Thanks to the dozens of you who attempted to answer the brain twister posted on Facebook. Although no one got all of the elements correct, many of you got at least part of it right. So let me share with you what I would want to tell this church. I’ll summarize it for our use and I will put the brain twister at the end of this post.

The church made one of the most basic mistakes a church can make – it built without adding staff and without adding adequate parking space. Usually when a church moves into a new worship center, worship attendance jumps 20-30 percent.  But because they didn’t have enough staff to disciple new people and because they under-built the parking, within 18 months the attendance dropped back to where it was.

  1. Within the next 12 months add the equivalent of two full-time program/pastoral staff.

The rule of thumb in a mainline church is the equivalent of one full-time staff person per 100-125 people in worship.  If the church has a good small group system in place, that ratio can go as high as one to five hundred. But this church did not have a small group system.  So that means the church is short one and a half to two full-time program/pastoral staff.

A church this size really doesn’t need an associate. Associates are too expensive and laypeople can be trained to do visitation with the exception of the new visitors. Either the pastor or someone under the age of 45 who is paid part-time should visit first-time guests.  The worship leader should be made full time and the choir director should be reduced to ¼ time.  It is also doubtful if a church this size needs a full-time Youth Director – only if the church runs 150 different youth in average attendance during a full week. So ideally what you should do is reduce the Youth Director to part time.

There are also too many people in the office.  A church this size doesn’t need two full-time secretaries and someone in finance.  So I would let one secretary go and have the remaining secretary cover all the staff and train volunteers to answer the phone and take care of other odds and ends.

When all is done, here is what I would recommend for this church – a lead pastor, a full-time worship leader, a part-time choir director, a part-time youth director, and a full-time children’s director.  This equals four full-time people.  Then I would add two people to oversee three ministries at the moment which, as the church grows, would be hived off into three full-time staff people – outreach to attract new people, small groups, and servant evangelism (how this would be divided up depends on each one’s gifts).  Now the four core processes are covered.  By eliminating and reducing some staff, the additional two staff people will not be prohibitive.

  1. Within six months, add 200 parking spaces.  The church can do this because they own 20 acres.  The rule of thumb here is one parking space for every two people on the property at the peak hours.
  2. Move the 8:00 service to 8:30, move the 10:30 service to 10:00, and move Sunday School to 10:00 with worship for children and youth.  10:00 is now the number one time for worship in the U.S., and the new worship center will seat 800 people so they won’t need a third service at the moment.  There will be some pushback on this because some families want their children with them in worship.

This is the goal I would shoot for when I arrived at the church. However, nothing is ever perfect, so I would have to evaluate how much of the above I can recommend.  I would have this as my bottom line – add the parking and add at least one staff person for outreach, small groups, and servant evangelism or continue to decline.

Here is the Brain Twister

Here’s a brain twister for pastors who want to grow their church. I will have to give this church a response next week. What would you tell them to do?

  1. They are at 499 in worship including adults, youth, and children.
  2. They have 100 parking spaces and people come to church with 2.0 people per car.
  3. They have two services, one at 8:00 with 100 (Traditional) and the other at 10:30 with 399 people (contemporary).
  4. Sunday School is at 9:15 in the morning.
  5. They have four full-time pastoral/program staff people – lead pastor; associate pastor responsible for picking up after the pastor and doing visitation to shut-ins, new visitors, and hospitals; director of children’s ministry and youth director.  They have two full-time secretaries, a half-time choir director, a quarter-time worship leader, and a half-time person in finances.

The church just moved into its first permanent location and grew from 400 to 558 in the first three months, but a year later it is back down to 510 in worship.

Question: What’s wrong with this picture and what you tell them they need to do? Share any additional ideas to solve this church’s dilemma in the Comments section below.

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