I am growing a bit tired and honestly put out with the number of "10 things your church is doing wrong"or "10 things that are driving young people away from your church" articles. The one I read today named things like which doors you unlock, using last names from the pulpit, and dreaming. Really?
To be honest with you, our church probably fails many of the strategies of the church gurus. It irritates me to even consider that methods are really at the heart of why a church succeeds or fails. Isn't that a bit man-centered? Now, don't get me wrong - we are very concerned about doing things excellently, in order, beautifully, etc.; but this is not really why our church has consistently grown and thrived in our 14 years of existence.
I read the reasons young people are leaving the church and am thankful for the young people staying and actually coming to our church. I read about making "this effective" and "that effective" and how to "dream" and let young people have a voice, yada, yada, yada.
This really isn't the heart of the matter. You can follow all of these articles to the "t" and people walk right out the back door. The element that I believe makes the difference between people staying, going, coming, etc. is Passion for the Lord especially in the leaders.
Passion for the Lord is contagious. Like a magnet, believers are drawn to those who are drawn to the Lord. "Follow me as I follow Christ". Passion for the Lord isn't just emotion. The "for the Lord" part comes out in very real ways - especially an emphasis on preaching/teaching the exact context of what God is saying and an emphasis on walking with Him closely. This is the target of passion - wanting what He is saying and wanting to be with Him.
But, this is turning into another "10 things article"! You can't fake passion for the Lord. It rises out of dependency, insufficiency, lack of brilliance, lack of ideas, etc. --- it is when you need the Lord so very much that He shows Himself strong. I am convinced that believers are drawn to this sort of "abiding" philosophy in a church. Lighthouse has grown over the years because people are drawn with passion to the Lord. It is real and the greatest reason in my opinion why people are coming and staying. It has little to do with programs and nothing to do with "10 things".
Another issue that I have with these articles is the assumption that it is the Lord's will that you have a growing (#) church. Yes, I said that. The Lord calls us to be faithful in our churches - not numerically successful. Some of the most healthy and faithful ministries that I know are churches under 100 people. Faithful churches are different sizes, and that's ok - that is God's will. Our church is in a geographical area with thousands and thousands of people. We have great East Coast traffic and visitors every Sunday. We have hundreds of visitors per year. We have much more opportunity to add people than a church that is "in the sticks". It is not helpful for a church who has lesser opportunities for traffic and growth to focus on their perceived failures. These articles seem to just make pastors feel more insufficient and failing.
We have been privileged for the Lord to grow our church - but I see no miracle "10 things". Yes - work hard; yes - do things excellently; yes - plan; yes - keep up to date; yes - consider age groups etc. Mostly though, be passionate for the Lord and faithful in your church. To me, this is much better (and more simple) than the latest "10 things" someone has dreamed up. Can God use this in a thriving way? He has in our church.