An Eastern Mennonite University Student emailed me after his Professor told him about CCF's story. For an assignment in his class on "turnaround churches", he asked me to answer some questions for him. I did. I sent them to him a few minutes ago, and then I thought that it may be good to post my responses. I thought his questions were good. If you are regular CCF'r, you may answer them a bit differently, but here were my answers. It's long, but it may be worth the read:
When did you begin to notice a significant increase in attendance? What happened prior to this?
CCF grew gradually over the years 1994-2004, from 30-150+. This growth was steady and strong. Then, in October 2004 (exactly 4 years ago), we moved into a new 3+ million dollar, almost 30,000 square foot facility in a great location in the MD suburbs near DC. Over the last 4 years, we have grown from 150-close to 350/400 (over 500 consider CCF their home church but we have a very transitional area with business travelers).
What was the vision cast by the leadership? Who was involved in this vision process?
CCF had an older vision that was privately understood by key people, but not publicly cast and embraced. Hence, there was no sense of clear corporate vision for the many new people to connect to. As a result, in 2006 as the Lead Pastor, I began privately praying and strengthening my sense of God’s vision and purpose for CCF for now and many years to come. I tried to do this by dreaming about CCF without me in it. That way the vision is the church’s and less mine! In 2007, I engaged the Pastoral staff (5 total) and a few key leaders around my sense of vision. They improved it, solidified it and began owning it with me. Then, since the first Sunday of 2008 we have been casting vision, writing it everywhere, preaching it, teaching it, and talking about it until you are sick of hearing it! You can never remind people enough!! Here is our purpose:
Loving God, Loving People, Living as Disciples
To answer your question about who was involved…
· Lead Pastor
· Pastoral Team
· Executive Board
· Anyone else in the congregation that was willing to come out to several Saturday morning discernment gatherings that we held. We had 20-40 people at each.
Here is my theory for no extra charge: If a growing church is healthy, the more it grows, the less people feel the need to be involved in vision decisions, ministry decisions, business meetings, and the like. The larger you get, the more people want to just be disciples, disciple other, dive in and make the vision happen. They trust leaders more and let them lead (unlike many small churches where people think that they need to do the leading and make all the decision themselves). You will never find a healthy church of over 500 where the people make all the decisions. The larger you get, the fewer people are at the table to make the decisions. (But, it needs to be the right people!!) Find me a church of 1,000+ people and tell me how many people are at the annual business meeting. Different things become important and full time staff is released to do lead. People are still involved and SHOULD BE! Just involved in doing ministry that way it should be according to Ephesians 4:11-13.
How long was it before you saw the church beginning to grow? What about the process of spiritual growth?
I feel that it was God’s hand of blessing and favor that caused our growth over the last several years. In addition, change in location, change in leadership and clarity of vision contributed to growth as well.
In my opinion, our spiritual growth process was strong in the 90’s and prior, but became weak as heck as we built, moved in and began in our new location! Then, in 2007, we began small groups. Since we started small groups, we see WINS all around us as people are growing through small groups and being discipled. We put all our eggs in the small groups basket and make no apologies for doing it. We believe that this will be the key to GROWING PEOPLE in a GROWING CHURCH!
Was there resistance to the vision? How was that handled?
Yes, there is always resistance to change. Always. But, we must listen to people, love them and then stay the course. People MAY make the whole thing better with their resistance and thoughts…and when that happens, it is powerful. On the other hand, sometimes if we just do what they say, they make it worse. This is all about leadership! The leader(s) must stand strong in the vision that they sense from the Lord. However, people need to get behind a vision that they can champion. Sometimes that means they need to be at another church with a vision they can get behind. We need to gently love them, but they may need to go. We have lost a few people just because they were “sick and tired of hearing about vision.” My Bible says that without a vision, the people perish. I would hate to be the guy responsible for the death of a church.
Why do you think people are coming to CCF? What do you have to offer that draws people? What is that one thing CCF is great at doing?
The one thing we are doing best in my opinion is a tie between being AUTHENTIC PEOPLE and being COMMITED TO OUR PURPOSE!
Let me give you a few of our other main attractors:
· The love of Jesus is present
· The presence of the Holy Spirit is welcomed and sensed
· We are uniquely diverse (over 40 nations and 25 denominations among us)
· Location, location, location
· Nice Facility
· High energy
· FUN church!
· Contemporary thinking
· Slammin’ worship
· Practical Biblical teaching
· The electric sign out at the road
What kind of people are you attracting? New or old believers, economic class, conservative/liberal?
Everything. Everyone. We are a conglomeration of it all. Seriously, if I started the list, it would be long!
Describe the role of prayer throughout all of this.
Prayer in services, small groups, staff gatherings, regular prayer services, much private prayer, prayer emails that we send, etc.
But not ENOUGH!! We are weak here in my opinion and need more. I do not think a Pastor should ever decide that their church is praying enough! On a side note, I take issue with looking at prayer as another calendar event that we schedule at the church. There must be a better way to see prayer woven into the lives of our people and our purpose!!