The Christian Science Monitor has a story on the elements of a growing church.
The Hartford Institute for Religion Research, a nonprofit research group at Hartford Seminary surveyed almost 900 congregations and found growth is most likely when:
• A church is multiracial.
• Men make up at least 60 percent of regular participants.
• Leaders describe worship as “slightly to not at all” reverent.
• Drums or percussion are always used in worship.
Most of these factors are part of the new “mega-church” movement. I’m not entirely sure whether these are good trends or not. Anytime men are involved in church is a great thing, since men are more often the ones not attending. Also having a more racially diverse church body is something for which every church should strive.
I’m not sure if people go out looking for drums in their church. That factor may be more a result of the others.
I am puzzled by what they mean “reverent.” Some of the more reverent and worshipful services I have been in had drums, guitars and all that. I am assuming they mean slow and quiet, with nothing more than a piano and organ.
The story also mentioned the church being “positive” and “up-lifting.” These are both good things, but they should not be the prime motivation of a church. Sometimes the Bible is “negative.” Sometimes the truth hurts and toes need to be stepped on. When must, as the Bible says, love what is good, hate what is evil.
Also in the piece mentioned a liberal “gay-friendly” church that has seen growth in Canada. I wonder how many liberal churches are seeing that type of growth. The article referenced the dive in attendance from the mainline demoniations that have drifted to the left. So is Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto an exception to the rule?
I did find it telling that they used Metropolitan’s Christmas service as an indicator and then gave numbers that the church projected to see over the next three years – 580 to 875. However, when it dealt with the evangelical churches it mentioned how they have grown from 2,000 to 5,700 within the last six years for one church and 190 to 225 in four years for another.
I think church growth trends are interesting and should be analyzed, but they also should not be treated as a “cure-all.” One can’t just slap some drums at the front and start counting the new members. The article mentions that conflict, which often happens with change, is the number one reason for attendance drops at individual churches.
Each body of believers should regularly evaluate what they are doing in light of two factors – 1) are we reaching our community and beyond and most importantly 2) are we functioning according to God’s word. If a church does that whether they grow in numbers right away or not, they will be a church where people will want to belong.