Biblical Wisdom on Church Growth
It’s been great to welcome Ray Evans to the FIEC staff team this month. Ray is our first Church Leadership Consultant and will be serving churches by helping them to think through some of the barriers to growth. But what does this ministry look like? Phil Topham’s been finding out.
Ever since he wrote Ready, Steady, Grow in 2014 Ray Evans has been a man in demand.
The chapters in his book on things like understanding size dynamics and moving from rotas to teams have been turned into seminars that Ray has been delivering both at Christian conferences and in churches up and down the country.
Now this support is being offered as a ministry of FIEC. But how can Ray help your church?
I’ve spoken to pastors from three FIEC churches who have all benefited from Ray’s wisdom. Two are medium sized churches – one in a town and one in a more rural setting. The other is a larger church in a city centre.
I hope their stories inspire you to think about how Ray can support your work and ministry. Do get in touch if you think you could profit from Ray’s work. He is with us for two days a week and you can find out more about Ray and his role with FIEC here.
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Mold
Pastor John Richards
John read Ray’s book while he was on sabbatical and was really keen to see how the thinking on ministry teams could impact Ebenezer; a medium size church ministering in a small market town in north Wales.
Asking Ray to come was prompted by a spike in new members and people beginning to express frustration that they didn’t know everybody anymore. John said:
“Over a 12-month period, we had around 30 new people coming to church and we were struggling with what Ray calls ‘awkward size’ church. So I spoke to the elders and deacons about having Ray come to speak to us about overcoming some of these size barriers.
“All the church officers agreed to come to an evening meeting and Ray used Acts 6 as his launch passage, explaining how the early church overcame an organisational problem.
“What was incredibly helpful is that we thought we understood this, but having someone like Ray come as an outsider helped us to fit it together.”
As a direct result of Ray’s time with the leadership team in Mold, the elders have set out a two-year strategy to shape their organisational priorities.
“We’re going to work hard to move to ministry teams,” John said. “Another priority is to change the way that we organise ourselves for pastoral care.
“Ray helpfully talks about church growth not because he is obsessed with numbers but because he wants to see people become Christians. He’s not a management consultant – he is a pastor with a heart to see people saved.”
Freshbrook Church, Swindon
Pastor John Edmonds
John has been ministering at Freshbrook – a medium sized church in urban Swindon – for more than five years now. During that time he has spotted some symptoms which Ray would describe as fitting the ‘awkward size’ church.
“New folk weren’t settling and others had become consumers,” John explained. “We were finding it difficult to retain people who moved into Swindon and joined us at church and some of the hard-working existing members were getting jaded and discouraged.
“We’d been fluctuating around the 110 members level and Ray helped us to see that part of the problem was how we were organising things. Doing rotas is not the same as serving on a team and can lead to a mentality of ‘heads down’ in our service to church.”
John was keen to see Ray helping the church at Freshbrook and he wanted them to get to know Ray before he spoke to them about organisational structures. Ray first of all came to speak at a church away-day so that the congregation would build trust in him before speaking to the wider leadership team on a Saturday morning.
“It was great to have Ray come to do the teaching and the training,” John said. “The challenge now is to see teams being built and to grow leaders who think ‘how can I build a team to fulfil the vision?’ rather than just filling rotas.
“I must say this: Ray is not a magic bullet. He can’t solve everything for you, and whether he makes an impact or not is largely down to the way the church responds.”
Highfields Church, Cardiff
Senior Pastor Dave Gobbett
Dave has been pastoring Highfields – a large church on the outskirts of Cardiff city centre – since 2014. As he prepared to take on the senior pastor role, Ray helped Dave to think through some of the challenges of pastoring a larger church.
Now he’s enlisted Ray’s support in speaking to the wider leadership team to support them in their work and ministry. Dave said:
“I loved reading Ready, Steady, Grow which I thought combined biblical wisdom with great leadership savvy and I thought it would be great to expose the church leadership to him as well as the whole church on an away-day.
“He gave us a couple of sessions talking about the role of deacons and the empowering and multiplying of work so that the key leaders are not overwhelmed. He then he did a larger seminar on teams rather than rotas. He finished with a short talk which was an all-age thing so he is a very wide-ranging speaker who can address a lot of different groups.”
Ray and his wife Jenny have also helped to mentor Dave and Sally Gobbett as they serve together at Highfields, spending “two-to-two” time with them, helping Dave and Sally to think through ministry priorities.
But Dave says the biggest encouragement has been Ray’s wisdom on church dynamics. He added:
“Ray has done quite a lot of thinking on church size and he is just very honest about the fact that if you are a pastor of 30 people in a church plant, that is different from a church of 120, 200, 400 or more.
“He is a wise guy who combines biblical wisdom with lots of experience and some good ‘best practice’ methods from the world of leadership which is just so helpful. He’s also done the reading for you so that you can learn from him directly.”
Could your church benefit?
Ray began his ministry with FIEC at the beginning of April 2017 and is now available to support churches across the Fellowship. If you would benefit from his wisdom as you think through some of the dynamics of church size and growth, please get in touch with us.