No matter how wonderful, how dynamic, and full of life your church congregation is, it will most likely not be in existence in 100 years. This is statistically true, which makes multiplying, making disciples, and planting churches even more central to the Great Commission.
Just like people, churches get older, slow down and die. And just like people, some churches stay healthier, live longer, and are more fruitful than others. Not surprisingly, one reason why churches stagnate and slow down prematurely is the same reason why families deteriorate.
I have three daughters ages 22, 15, and 13. To parent them is the most beautiful and challenging adventure I’ll ever experience. They are all so very different, they also keep changing and maturing. Some of the principles of parenting apply to all three in the same way. Beyond that, it’s pretty much about prayer, experimentation, and a lot of listening. And then there’s the rapidly changing landscape of the world we live in. Everything is different from when I was their age.
So. Very. Different.
But you already know this if you’re a parent. So why is it so obvious in parenting and not as obvious in church leadership?
In a young family, the parents do most of the work. That same approach will destroy an older family. Parents need to do less over time. They need to stay present and engaged and expect the kids to be more and do more. If that doesn’t happen the family becomes dysfunctional.
I’ve been a church leader for over 20 years, and in my experience, many churches stagnate not because the church leader is doing too little. They stagnate because the church leader is doing too much. The leader becomes the ceiling for the congregation. As it is with any family, my congregation grows, matures, and evolves. As it does, I need to do less and be less. It doesn’t mean I stop serving, it just means how I serve needs to dynamically change over time.
As a church leader, I want my spiritual ceiling to be my congregation’s spiritual floor. So I strive to give away influence, responsibility, and leadership to those who share the dream and are eager to lead in their space.
The church community I serve in Austin, TX might not be around in 100 years. But I want to see it grow up, mature, and age well while making disciples and changing lives.
You can find some more insights about leadership culture in my 20-minute talk at the Unboxed Conference called “ReThink Leadership”.