As a church we must grow smaller. Our church has more people attending on Sundays, more home groups, more ethnic diversity, more age groups and more ministries than before. And we have grown rapidly. Before our merger, Blanchard and Living Water had a combined Sunday attendance of 450–500. This past month we had an average attendance of over 700. Growth creates buzz and a sense of momentum. But there is a dark side of growth as well.
Growth always brings growing pains. Our leadership, both lay and staff, feel stretched as the same pool of leaders serve more people. Children’s ministry leaders feel stretched to serve more children. Building maintenance staff struggle with the increased usage of the building. Home group leaders wrestle to enfold new members to their groups without compromising the intimacy and trust that have been built. Youth ministry leaders wrestle to build a sense of cohesion among different groups. College ministry leaders struggle to create space for real intimacy and community with the hundreds of students attending our church. Long time members of the church can feel lost and disconnected from a church that had felt like home. People can feel stretched thin and overwhelmed — like a little bit of butter spread over too much bread.
What can we do? Rapid growth is not unprecedented. The early church grew from 120 to 3000 overnight (Acts 2:41). But the early church also knew that the key to grow larger is to grow smaller; “and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes”, they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42, 46). Their rapid growth in numbers was sustained by growing smaller, meeting, praying, learning and growing together in homes. Churches must always flex as they experience growth; see more on this topic by Tim Keller in this excellent article.
The key to sustain growth is to grow smaller in home groups. If we do not grow smaller in home groups, then church simply feels like a cold organization. As we grow smaller in home groups, church not only becomes a Sunday habit but a formative part of our lives. We share together, pray for one another and grow together most effectively in home groups. Because of home groups, we are missed when we are gone, and we are stretched to grow together.
Let us keep the home in home groups. Let us keep our home groups as safe places to go through the messy process of growth. Let us confess our sins to one another and pray for one another to be healed. Let us challenge one another in God’s Word to grow to be more like Christ. And let us love one another.