I have been reading a lot of church profiles lately. A church profile is the information a church puts together to "sell" itself to potential clergy.
What I find is that a lot of churches are looking for ways to grow their congregation. This is justified if we look at the way congregational numbers continue to drop. We may see some growth in the mega-churches, but even that trend seems to be waning. So with so many people lamenting the lack of church growth, and not having a huge die-off in potential church attenders, we must be doing something wrong in how we are the church to the world.
I think most people who say that they want to "grow the church" are looking for some technique that will bring people "in the doors." Frankly, I think this is totally wrong. When we get to thoughts like this, we become a commodity, just like anything else in society. When we try to come up with a technique to lure people in, we are saying more about our faith than we are saying about the changes in society.
Growing a vibrant has to do with the congregations understanding of just what it means to be a congregation. How is a congregation different than The Rotary, or The Junior League? If people are looking for community, they can find it with the little league parents or with the dance moms; why do they need to come to church? If we cannot come up with a convincing answer for ourselves, we will never come up with a convincing answer for someone else.
Often, I think congregations become just that, a way to socialize. Not that finding a group with whom to socialize is bad! But when your whole focus is on prying into all the "good gossip" of a particular group, well, there are some problems. If we cannot see how congregational affiliation changes our life, then we cannot advocating for it changing others' lives. If we do not feel that it has been a blessing to us, we will not want to share that blessing to others. To me, it sounds simple. But I would think to others, this is not a path of thought that has been much traveled.
I think to "grow the church" we need to "grow the faith of those present." When evangelism become something that we just can't help but do, then we are on our way. We do this all the time! "Oh! You HAVE to see Lincoln! It is just the BEST movie!" "The BEST beaches are found on the Jersey coast! You need to plan a vacation there!" We do it all the time, why don't we do it with our faith? Are we less excited about our faith than the latest blockbuster movie?