Challenges of growth

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By Jeff Noble

In August 2011, Ron Edmonson wrote an excellent article entitled 5 Dangers of Explosive Growth. I’d like to share his points and elaborate on them in the context of Northstar.

  1. Explosive growth masks real problems.
  2. EG outpaces leadership development.
  3. EG strains existing structures and systems.
  4. EG causes people to be left behind or feeling scattered.
  5. EG tends toward reactive rather than proactive decisions.

Before beginning, let me qualify things by saying that I’m not sure if Northstar qualifies for the explosive growth description. All I can say is that we are experiencing a sustained period of sustained growth accompanied by semesters of sudden growth that align with the school year.

Sustained growth.

When my family and I arrived in Blacksburg in July 2009, we found Northstar growing and enjoying the presence of the Lord. That summer, we saw on average 80-90 in attendance, followed by a jump of 140 in average attendance that fall. Because we minister to so many collegians and graduate students, our summer attendance, then, becomes a good measure of our nuclear growth.

  • Summer 2009: 90 average
  • Summer 2010: 120 average
  • Summer 2011: 170 average
  • Summer 2012: 230 average

Sudden growth.

Each August and Janaury, the NRV sees new families, graduate students and undergrads flooding back into the community. While many churches see attendance “bumps” at Christmas or Easter, we tend to see guests come for the first time in conjunction with school year. That includes families as well as students. For an idea of how the school semesters impact worship attendance:

  • August 30, 2009: 130 in worship; 20 kids and workers
  • August 27, 2010: 200 in worship; 25 kids and workers
  • August 23, 2011: 436 in worship; 35 children and workers
  • August 28, 2012: 703 in worship; 50 children and workers

Reflections on Edmonson’s article:

Northstar is indeed experiencing some growing pains in these special days. Our existing systems and structures are being challenged, and we are working diligently to identify, recruit, and train new leaders and volunteers. Our Staff Team and Leadership Board are meeting regularly, and much of the time, logistics is the topic of our conversations. We need your prayer. More than ever. Our goal is each one. We acknowledge the crowd, and we’re excited, but you and your family, you and your friends, are on our hearts.

I’m reminded of Paul’s request for prayer in 2 Thessalonians 3.1:

“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you..”

That’s what we must keep central during this time. We don’t want to lose sight of each other during these special times, nor or the holy calling God has placed upon each of us as His church.

We want to keep love for God and others as central even as we organize and respond wisely to current growth. In addition, we are praying diligently and planning ahead so that we can be good stewards and gospel-centered in the future.

Here are things we are doing today:

  • Preparing to implement a new level of leadership in Northstar called our Ministry Team. Leaders of this team will serve in the capacity of biblical deacons. These leaders will initiate, guide and help supervise existing and future ministries of our church. This will enable our Staff Team and Leadership Board to focus on vision, overall leadership, teaching, preaching and prayer.
  • Our Strategy Team is meeting regularly to discern what the next steps for Northstar should be in terms of location. They have looked at dozens of possibilities and are diligent about wanting to be good stewards so that we can keep our mission as a church central.
  • Training disciple-makers. Our Discipleship Ministry will become more and more centered in and through our small groups. In addition to that, we will be training individuals in how to meet one-on-one or in smaller groups to facilitate Christian growth and maturity in our congregation, person by person, family by family.
  • Prayer. Most importantly, all of our leadership teams are praying. The growth we’ve experienced is not from our own ingenuity, effort, talent, or skills. We truly believe it is of the Lord, and so we are committed as leaders to prayer. We earnestly desire to lead through listening to the Lord.

I’d love to hear from you about your perspective and thoughts about what God is doing in our church and His kingdom. Feel free to leave a comment!

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