I had imagined, as had the organizers of this growth consultation, that each of the ministers would have pet programs to share, tips about how to grow, and firm opinions about what had done the trick. This worried me because I wasn't sure what I'd say. I've got an interesting program going on now; our development of branches in small towns, but that has not yet been a very large factor in our growth. My church gets great marks for openness to newcomers and willingness to restructure, but we have not done anything to create growth, and which of the things we've done in the name of good ministry that have caused growth..well, who can say?
The session devoted to nuts and bolts was on the agenda but it turned out that most of the participants felt about like I did, and the conversation at that session turned to love. Our love for our churches, for this denomination, for our work. We all agreed on how key that was. Some of us told stories of our call to our churches that bordered on mystical. When called back to nuts and bolts, we mostly talked about worship, spiritual programming such as covenant groups (and Ken, do tell them about your month of gratitude!). There was some talk about the importance of staff work and how unprepared we all felt for the growing task of supervision, and how this always fraught subject is nearly impossible in our UU World. But then we returned to the relationship between minister and congregation.
I wondered what kind of a consultation this would have been if lay leaders have been invited, and if I were following up on this, I'd invite groups of lay people from churches which have grown to a special lunch at, GA, or the Large or Medium Sized church conferences. I'd feed them well, tell them how special and wonderful they are , and ask some of the same questions. I have a feeling they'd have an entirely different perspective.
They'd talk about good preaching much more than we ministers did, I'm sure, (it was a remarkably un-braggy group) but beyond that, I'm not so sure, and I think it's important to know.
What about it, lay readers of this blog? If your church has grown over the past five years, what has caused that growth? What do you think people come for and what keeps them? What has your hard work been devoted to and why have you done it?