One of the truisms of Ministerial Transitions is that everyone...ministers and laypeople...take a minister's skills and preferences for granted. Therefore a search committee is likely to look especially hard for the skills and preferences the last minister didn't have, assuming that "everyone" has the skills the last minister did have. So when Rev. Johnson, the world's most caring pastor, retires, a search committee goes out looking for someone who is a little more comfortable with teens. They assume that all ministers love doing pastoral care, and even when they have a candidate who says that's not her thing, she's inclined to spend her time creating a really good youth program, the committee doesn't hear it. And six months later, when the honeymoon is over, the people of the church are adjusting (hopefully) to their new minister, learning to better take care of themselves, telling their new pastor that they want her to pay more attention to the elderly shut-ins, which the minister is hopefully meeting them halfway on. Everyone looks back to realize that they had been making assumptions.
The ministers at the Growth Consultation didn't have much in the way of "nuts and bolts" of growth to discuss. We talked about vision, love, spirituality, and other vast topics. That may say something about a ministerial skill required to grow a church; grand and vast thinking. It may say something about this particular group which didn't include ministers who imagine that they have the one and only growth plan for everyone. But it may also say something about skills and preferences this group was taking for granted. Maybe we didn't want to talk about nuts and bolts of growth because some of those nuts and bolts are too obvious to bring up in an august group of colleagues.
For instance, I have a feeling that growing churches collect data. They know how many people are in church on any Sunday, how many members, children, and teens there are. They know something about the trends they are dealing with. They know how many visitors they have.
(We have, for instance, seen a marked increase in visitors since the Time Ad campaign out.)
Now, nobody mentioned data-keeping as a technology of growth. Too dull. Too obvious. But I know that not every minister insists on keeping and using data like this. We didn't talk about how we convert visitors to members, although I'd lay my money that every church represented had a method of doing that. We did talk briefly about how we assimilate members and help them find their own ministry in the church, in the context of staffing....many growing churches have Membership and Social Justice coordinators, and I'm so jealous. Somehow we limp by with neither. (actually with those functions spread amongst staff and volunteers.)
Perhaps those listening, who kept commenting that this was a very different discussion than they often heard amongst ministers, are better able to figure out what we were taking for granted, and that will be a very interesting report.