings; training volunteers; etc.

But I belong to a congregation because I’m a fallible being, I screw up on a regular basis, and I want to be changed for the better. I have rarely been able to change for the better on my own, so I need a community of people to help keep me in touch with something that is larger and better than my self, and to hold me accountable to the highest ideals of humanity.

I also belong to a congregation because when I have been faced with the inevitable pain and unpleasantness that life throws at all of us, I have gotten comfort and support from being a part of a congregation. (Yes, we ministers have to be careful not to exploit the people in our congregations to help us meet our own needs; but ministers can be ministered to by congregations in ways that aren’t exploitative.)

If people aren’t getting transformed and supported by a congregation, trying to achieve growth is a fairly pointless exercise. If, on the other hand, people are being transformed and supported by a congregation, we might wish that the congregation would grow so that more people can be transformed and supported, but growth is less important than the fact that the congregation is doing what it is meant to do.

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