Issues Encountered in Growing Churches

Issues Encountered in Growing Churches

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Issues Encountered in Growing Churches
Willow Creek Community Church
And
New Hope Missionary Baptist Church

Overview Willow Creek Community Church
The case studies on Willow Creek discussed several issues that were addressed by the leadership. Those issues included burnout of the leadership, overloaded ministries, and the need to expand the buildings for a growing membership. Willow Creek tackled the leadership burnout issue by sharing the teaching duties among several teaching pastors. The explosive growth of the church brought about additional issues such as overloaded ministries and a need for more physical space. The overstressed ministries were relieved by restructuring the leadership over the ministries. This restructuring brought about a means of organically producing additional leaders within the ministries themselves.
History of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church
New Hope Missionary Baptist Church (NHMBC) began in 1987 in the living room of Reverend and Mrs. Leroy Mitchell. After pasturing a church in Sycamore for nine months, Rev. Mitchell and all members from Dekalb were excommunicated due to underlying friction between African-Americans from Sycamore and those from Dekalb. For the next year, the core members held services at numerous locations, finally settling at a local Seventh Day Adventist Church which became New Hope home for the next twelve years.
During this twelve year period, New Hope purchased tens acres of farmland and began developing building plans. In 1998, construction started on the building New Hope would call home. In 2000, the members of New Hope moved into their new home without ever missing a Sunday worship service. Time heals and New Hope reconciled with North Ave Baptist having regular fellowships together.

Explosive Growth
It is apparent that the issues are similar at Willow Creek and New Hope, as both have experienced great growth. They are addressing these issues by adding additional services and by assignment of small groups or small ministries to meet their congregation's needs. They have been successful in addressing the issue based on each church's individual needs. Willow Creek has added services to accommodate the service seekers or the un-churched. New Hope attempts to match congregation member's needs through joining auxiliaries or other ministries of the church.
Willow Creek's strategy can be summed up simply in three steps Plan, Align, and Learn. This constant process signifies where each step supports the next step, yet relies on the previous to carry on. New Hope's strategy is to mentor young people into positions of ministry leadership for New Hope's future.
Willow Creek faces the challenge of keeping up with the un-churched services and helping integrate the un-churched to the Willow family.

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New Hope faces retaining their youth as an integral part of their core of the congregation. As the youth groups mature, their path may lead them away from their hometown, thus leaving New Hope with the challenge of filling in the youth ministry position.
Subsequent Ministry Overload
Both congregations approach to this issue are similar. Willow continues to experience some degree of overload in their ministries. For example, Elevate, Jr. High ministry, and Promiseland childcare service both need more volunteers. New Hope ministries at this point are not overloaded, but the church is always seeking volunteers, as the need for more volunteers is endless in both organizations. Equally, both churches have been able to keep the programs operational by implementing techniques of planning, organizing, and leadership. The challenges continue to arise as both organizations adapt, learn, and modify the existing small groups and increase ministers to handle the new challenges.
Each church continues to add new volunteers and mentor the young to become more involved. They also are looking to expand or add small groups and ministries. New Hope continues to promote an inviting, warm environment that welcomes all regardless of race or social background. The greatest future challenge for Willow Creek is to manage the continuous growth, demand from its congregation and small group ministries.
Leadership Burnout
The past and present leadership issues facing both Willow Creek and New Hope are strikingly similar. Except for the great difference in overall number of congregants, the resource drain at the top of each organization has been distinct. As more church members exhibit a greater need for services through respective church ministries, both organizations have benefited from a strong nucleus of capable Christian volunteers. These volunteers form the backbone of each organization and are still depended upon today to provide the means for the sustained growth at each church.
Willow Creek proactively realized that the needs of its members were greater than available resources. The ‘small group' strategy has helped to alleviate the need for an even more massive attendance at the South Barrington main campus. The key leaders at Willow Creek also take sabbatical leaves to study, learn, retain critical focus, and have an opportunity to reconnect with family and self. Developing key leaders for every ministry and church function is a current and perpetual mission. In an organization of this size, the development of a leadership hierarchy is critical. Regardless of size, there must always be capable people available to assist and lead when needed. We attended the mid-week service on November 1, 2006, and were amazed at the number of attendees. The Music Ministry provided the backdrop for the entire service, with over twenty people being baptized on stage – quite an impressive service! From the Music Ministry to ‘Promiseland' to Guest Services, Willow Creek continues to address proactively the ongoing need for protecting its leader from ‘leadership burnout.'
New Hope, although smaller than Willow Creek, has experienced many of the leadership burnout issues felt by Willow Creek. Reverend Mitchell, the Pastor of the Church is the only salaried minister at New Hope. He relies solely on the calling of others within the congregation and their volunteer spirit to lead in the church's various ministries. While Willow Creek's key leaders go on sabbatical leave to ‘recharge,' Rev. Mitchell utilizes vacation time from his staff position at Northern Illinois University to reconnect with family and self.
In order to allow additional time for the Pastor to rest, the third Sunday of each month is without a sermon, and every fifth Sunday is Youth Sunday. This service is conducted entirely by the Youth Group. Because of his leadership in the development of others, Rev. Mitchell has been blessed with many opportunities to ‘groom' within his congregation. We experienced an example of this during our visit on Sunday, October 29, 2006. The Youth Group, with the Music Ministry providing the atmosphere for the service, conducted the entire service. We saw the future leaders of the church take a turn at the podium leading the congregational. From our perspective, their future is bright and Rev. Mitchell has been blessed with many ‘leaders-in-training.'
Building Expansion
When New Hope built their $1.6 Million building in 2000, they knew that they would soon outgrow their space. At the start of this year, a planning committee was put together to start the process of building expansion with plans to break ground on a Family Life Center in 2008. This facility would include a gym, kitchen, offices, and additional classrooms with an estimated cost of $1 Million.
In 2000, Willow Creek launched a three year campaign called Chapter 2, to expand their facilities to accommodate future growth. The general idea behind Chapter 2 was to raise enough capital to add to the existing structures in South Barrington, Illinois while opening satellite church locations in suburban Chicago. This would give them the ability to continue on their mission of reaching "un-churched people" by meeting them in their neighborhoods rather than the South Barrington campus.
They were successful in raising the necessary $70 Million to achieve this goal. They erected a larger auditorium, meeting, and office space in South Barrington, while opening new satellite church locations in DuPage, McHenry, and Lake Counties in Illinois. Willow Creek recently added a fourth location at the Auditorium Theatre in downtown Chicago. These goals were achieved without adding debt to the church.
Some of Willow Creek's new challenges will probably continue to match the old challenges. Based on our conversations with people from both churches, it appears there will be an ongoing battle to keep an adequate number of volunteers in local churches everywhere to operate their ministries at full capability.
Conclusions and Solutions
The growth seen by both churches is phenomenal. Both need to continue their outreach ministries to grow and prosper. This takes strategic planning and strong leadership ability. Both churches need to maintain their strategic management and succession planning to invest in the youth leadership to secure tomorrow's leaders.
In addition, due to the explosive growth noted from both congregations, building expansion was inevitable. By providing a warm and inviting place for their membership, these organizations have secured a place to worship. The key to keeping up with the expansion is sound financial planning and excellent leadership with organization. Excellent budgeting with a leader that instills a vision for the future, coupled with a committed tithing congregation can make this possible.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for any church is to motivate a higher percentage of their membership to utilize their spiritual gifts to serve in the body of their church. Rotation though the various ministries with a time off period would be beneficial. In addition, adding a co-chair minister when possible would lessen this burden. Both churches need innovative approaches in recruitment of their memberships to assist in their various ministries to avoid leadership burnout.
In conclusion, churches are organizations that should function as a business with a mission and a vision that uses excellent financial and strategic planning to obtain its goals. Both New Hope and Willow Creek have persevered and now see the marvelous work of God's promises at work in their churches. Revelations 21:7 states, "All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings and I will be their God, and they will be my children." God has truly blessed both of these congregations through their laborious works of love.
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