‘Healthy things grow’ is a slogan all of us have grown up with and while the gist of it is true, the application of it can get us all caught up in either mild panic or a mire of condemnation.
There are two kinds of growing Churches in the world – ‘Department Store’ churches and ‘Branded’ churches. Department Store churches are umbrella churches that house people of any different doctrinal leanings and many different life purposes. Branded churches only house either those carrying the DNA of that particular church or those who are open to becoming carriers of that DNA. Branded churches know their culture, their values and their vision, resulting in high relational unity, effectiveness and therefore creating a high level of ‘branded’ identification.
The healthy ‘church body’ is dramatically enhanced by the high water retention of additional attenders.
In essence, Department Store churches are many churches coming under the roof of one church. They are often created when a growth spurt occurs in a relatively young church or soon after a new leader has stepped into position. The church becomes highly attractive because of its increased level of excitement and momentum. The healthy ‘church body’ is dramatically enhanced by the high water retention of additional attenders. After either the ‘honeymoon’ period comes to an end, the driving distance takes its toll, or a newer, fresher church arises, the church can experience a decline in size and a dismay in emotion.
It’s at this time that a decision needs to be made to either remain a Department Store or to define the culture and values and the type of church it was called to be to begin with and choose to become a Branded church. To remain a Department Store church requires diverting valuable energy into trying to retain those of different doctrinal dispositions (often arising from internal immaturity), and a lot of money trying to prop up the excitement level that drew the extra attenders in the first place. Discontentment is watched even more than discipleship. Immaturity is normalised.
To allow the loss of water retention to take place and allow the size of the church to drop off can be the best decision a leader can make. To become a Branded church based on central doctrine, inspired direction and strong discipleship will not only create a lasting legacy, but also create a real sense of family and sustainable momentum.
You may not end up with the largest Church in your town, but you’ll create a lean, mean, fighting machine that will impact a generation. You may not be the most famous of leaders, but you’ll probably be the happiest.