Thursday, April 17, 2008


With the proposed fall schedule changes before us, one of the questions I've been asked is: Is any other church doing what we're proposing? That's a great and valid question. The easy answer to the question is: I don't know of any other church. But let me qualify my answer.

As the staff prayed and dialogued about needed changes, we never studied other churches' schedules to duplicate what they were doing. What we did learn from other churches, however, is that those experiencing the most growth had simplified their programs and ministries into three or four key areas. Common among each of them was a simple approach of asking their members to do three things: attend worship, get in a small group, and find a place of service. That's what we're asking our Chapin Baptist members to do--encounter, engage, express.

Only one out of four Baptist churches experienced ten percent total growth over the last four years. On the Southern Baptist spectrum of churches, about one-half of one percent experienced ten percent growth for three consecutive years. So when it comes to learning growth principles, evidently our fellow Baptist churches are in the same boat we are.

My curiosity got the best of me; so I spent some time this week perusing the websites of America's 25 fastest growing churches as reported in Outreach Magazine. Check it out at In fact, I wish someone would check out 26-100 to note trends. Here are some of my observations.

  • 9 of the 25 had at least a two-hour window between the starts of consecutive services. Only a couple had a window of time less than 90 minutes between services. This tells me that most of their worship venues last 75-90 minutes. One of the churches met just on Saturday nights, 5-9 (evidently a combination of discipleship training and worship).
  • With the exception of one, high emphasis on small group involvement was evident. Most promoted home groups. Some promoted off-campus and on-campus groups. The ones that gave the most details stressed that the groups were in the range of 8-12 people. One said 4-20. One even gave a breakdown of the time: fellowship (15-45 min), Bible study (45-60 min), prayer (15-30 min)
  • Only a couple offered different styles of worship. The predominant style was edgy contemporary. Thomas Road Baptist does traditional and probably a couple more do so. But it was hard to tell from the websites.
  • This one blew me away. 19 of the 25 offered "morning" worship at a time after 11. In addition a few others offered duplicate services on Sunday evening. Of course, many do Saturday night as well. One of the most commons times was 11:30.

So, back to the question. Are any churches doing what we are proposing? Yes, many. In most of the 25 fastest growing churches, when you add the time in worship to the time in small groups, it easily adds up to at least 3 hours.

Here is the biggest difference. Most of the other churches do worship and small groups on different days. What makes our proposal seem overwhelming is that we still provide people the option of doing both worship and small groups on Sunday mornings. I believe in the future we will see more and more of our people opting for small groups outside of the Sunday morning time frame.

I encourage the church family to keep praying for a groundswell of unity and support of our vision of helping people connect with God and become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

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