Effective Churches

Earlier this year our Conference Lay Leader, Ellen Harris and I participated in a conversation, with Jurisdictional leaders on what makes for an effective congregation.

What are some of the main characteristic of a growing, effective church? I thought they devised a fascinating list. How does your congregation embody, or conflict with, these characteristic?

EFFECTIVE CONGREGATIONS:

  1. Love their particularly community. Their pastors have found a way not only to love their congregations but also their neighborhood. Effective pastors help their congregations move beyond love of themselves, turning their congregations outward.
  2. Rise above mere contentment with things as they are and do what is necessary to expect and welcome change, disruption, and movement, similar to that of the Risen Christ.
  3. Find a way to welcome the stranger and to practice radical hospitality in the name of Jesus Christ. They find a way to be as interested in those who have yet to join the church as those already in the church.
  4. Have a clear sense of their primary purpose and keep focused on their primary God-given missions.
  5. Enable lay leaders to lead, not just manage. Lay leadership that feels a strong sense of responsibility for the future of their congregation.
  6. All have a strong, change oriented, gifted pastor.
  7. Make growth a priority and figure out how to grow.
  8. Keep focused upon Jesus Christ as the originator of, and the purpose for the church (rather than church as just another human oriented institution).

How does your church answer to these qualities of effective churches? What specific steps would your congregation need to take to live into the future in a different way?

William H. Willimon

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16 thoughts on “Effective Churches

  1. Not being a member of your conference, I was wondering how I could get a link to this report. This may not be possible. But there are issues here that I would love to reflect upon with the leaders in our church.

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  2. In my haste I should have noticed that this was a CONVERSATION…not a REPORT…sorry. I still think it is a good bases for reflection although. Thanks for sharing it.

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  3. Looking at that list was there any thought to prioritization, or do they all just come as a package?While I would hate to see cults of personality, point #8 would seem to be the bedrock with #6 being the incarnational example that enables the rest.Of course that means the church needs to get very serious about recruiting, training, paying and keeping those strong, change oriented and gifted pastors. Who is on the bus matters, and we neglected that for way too long.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I think that my church embodies many of these traits and I continue to ponder how it is possible to replicate these traits in other churches. I am quite sure that these accurately describe effective congregations, but this cannot be the end of the story. What’s next? How does a leader, team or congregation actually live out these characteristics?Qualities are good, but without how to get there it may be disheartening and demoralizing.Andrew Conard

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  5. It’s my view that all of the points mentioned, which all churches do some well but probably not all churches can do all well, fall within the five pillars of the traditional church establishment: Worship, preaching/teaching, evangelism, missions and fellowship. I think God would be pleased with a body that can hang on to the traditional biblical faith while at the same time allowing, what seems to me to be trends, to come and go.

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  7. Thanks for your insights. I’d be curious what you’d say are the roles of district, DS, Bishop, conference offices, and denominational offices in this strategy. I’d love to see a reformation of our beloved institution that didn’t look like a Big 3 implosion! But receiving the GCFA Financial Commitment 2009-2012 it appears we are best positioned to “do what we’ve always done.” How might we quickly reorient the whole denomination toward effective local ministry as the priority?

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  8. dear bishop willimon,i don’t know any other way to contact you, so i am going to leave my message here. i was reading your message delivered at duke on 5/4/1997 entitled “command to love” and found out it is incomplete. i am, however, very curious about what came up in your mind as you drove home. could you drop me a note and let me know at godisapoet@gmail.com? thanks a million. wesley

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