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Small Churches Can Grow


By Dr. Royal Speidel 

The average age of the congregation was 58, and worship attendance had plateaued for the last five years ending 2011 with 97. The HCI Consultation Team gave the church five prescriptions to work on. 

Prescription 1

The first prescription called for the church to accept “The making of new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” as its mission statement. The church created as its vision motto: “Connect, Grow, Serve,” which calls for people to connect with God through worship, grow in Jesus Christ through small groups, and serve the church and the world.

Prescription 2

Addressing the age of the congregation called for the creation of a Young Families/Youth Leadership Team. The goal was to attract young families by creating programs that would attract youth and children.
Gary retired in 2013, and Pastor Charlene Dart was appointed to begin on June 30, 2013. Gary had begun a Facebook page for the church, and Charlene found a young adult within the congregation to update it. Also to attract younger families, Charlene’s husband, Dan, dramatically expanded the churches website.
As a newly appointed pastor, Charlene wisely developed the trust of the congregation immediately by actively making home visits.     
She also showed deep pastoral care by literally staying up all night with a person suffering from stage four cancer. When laity witness the self-giving of their high commitment pastor, they will run through walls to support the work of Jesus Christ in their church.
After a strong stewardship program for 2014, the Pastor Parish Relationship Committee voted to provide funds for a Children’s Director and a Youth Director starting in January, 2014.
Home school families are using the facilities of Cassidy once a week, so Charlene offered to lead them in devotions. They accepted, and some of those families are becoming members of the church. 

Prescription 3

Worship Attendance was addressed, and it grew to 104 in 2012. During 2012 the church began to use the sanctuary screen for worship enhancements, and upon her appointment Pastor Dart used it to make her sermons more effective. She also created a Worship Team, and the trustees added a very bright and helpful “Welcome” sign with the UMC logo at the parking lot sanctuary entrance. 
Charlene added a second Christmas Eve service, and then she hand delivered fifty invitations to the upscale Fremont Hills homes near the church with another two hundred being mailed first class. Worship attendance doubled from 108 in 2012 to 220 in 2013.

Prescription 4

Intentional Faith Development was a concern to retain the weekly first time guests, which was averaging slightly less than one per week. Pastor Gary began a few new small groups, and Pastor Charlene has been building on that. They had six small groups doing an Adam Hamilton study for Advent.
Charlene had a Pizza with the Pastor in December, which resulted in twenty-nine new members joining the church in January with three baptisms. 

Prescription 5

Community connections was the final area for the church to work on. About thirty people attend a free Thursday evening meal open to the community. Many of these folks have joined the church. Serve ’13 had about 20 out in the community doing service projects. The church finished an excellent self-organized, self-photo’d and self-published pictorial directory in December.

Bottom Line

The Simple Church authors claim that only 2% of American churches experience 5% growth annually over a three year period. Cassidy grew in worship attendance by 7% from 97 (2011) to 104 (2012).  Worship numbers increased 11% to 115 for 2013. The 2013 fourth quarter average was 140, so it is highly likely 2014 will be another year of at least 5% growth, which would put Cassidy into the top 2% category of American churches. 

Dr. Royal Speidel is a retired UMC pastor, who became a Pastoral Leadership Development and a Healthy Church Initiative coach in the MO Conference in 
2009. Prior to that he served on the General Board 
of Discipleship in Nashville for six years.