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Potential for Church Growth
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Most pastors and first elders (57%) in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the U.S. believe that their local church has unlimited or nearly unlimited potential for growth. Just one in ten (11%) sees no potential for growth, while a third (32%) are uncertain.

Is this a realistic assessment? Most local churches do not, according to other data, experience significant growth. Most are located outside of metropolitan areas in small towns and rural places where there is little likelihood of future growth. There are several possible explanations for this overly optimistic response.

1. Pastors and lay leaders may think that they are expected to see potential for growth in their churches. They may feel disloyal if they say there is little or no potential. It is possible that there is a significant “halo effect” in these data. (The “halo effect” is the well-documented tendency for people to answer poll questions about desirable behaviors in the positive much beyond the real levels of these behaviors.)
2. Pastors and lay leaders may feel that there is a lot of potential for growth and that their local church is stymied by lack of resources or other barriers to growth.

3. Taken at the most basic level, these data suggest that there is a widespread problem accurately assessing the potential for church growth. It is possible that many pastors and local churches simply do not have an accurate view of their situation. Maybe there is a need for better information made available to local churches.

Discussion Questions:

1. What do you see is the potential of our congregation for real growth? Is it no potential, some potential or unlimited potential?

2. Do we have good information about our situation from which to make an accurate assessment of our potential for church growth?

3. Should we seek the help of a consultant or resource organization that can give us a more accurate assessment of our potential?

If this newsletter has stimulated your curiosity about research done in local churches, the Adventist Congregations Today book and CD-R and Faith Communities Today (FACT) would give you additional insight.

Paul Richardson
Executive Director
Center for Creative Ministry

Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, August 30, 2006, Center for Creative Ministry