One of the best things about getting older is the lessons learned along the way.  Let me share the biggest lesson I learned.  It’s so simple but it’s what makes life exciting and productive.  Here it is: “The more you risk, the greater the possible return.”

I’m convinced that the main reason so many churches are in decline is because Pastors aren’t willing to take big risks. That leads to lay people who are afraid to risk. It might be out of fear for what might happen or because we’re gutless wonders or because we don’t listen to God enough. Whatever the reason, I’m seeing too many pastors who, instead of taking the big risk, head for the easiest, most comfortable way forward. And that always leads to failure.

Let me tell you about the biggest risk I ever took.

I’ve told you I took a church that had declined from 249 to 37 people by the time I became their pastor. The church hadn’t paid its mortgage in three years  and I didn’t get paid the first twelve months. Well, this is where the risk came in. We canvased 2,000 doors over an eight month period and asked one question, “What is it you need from the churches in your area that you aren’t getting?” One out of six households had the same response -“We need quality childcare.” Remember the 1970’s. Mothers were going to work outside the home in record numbers and they needed a quality place for the young child while they were at work.

We took those 2000 interviews to the bank we hadn’t paid in three years and said, “We need to borrow 2,000 dollars.” The president of the bank said “Why should we loan you any more money?” I whipped out the interviews and said, “Here is our business plan. We want to start a Christian weekday childcare ministry.” He took one look at the summary of the 2,000 interviews and asked, “Is 2,000 enough?”

Twenty-four years later over 900 children a day took part in our weekday child care.  And seven percent of the parents joined our church every year.  We took a huge risk and were rewarded many times over.

Now there’s the lesson within the lesson that’s more important than the lesson – thriving congregations care more for what their community needs than what the church needs. If you want your church to thrive, you need to turn your focus on the community and ask “How can we best serve our community and at the same time introduce them to Jesus Christ?

Question: How have risks you’ve taken for your church been rewarded? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.