Only 10% of our current church plants in Louisiana have broken the 125 Growth Barrier. Actually, 82% of all evangelical churches in Louisiana are under 125 in attendance. Here’s a great podcast on how to break through at NewChurches.com.
- “Getting past the 125 barrier requires a systems mindset.”
- “To break the 125 barrier, you need 5-10 leaders, and 4-5 leaders of leaders.”
- “Protect your time with the leaders and the lost.”
- “What are the things that only you can uniquely do?”
- “Why do must churches stay small? Largely because most pastors don’t know how to build systems, structures, and processes that are not contingent upon them. Most pastors can care for people, but don’t build systems of care. Most pastors can develop leaders individually, but lack the skill to implement a process of leadership development. When a pastor can’t build systems and structures that support ministry, the only people who are cared for or empowered to lead are those who are “near” the pastor or those very close to the pastor. This limits the size of the church to the size of the pastor.” – Darrin Patrick
Sunday night two churches connected that are on the opposite sides of a couple of church growth barriers. The church that’s broken those barriers was Bedico Baptist Church. Located in a fairly remote, rural area on Hwy 22 between Ponchatoula & Madisonville, LA, the church has grown from 27 to near 400 in regular attendance in about 15 years. Last night three lay leaders from Bedico got together to share what they thought were keys to breaking growth barriers & growing a rural church beyond expectations. Here’s what they said were the keys:
- Prayer & Faith.
- Putting the needs of the unchurched ahead of our own.
- Intentional processes for developing people.
I’ll add a couple of keys from personal involvement & observations with Bedico:
- Increased Missions Involvement.
- A Culture of Yes.
Prayer & Faith
When asked what was the number one key to growth, the answer was PRAYER. Glenn Sanchez, retired school teacher who ended up serving on staff with Bedico, said the most important thing that happened was starting a prayer partner ministry that got people praying together for the spiritual needs of the church & community. He said, “When we involve God, we get what God can do, not just what we can do.”
Margaret Wedgeworth came to the church in 1970 & served as a leader during several stages of growth, talked about how many issues came up that there was no human answer for, but God provided when people prayed.
Caleb Miller, who was 10 when he came to the church & now serves as Youth Minister, also said that from a young age he saw how important prayer was to the ministry of the church.
Putting the needs of the unchurched ahead of our own
Margaret Wedgeworth said that she remembered a meeting where the former Pastor Leo Miller, said to the church, “If we’re going to reach this community, we’ve got to look past what people wear, look like, & the color of their skin.” She said she believes that was the point when Bedico began to grow. The condition of the heart & soul became more important to the church than outward appearance.
According to Sanchez, the church put a real emphasis on the unchurched. The clear mission of reaching unchurched people for Christ became a filter for decisions & event planning. Some church events were even moved off site just because unchurched people might not attend if it was at the church. Members were challenged to host home Bible Studies not inviting friends at church but unchurched neighbors, friends, & relatives. Then when they came, not feed them coffee & cookies, but steak & fried fish.
Bedico also had the goal of becoming known in the community. The church is in a fairly remote area & many people didn’t pass by so to become known they focused on community outreach. At one point the church sent out postcards to the community asking if they needed any repairs on their homes. Hundreds of members served specific needs of the community. They conducted Block Parties, Crawfish Boils at members homes & local community centers, etc. “When we got out, people began to come in” said Sanchez.
Intentional Processes to Develop People
Margaret Wedgeworth recalled intentional efforts to connect with guest & people in need in the community through sending cards & praying for them. The church also started a New Members Class & a Meet Bedico Baptist Church Info Meeting to introduce church life & membership to those new to church. The church restructured internally from committees to ministry teams that were focused on getting everyone involved. Sanchez said, “When we were able to get people connected with a small group & a ministry team, we found they stayed with us for the long haul.”
Leaders also emphasized daily quiet times as a part of growing the church. Intentional effort was made to reach new people & then help them grow.
A few other things I’ve noted as keys to growth as I’ve been a part of Bedico’s story over the past 4 years:
- Increased Mission Involvement. In 1997 & before, the church reported on it Annual Church Profile a big zero under mission involvement. Beginning in 2002, that began to change. In 2002, 40 people participated in missions. In 2007, 68 participated in missions & in 2010, 136 participated in missions. Along with an increase in missions participation, Bedico sent out 12 people & over $60,000 to start a new church in a neighboring community.
- A Culture of Yes. I can say that I’ve experienced a “can do” spirit from the people of Bedico Baptist Church. As a congregation they see the possibilities, they’re not afraid to make sacrifices & face challenges. And over the past few years, I’ve asked some crazy questions: “Can I borrow 100 tables?” – “Can you house 100 volunteers in your SS rooms?” – “Can we park four trailers in your parking lot?” & more, but have always gotten, “Yes, we can do that!”
Today Bedico is working on breaking the 400 Growth Barrier but continue to reach unchurched people in their remote community. In a state where 82% of the churches are 125 & below, we need more breakout stories like Bedico’s if we’ll continue to push back the darkness into the next generation.
What have been keys to growth at your church? Does your church have prayer, reaching the unchurched, & intentional discipleship as part of its makeup? Growth takes intentionality.