The only way you can grow your church is to keep first-time visitors and regular members coming back. This was the summary of Pastor Bill McClendon’s workshop at the Ellicott Seventh-day Adventist Church (near Washington DC, USA) recently. I had heard this before but the simplicity hit home this time. Bill and his pastor wife moved to Ellicott two and-a-half years ago. The participating congregation on a Sabbath averaged 65. Today the average is close to 300. The McClendons were certainly speaking from experience. Previously they had started a church and grown it to about 800—then they were challenged to see if they could grow an established church. I think we know the answer now.
Most of us are members of established churches and would like to be a part of a growing local church. Here are the other things I noticed:
• They pray a lot—leaders pray before and after meetings, people are spontaneously prayed for during church meetings.
• They pay a lot of attention to people. There are “golf carts” in the car park to drive you to the church entry, wherever you walk there are people saying hello and shaking your hand, there are gifts for new people. Birthdays, sickness, baptisms, pregnancy announcements are all acknowledged and prayed for.
• They made a decision that everything the church did was “evangelism”—I would say everything they did focused on making more and better disciples.
• Children are involved in everything and worship is vibrant.
• Pastors and elders lead according to their gifts/job description.
• They plan yearly dates for evangelistic reaping programs and know what to do to prepare people to attend them.
• The messages are very biblical and practical.
We, in the SPD, may not do everything that Ellicott church does but I am sure our churches will make more and better disciples if we follow the principles.