It’s easy to get focused on the numbers. It’s our natural tendency to equate bigger and better. Yet we all know that numerical growth really isn’t what the church is all about. It’s about growing spiritually. Yet even a big church can create a personal, intimate environment that fosters deeper relationships with one another and with Christ. How? By thinking small. Churches tend to focus on their large Sunday morning gatherings, but the seeds of church growth are often nurtured in smaller groups that help relationships go deep.
This is fresh on my mind since I attended a men’s retreat this past weekend. Same routine as normal— average attendance, good messages and great camaraderie. You know—guy stuff. But there was something different. I was pre-assigned to a small group for break-outs, and no one in my group was a familiar face (gasp). So here I am, forced to begin a dialogue with peers I have no perceived connection with, being asked to share a piece of my life.
But by the end of the weekend I found that some amazing things had happened. Because I was forced to get outside my normal ministry group, I encountered some new perspectives. This small group of men represented life experiences that I wouldn’t have learned from had we not been in this situation. I probably wouldn’t have experienced this had I been in a large sanctuary filled with eager souls rather than with my motley crew of four men from different walks of life.
I walked away thinking about how this simple weekend experience could have impact in churches across the world, regardless of their size. Here are a couple points that emerged for me.
Deep and Wide
It’s healthy to want to touch more people’s lives. An increase in attendance numbers is the most obvious measurement of Wide church growth. But don’t discount what is just as significant growing Deep. It’s important to measure church growth in terms of spiritual discipleship—going deeper in relationship with each other and with Christ. This is something that is most easily accomplished in a smaller, more personal environment where you share one to one (or one to a few).
Forget the stereotypes: Men want relationships too!
“What does that have to do with church growth?” you ask. Simple. When men have fellowship with other godly men, they begin to deal with issues more soundly. They are challenged to grow in their faith. And as the man grows in faith and discipline, his family is likely to follow. End result—church growth occurs as each man goes deeper with his family and with his brothers in Christ. And you know what? Men actually enjoy spending time with other men. We were made that way. We were made in God’s image to have fellowship with Him and one another (Genesis 1:27).
Comfort – (synonym: Complacent)
When I got out of my comfort zone with my new Band of Brothers, I experienced the retreat a little differently than had I just been with the same old group of friends. I grew in areas that perhaps weren’t being addressed by my current peer group and that I hadn’t thought to address on my own.
So what’s my takeaway? Going deep requires more organization, volunteer recruitment, planning for thought-provoking content and an atmosphere that’s conducive to sharing, but can you see how thinking small about all facets of ministry—especially your men’s fellowship—can help your church grow Deep and Wide? This retreat was just a small example of that effect.
How has your church fostered Deep and Wide church growth?