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Church Growth Modelling

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Church Growth Model Results

The models are divided into 3 families:

  • Limited Enthusiasm: Conversion driven by enthusiasts, a subset of the church who do not remain enthusiastic indefinitely.
  • Congregational: Models of an individual congregation. Church congregation divided into stages of disciples with differing roles in the church life and recruitment.
  • Limits to Church Growth: Story telling models that explore limits to the growth of the church.
  • Sociological Models: Hypotheses from the sociology of religion, organisational theory, or other similar academic disciplines.

Limited Enthusiasm Model

Enthusiasts are the subset of the church who are active in the conversion of unbelievers. They are "infected" with religion and pass it on to their friends, family and contacts. The result is the religion spreads like a disease, and the church grows.

In the basic model new converts are the primary source of enthusiasts because they have the most contacts with unbelievers. Extended models include births as a source of believers (Demographics Model), existing believers as a source of enthusiasts (Renewal Model), and the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion (Spiritual Life Model).

Revival Principles
Understanding the dynamics of revival by analogy with the spread of a disease.
Revival growth threshold
Long Term Growth
Demographics with limited enthusiasm.
Equilibrium, revival threshold, delayed growth.
Long Term Decline
Demographics with limited enthusiasm.
Extinction threshold, low reproduction and child loss.
Aging & Church Decline
What is the pattern of decline when a church is also aging.
Models to illustrate how aging gives straight line decline.
Limited enthusiasm with inactive believers renewed.
Renewal not evangelism is key to church growth. Critical mass.
spiritual life
Spiritual Life
Limited enthusiasm with spiritual life of church.
Enhanced Growth, critical mass.
Application to 1904/5 Welsh Revival.
Limited enthusiasm and membership.
Growth, decline, delays and the membership attendance gap.
Limited enthusiasm with migration.
Repeated, endemic and enhanced revival growth.

Congregational Models

The Discipleship model deals with the growth into maturity of Christians and its impact on the ability of the congregation to convert new believers and train them. There are two categories of non-Christians: Unbelievers and Potential Converts. The latter attend church in varying degrees. There are four categories of believers, representing training, what they require of the church, and participation, what they give to the church. Each stage flows into the next:

At any stage believers may stop progressing, become inactive, or leave. The model explores the difficulty of maintaining a balanced, healthy church.

Discipleship Principles
Church members are in different stages of maturity. How does a snapshot of the balance of congregational maturity compare with the changes in its maturity over time?
Discipleship Experiments
If a church with a health balance of maturity has a drop in conversion rate, how is that balance affected?

Limits to Church Growth Models

However fast church congregations grow there comes a point where growth slows and eventually stops. What has limited its growth? Many suggestions are made: lack of physical resource, human resources stretched too much, complacency, inability to organise for size, and lack of demand.

Models are constructed to illustrate the different barriers to growth, and how they may be tackled.

Constant Demand
A church that makes no effort to supply religion, or interact with society, will stop growing.
To remove the growth barrier the church needs to supply religion, not just wait for people to come, and control losses.
Supply and Demand
If demand for religion in society is independent of what the church supplies, that church will stop growing.
To remove the growth barrier the church needs to create demand to match its supply, and control losses.
Bounded Resource
Church growth that depends on a resource, such as Sunday School provision, or opportunities to serve in church, will be limited as the resource becomes harder to produce.
Having a small number of resources that effectively aid recruitment will maximise the limit and protect against resource loss.
Self-Enhancing Resource
Church growth that depends on a self-enhancing resource, such as its reputation, will be limited as reputation becomes harder to produce.
If the church, or its initial popularity, is below a critical mass than the church will fail to grow and head for extinction.

Sociological Models

Institutional Model
Application of the institutional lifecycle to church denomination growth and decline.

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Church Growth Modelling