One of the less obvious advantages of being new ministers to a ministry that conducted a comprehensive and principled ministerial search process is that once you are selected you have an implicit mandate to take the ministry to the next level. With 80% of ministries in some form of decline or plateau, it is likely any ministerial search process has the expectation that with new ministerial leadership there will also come new ways of doing ministry that will translate into renewal and growth.
There is nothing wrong with this expectation, other than it is a “set up”. The set up is that with new leadership the church will grow. The whole notion of “church growth” means different things to different people. Typically, growing the church implies increasing numbers of congregants and increasing financial support. In the context of church decline, however, this expectation places a unique burden on most ministerial candidates.
This is why I coach ministry leaders (both ministry candidates and church leaders) to get very clear about expectations to grow the church. If there is any sense of “not enough” operative in the ministry, the context for church growth needs to address the limiting belief rather than the outer manifestation of lack. It is best to divest the idea of church growth with the resolution of insufficiency.
Looking at this conundrum from the minister’s perspective, growing the church is an elusive proposition because there are so many complexities that comprise the rocket science of church growth. The recent demise of the Alban Institute is testimony enough to the fact that strategies for growing churches (in the context of increasing numbers) does not lead to sustainable ministry.
What if the context of church growth was removed from the arena of increasing attendance and financial support? What if church growth is really about growing consciousness, ownership, organizational integrity, emotional and spiritual maturity, accountability, and personal responsibility? What if our church growth strategies are more about transforming the lives of the people we already have in our ministry rather than trying to get new faces among our ranks?
I think that the drive to fund our ministries has distracted us from our most powerful fundraising tool: a transformed life is the greatest resource we have to funding our ministries. The myth is that more people will equate into more support. Yet, the opposite is the reality. More people, more expense.
Jane and I have the perspective that when the mission of the church is focused on transforming the lives of those in the room there is an energetic shift among community members. We are witnessing an very interesting phenomenon here at Unity Spiritual Center. As many of you know, we have launched a community-wide initiative to bring our entire congregation into a shared experience of shadow integration. This is crucial because one of the biggest unresolved issues in the ministry is the sense of not enough.
Our program is called The Q Process™. We now have over 145 people (including our entire Board) through the program. By this time next year, our entire congregation will have acquired a common tool for personal transformation. Next year, we will also launch Q Process™ Mastery Circles. These will be small family groups of Q Process™ alumni that will meet routinely to deepen and enhance their understanding and practice of the Q Process™. We will also launch Q Process™ Prosperity groups and Q Process™ Weight Loss groups, each incorporating shadow work as a means of birthing a new identity surrounding money and body image issues.
As word has gotten out that this is what Unity Spiritual Center is up to (shadow work and transforming lives) we have experienced an influx of returning congregants and newbies who are reporting that they are being “drawn” to our ministry. People are reporting that the energy within the community is changing. People are hanging around before and after church much longer that has been the custom. We actually have to call people in from our fellowship area so we can start services on time. During our in-service meet and greet, it now takes us nearly 10 minutes to return to order before our offertory. All of these are “signs” that people are engaged in each other’s lives and their connections matter.
Shifts in consciousness along with reaching new tipping points within the community with respect to shadow integration has translated into more financial support finding its way into our storehouse. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of individuals coming in to see Jane and me for personal coaching (not counseling), not around how to resolve issues, but how to use the Q Process™ to be who they have come here to be.
Of course, its not all about the Q. We have a very robust chaplaincy and prayer ministry, and lots of elderly folks needing visitation and support. In addition we also have a very active social action ministry that proudly serves our greater community in the area of feeding and clothing the homeless. The healthier our congregation becomes, the more it wants to give and be of service. So sweet to witness!
Soon we will launch our Emotional and Spiritual Development program based on the Guidebook (by the same name) available from Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM). It will consist of foundational classes that will comprise the educational piece of the first phase of our membership process. In addition, we will be using the Spiritual Gifts Assessment and Sacred Service Guidebooks to launch our service component of the membership system. These guidebooks are also available free from UWM (low cost to non-Unity leaders). There are seven guidebooks and facilitation materials available for easy download. Every ministry should download all of these resources as they are very well written and easily used as implementation guides. If you are CSL, you only pay $30 per guidebook. In addition to the guidebooks I have mentioned above, get the Welcoming System as well. Together, these resources will enhance your established programs or bring existing programs into greater effectiveness and impact. And, did I mention that they are FREE (to Unity) or CHEAP (to CSL or other New Thought leaders)?