There are some inherent blessings to serving on staff at a growing church. The energy and excitement are high as you are privileged to see new people coming to faith, new families being served, and new people being connected. The growth creates momentum and helps cover up mistakes that are more noticeable when you are not in a growing context. John Maxwell says, “Momentum makes leaders look better than they actually are. It exaggerates all their strengths. Momentum covers a multitude of mistakes. Without momentum, people magnify the flaws of their leaders.”
At the same time, there are some immense challenges to leading a growing church. Here are three common challenges in navigating the growth of a local church:
1. Unmet expectations
Whenever a church grows, there will be unmet expectations. There will be people who have been in the church who will struggle as the church communicates differently. There will be people who feel slighted, as the senior pastor is unable to perform every wedding and be at every hospital visit. A wise pastor once told me that for many people the church should always be the size it was when they first joined. In other words, in the minds of many people, the church should still function like the church did when they joined.
Unmet expectations create challenges as leaders wrestle with the struggle of disappointing people. Loving leaders stay focused on the health of the entire flock while pursuing and caring for those who are struggling.
2. Growth outpacing the number of leaders being developed
When a church grows quickly, the challenge of leadership development is constant. The temptation to merely put people in a position of leadership is difficult to resist because you really do need new leaders—and now. There are more people to care for, more people to serve and shepherd.
Wise leaders have learned from the mistake of merely filling leadership slots, and they want to provide godly and loving leaders for the new people. Wise leaders prepare for the growth by developing and deploying faithful leaders.
3. Giving lagging behind the growth
Typically it takes many months for new people to get connected to a church, own the ministry and mission of the church, and start giving. So as a church starts to grow, it is highly likely that she will be serving more and more people without proportional financial support. In other words, the new giving always lags behind the new growth. The challenge is to offer increasing ministry without the same level of increasing funds.
The leadership challenge is to operate the ministry in a savvy way, providing more care and ministry without additional funds while simultaneously challenging people to give generously because Christ has given Himself for us.