Churches across various denominations in the Arkansas River Valley, as well as others around the world, seek to define indicators of healthy church growth. Expert resources, such as Ron Edmondson, Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington Kentucky , and Thom Rainer, President and CEO at Lifeway Christian Resources, share ways to pinpoint the progress and health of any church.
Ron Edmondson, with more than 30 years of leadership experience, received a master’s degree in Counseling from Luther Rice University, and another master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Eastern University. Edmondson’s education, coupled with more than 10 years experience in full-time ministry, helped him plant two new churches, and restart another church. Edmondson was recognized for two years in a row in 2013 and 2014 as one of the 100 fastest growing churches in United States. He currently leads a church that has experienced 250% growth rate in less than three years.
In his article, “7 Leadership Paradigms Needed for Church Growth,” he explains that churches wanting to experience healthy growth should begin by leading with leaders, who embrace change and build healthy teams. Healthy churches pour life into leadership teams who capitalize on momentum. In addition, church leaders must refuel often, and then re-engage. When leaders are drowning in the immediate demands and needs of the present, they cannot effectively lead their church into new opportunities for growth.
While effective leadership remains essential to the growth of any church or organization, church members must also take be willing to follow these leaders. When members of the congregation fail to step out of their comfort zones, fail to see the vision, and fail to take risks, church growth inevitably stops. A healthy church always welcomes change, even when the change is difficult.
Expert Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also served in many different capacities in the Evangelistic community, such as being the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evengelism. For fifteen years, he led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, where he provided church health insights to more than 500 churches and organizations.
In an effort to explain why most churches do not move beyond 350 people, Rainer states that churches do not have sufficient leadership and structures in place to handle the growth. As the numbers increase, so does the organizational complexity. Many churches are unwilling to embrace the changes necessary to coincide with such complex structures.
Not only do healthy and growing churches welcome change, but sometimes they must also battle outside negativity from those who may not understand the changes taking place within the church. As a church begins to grow, numbers in attendance and offerings typically increase. As this happens, churches may receive skepticism and criticism from outside sources for exploding growth. However, healthy and growing churches choose to ignore these generalizations and keep moving forward.