June 8-14 , 2009
The company I started some years ago to coach and advise corporations, organizations and congregations is named Growth +. The reason or that name is also the mission of the company and is to focus these groups on the areas of their operations that influence and develop their plans for the future.
In interviews over the years with key players in these groups I have always asked the question, "What is your group’s attitude about growth? Corporations and companies generally respond with positive comments about their plans for growth; they are mainly concerned with growth in size and income.
Organizations aren’t concerned with number growth as much, but have more focus on the growth of their programs and their impact on their clients. In these two groups there is nearly 100 percent agreement that they must grow to achieve their mission.
In congregations, you will get positive comments about growth from some leaders, but the vast majority will "hedge" comments about growth because they are thinking numbers not personal growth. Many will tell you why they can’t grow and rationalize their thinking by saying that growth isn’t the real goal of the congregation.
Let me qualify that statement a little more. The congregations that are positive about growth are generally non-denominational evangelicals or denominational congregations that are already growing! In other words those that say they are unsure about the importance of growth ---- are the ones that don’t understand growth and don’t believe they can grow and are on a downward path!
How big a concern is this? It’s huge! In the ELCA it’s over half of the congregations in the church, in some other denominations it’s even higher!
What’s the answer? I wish there was a "one size fits all" solution that would make these congregation’s challenges go away, but there just isn’t one. Each one of these thousands of congregations have different obstacles to overcome. But there is one issue that can be solved with one simple action that every one of these congregations can do. They all can change their attitude about growth and become positive about their futures.
I know that some of their challenges seem overwhelming and it’s difficult find a light inside those difficult problems. But we are talking about a group that is bound together by a common goal and mission --- to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ!
You can’t accomplish that goal with a negative approach because there is nothing negative about what you are doing. The only negatives are the attitudes of people who have lost the ability to BELIEVE in personal growth!
I have seen large corporations rise from near extinction to success again because of the attitude of their leaders. I have seen many small businesses overcome tremendous odds and grow into large companies. I have seen social service organizations revived from "hospice" to become vital, energetic groups that perform miraculous good in a community and I have seen congregations regain their momentum forward and become a leader in growth! All because they began to believe they could grow again and looked at the future through positive glasses.
Think positive --- and think growth. As you grow personally --- the congregation will grow by your leadership! It’s just good stewardship!
Tuck Aaker is a retired businessman who now consults and specializes on stewardship issues for the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the ELCA. He shares his expertise in Stewardship Now, a column he writes for ELCA Stewardship Resources.
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