Eldership and GrowthFeb 06, 2024
Responding to a Reader with Ten Questions on the Topics of Eldership and Growth
I recently responded to questions provided by a church leader facing the challenge of evolving his church from a "small family/community church" to a "much larger, moving-toward-regional church."
For those of you who might be facing similar challenges, I thought I might share my responses ...
- What is your current adult attendance for corporate worship? The church I served didn’t calculate an average for adults only. At one point, the current “average weekly attendance” is 1,773, with 1,300 to 1,400 of that being adults. We did have "goals" in the Strategic Plan that broke out Adults, Kids, and Students separately.
- What is your current number of elders? The church's Leadership Team (Eldership), during my time on staff, was five in total, including the Senior Pastor. There were four others from inside the congregation. The Bylaws stated that the church may have one from outside the congregation, as well.
- What is your current number of pastoral staff? During my tenure, the church had 15 full-time pastoral staff.
- What is your current model for how the staff and elders function together – staff led; elder led; staff led/elder protected, policy governance, or some other model? The church was staff-led using Carver Policy Governance. At one point, there was only 1 “committee” chartered by the eldership. That was a Finance Team.
- In a sentence or two, how does your current model work for you? It worked great!
- How often do the elders meet? Quarterly as stated in the Bylaws.
- What is the agenda for those meetings? The senior pastor did a “state of the church,” including any staff issues that were on the table. We reviewed our Key Performance Measures (KPMs) and financials as well. Any proposed spending outside the approved budget was also discussed.
- Describe the role/function of your elders in a sentence or two. As a staff-led church using Carver Policy Governance, the Leadership Team defines the “ends” of the organization while the staff defines the “means.” They’re concerned with “where” the church is headed and whether or not it's staying on mission. The senior pastor, with the rest of the staff reporting to him and me, was responsible for “how” we were getting there.
- When did you pass the 1,000 attendance barrier? The church averaged 1,091 in attendance in 2006. In July of that year, the church moved from a movie theater to the first of 2 buildings on a 19-acre campus. That helped the church grow past 1,000. That was the biggest growth year in the church's history, growing 230 in average weekly attendance over the previous year (2005).
- What were your biggest challenges in breaking that growth barrier, and how did you overcome them? The biggest challenge was taking on a significant amount of debt to buy land and build out the first building. It continued to be a challenge after opening the second building with a 1,000-seat (max.) venue in June 2009. Assuming you’re asking more about challenges related to breaking the 1,000 barrier, I would say the church never actually faced the preverbal “1,000 attendance barrier.” I think this was due to the beginning of a building program in 2004 (capital campaign, land search, master planning, etc.), anticipating facing a barrier in the movie theater. Moving on to the new property in July of 2006 was, as it turns out, perfect timing relative to growing beyond 1,000.