I was reading an article on Healthy Churches. It was interesting that the observation of what leads to being unhealthy are two characteristics; Churches are too busy. And, Church members are too busy. The question I ask as a pastor is this: Since it is important to cultivate a culture of transformational discipleship, and yet not over busy Church members, where should the greatest emphases be placed?
Last fall two things were prioritized: The encouragement to meditate, memorize and integrate the Word of God. That in part is being addressed through the approach with the Sunday Morning messages, and the Weekly Memorization Scripture, as well as the continued encouragement to be involved in a Bible Study. And secondly, to encourage the growth of small groups. This year we began Small Group Training, and have in fact experienced a growth in the number of small groups being offered at Sanctuary.
What was fascinating, is that in the article on Healthy Churches by Thom S. Rainer, those were exactly the two most important listing of common practices in healthy churches. Here is an excerpt:
- The church strongly encourages its members to read the Bible daily. Brad Waggoner, in his excellent book, The Shape of Faith to Come, provides excellent research toward this reality. When Christians read their Bibles every day, they are more likely to share their God moments, reach out to the community, pray, give to the church, and be a unifying force in the congregation. The healthy churches do not simply say members should read their Bibles, they are highly intentional and strategic about helping the members toward that end. It is not a one-and-done emphasis. It is a part of the DNA of the church, and the emphasis and encouragement is redundant and persistent.
- The church has an incredibly strong emphasis on groups. Choose the name that best fits your context: community groups, Sunday school, life groups, small groups, home groups, or others. Drop-out rates are five times higher for those in worship only, versus those who also are involved in a group. Groups provide three incredible dynamics for members: they increase stickiness or assimilation; they provide community; and they are instruments of accountability.
As I reflect on this, I realize it is not the mere existence of groups or emphases on Bible daily reading that are the differentiating factors in healthy churches. Rather, it is that we need to be strategic about these two vital areas and determined to move all members to these two important habits. While I am certain that we can take steps to be more effective in doing this, it was at least affirming to know that we are headed in a right direction.
That being said: Please know you are both invited and encouraged to sit in on the Small Group Training Session being held this Sunday, April 7th; 11:45 a.m. – in the lounge. It will last only one hour.
Come and be a part of keeping Sanctuary “a healthy church”.
Pastor Jim Carver