Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Church size - starting small

Keller examines churches of different sizes and from his research gives the following observations. He talks of ‘house churches’ with up to 40 attenders growing in an organic way attracting new people by their warmth, relationships and people. They have no recognised programme of outreach and find that newcomers, once they have been invited and have come along, tend to continue to attend because they are befriended.

The small church, which has between 40 and 200 members, continues to build on the importance of relationships between the members of the congregation but the relationship with the pastor tends to be the primary attraction for new people. With the backing of one key informal leader Keller maintains that the pastor can start and run two or three ministries, groups or activities which will in all likelihood bring lots of new people into the church

At this point, moving through the so-called ‘200 barrier’ becomes the issue. Keller actually talks about ‘making room’ for more than 200 people and I am sure he is not just talking about having the space - or enough chairs. A significant change in thinking and a commitment to many of the following changes is required.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Church size - why it matters

In considering the issue of church size there is one person whose work I would turn to every time. Dr Timothy Keller, the founder and pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan has written very helpfully on this topic and I make no apology for being heavily dependent on his work for what follows. 

 You can find his complete article ‘Leadership and Church Size Dynamics – How strategy changes with growth’ on the Redeemer website: 

What follows are highlights from the article with my own personal slant on some of the points.

Keller stresses that how a church operates and functions will be heavily impacted by its size and that failure to realise the significance of church size provides the common reasons for mistakes by pastors and leaders in managing their church. He talks of a ‘size culture’ which will majorly influence the areas of decision-making, the flow of relationships, how effectiveness is evaluated and even what ministers, staff team and volunteer leaders actually do.

Major differences between churches are often seen in denominational or theological terms - so we can underestimate how size impacts the way an individual church operates. In Keller’s view, a staff team member who moves from a church of 400 to one of 2000 is making a massive change and one greater than a move between denominations. He tells us that it is not just a matter of a large church being a bigger version of a small church but it has a massive impact on the scale and scope of leadership skills required to cover the difference in the means and style of communication, ways of forming community and the decision-making processes.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Keep building your marriage - and have FUN!

One of the observations Deb & I have made over our years in ministry has been that as ministry responsibilities have increased our marriage has had to grow to in parallel to meet the new challenges. This recent series has summarised some of the lessons we have learnt over time.

My encouragement to all of us would be – continue to invest in your marriage and to read widely together on the subject. We have recently read Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage and I am planning to read Tim and Kathy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage over the summer. Deb and I would say that at the very least a weekly date night is important and should be protected. Also, ensure there are no ‘no go’ subjects between you, and further, that you regularly ask each other these questions:
-      Am I meeting your emotional needs?
-      Am I meeting your sexual needs?

We would recommend the book The Five Sex Needs of Men and Women and the companion book The Five Love Needs of Men and Women by Dr Gary and Barbara Rosberg - both are worth reading, as are two books we have previously recommended, Men Only and Women Only by Geoff and Shaunti Feldhahn.

As a leader you are an example and a model to your church. It would be true to say that the strength of the marriages within the church leadership will be reflected in the community you lead. By investing in and prioritising a good marriage for yourself you are building a foundation for the young couples who are in your church. It’s a vital investment! I would also encourage you to preach annually on the subject of marriage – here at King’s we also run the excellent HTB Marriage Course once a year.

All this can sound heavy and weighty – I would also say that you need to prioritise having FUN together! Marriage is a gift from God, to be enjoyed and that enjoyment has got to include some fun! Deb and I celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary this week. The longer I am married to Deb, the more I realise God has been amazingly good to me. I am incredibly fortunate to be married to such a beautiful, intelligent and godly girl and to get to spend the rest of our lives together! 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Changing seasons...

Deb: I have come to realise that the changing seasons of family life have a great influence on our marriages. During the time when I had babies and children under five, I was often out of the Sunday meeting in crèche, sometimes as a helper, sometimes looking after one of our own boys. Unlike most other couples in church life, it wasn’t a role I could share with Steve - he had to be in the meeting! Yet, although I missed out on Sundays there were many positives in that season. As a mum of under-fives who had recently moved to London, I had numerous opportunities to make connections in the community. It was a demanding but very sociable time.

Once our youngest son went to school, I chose to work part-time. This has brought new and different challenges. I find that I don’t have as many automatic connection points with others and have to be more proactive in maintaining friendships. Steve and I are in constant discussion to ensure we are balancing family life with three lively boys, with Steve’s ministry and my work at school.

Looking ahead, we are aware that one of the most challenging seasons is still to come – when our children leave home. It will inevitably bring more freedom but there will be adjustments to make, having spent the last 20+ years pouring ourselves into bringing up children. This season is often combined with the increased responsibility of caring for elderly parents.

But God has shown us that no season lasts long – although it may not seem like it at the time! We need to embrace each season as it comes along and enjoy the good within it. We also need to be willing to make thoughtful adjustments in our marriage and family time as those seasons evolve and make sure that we keep on communicating as a couple.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A Vital Investment

Steve: If your marriage isn’t a positive thing that refreshes and refuels you both you will struggle in Christian ministry. Even if you have a strong marriage there will be times when life will be hard, but a weak marriage will compound the issues many times over. As further safeguards to and investment in this most important of relationships I recommend the following:

- Invest time in your marriage. Don’t let ministry demands and opportunities take time away from your wife and family. Ministry will take all the available time you have - and more, so putting time with your spouse and family into the diary well ahead before any other demands seek precedence - and protecting that time – is the only way to ensure that it happens.

- Remember the Biblical principle of example. Like it or not, we provide a role model of marriage for those we serve. People will always be looking at you – it’s the goldfish bowl of ministry! We cannot dodge the biblical exhortation as leaders to be an example to others. It may be challenging but it is true – the strength of your marriage will have a direct impact on the strength of the marriages in your church.

- Teach regularly on the subject of marriage. This will show to those in our churches that our marriages are to be valued, worked at, invested in – and not taken for granted. Teaching in this area will prepare those still to launch into marriage and encourage and redirect the stumbling. Such teaching will help our people to refocus their attention on their own relationship and at the same time you are helping to lay the foundation for the marriages of the next generation.