To grow a church, choose experience-based transformative ministries over community services

Don’t start a mothers group, start an esl ministry. 

Hire a music ministry pastor over a straight assistant minister.

I’m talking to small churches looking to grow via unbelievers joining and becoming Christian. Big churches make decisions differently. They need to invest strongly in administrative processes so that growth will be accommodated naturally into robust preexisting structures. Although the point remains true for them too. 

When deciding what next to do, choose transformative or experiential programs rather than community services. 

People are more likely to extend a transformative program into conversion than they are to add conversion to a ‘time filler’. 

Mothers groups are a time filler. They are a godsend to stressed mothers who are struggling to find ways to entertain their toddlers. They do not require any transformation of attendees. 

Introducing Christianity courses are transformative. The Christian worldview reforms the heart and Jesus makes high demands of his followers. Properly understanding Christianity, obviously, is transformative. 

ESL ministries are transformative. They pretend to be time fillers or community services but they are actually transforming an individual by increasing their ability to partake in their new society. This is profound. 
Most classes include a short Bible reading which is, in itself transformative. Including a small Bible reading (mine are 5mins or less) has a similar effect as an Introducing Christianity course (see above), although in a long term ‘drip feed’ kind of way. 

Renting your church hall to a study club is NOT transformative. 

Starting a childcare centre on church property is NOT transformative. Nor is planting a retirement village. 

Running boys-to-men rite of passage weekend aways IS transformative.

Craft groups are NOT transformative.

Social justice and community welfare services are NOT transformative. Well, maybe they are. It is always good for the heart to be generous. Always. And I’m sure that churches that help the poor and needy make an impact in the lives of the poor in many instances. My only point is that if your church is on the back foot and becoming closer and closer to being unviable, you should not start a soup kitchen. Concentrate on programs that will strengthen the core of the church so that you will be able to sustainably serve the poor in the future. 

Friday night kids clubs ARE transformative, but only for the kids that attend. Parents who decide whether they want to take the family to church on Sunday are not transformed by Friday night kids clubs. To them it’s just a time filler… 2 hours of quiet house!

 

Caveat: I’m not against programs that aren’t transformative. They are great for community exposure. But if you are looking specifically to grow church via engaging new believers and incorporating them into your community, choose transformative programs.