I have been blessed to witness what I consider extremely fast growth in several churches since entering full-time vocational ministry. In church planting and church revitalization, we have seen hundreds come to faith in Christ or reconnect with the church, creating churches that have grown faster than we could anticipate. It’s been an amazing journey—a miracle of God—filled with lots of excitement.
One thing I have learned along the way is growth impacts every ministry in the church. When explosive growth is occurring, it is felt by every staff member—every stretched staff member.
I have also learned there are dangers with fast growth in any organization. The fact is growth can cover over a multitude of problems. Being aware of these is critical to sustaining health—and ultimately growth—in the future.
Here are five dangers of explosive growth:
Masks real problems—Growth gets the attention. Everyone is excited. Momentum is high. Problems within a team or organization won’t show up immediately—but they will eventually.
Leadership poor—Not “poor leadership.” Leadership poor. When the organization is growing fast, you can never seem to afford adequate staff or train volunteers quick enough. In time you jeopardize future success because there aren’t leaders to take you to the next level.
Inadequate Systems—When current systems do not support the rate of growth, you often spend too much time playing catch-up to implement adequate systems. Eventually you can become distracted from the things that helped you grow.
People feel scattered/left behind—With the rate of growth, communication is more important than ever, but people are stretched—pulled in many different directions. This often produces holes in the communication process. People forget to communicate, they make too many assumptions or there just is more information than can be easily absorbed.
Reactive rather than proactive—In a fast growing organization, “just keeping up” will be a prevailing emotion among leadership. You’ll often find yourself “making it up as you go.” With the speed of life in the organization, there never seems to be time to get ahead of the growth curve.
Well, those are some of the problems with explosive growth—which only produces a question.
What can you do about it?
Be aware—Realize that everything may not be as seems. If momentum slows, the real problems will be revealed, but the sooner you can identify these areas of weakness the less damage it will cause in creating sustainable growth. Ask lots of questions. Stay grounded in your faith. Continue to work on team development—even though it seems you don’t have time.
Recruit—It’s even more important in fast growth situations you be constantly looking for new and developing leadership. There must be an intentional effort in every area to empower people and train volunteers for leadership positions. Again, you may not feel you can pick your head up from the “real work” to recruit—but you must. Make sure someone has this as one of their key roles on the team, but it should be the responsibility of everyone.
Systematize—As much as possible, you should add structure to the organization along the way. You may never catch up with growth, but as problems are discovered, it will often be a systems problem. Again, the more ahead of this issue you can be the better. Continually think strategically of what is needed to ensure you can continue to grow at the current rate. This is another area it helps to have someone specifically designated—someone who is wired to think systematically—to specialize in this vital area.
Communicate—The faster you are growing, the better your communication must become. Communication is always a struggle in any organization, but healthy organizations continually analyze their approach and attempt to improve. In stressful times, communication must receive even more attention.
Planning—It’s important, even during explosive growth—maybe especially—to discipline yourself enough to plan for the future. Leaders need to be visionary enough to look for what’s coming next and attempt to get some forward-thinking goals and objectives in place. In spite of the constant demand due to growth, leaders must take time away from doing the work to evaluate and ensure operations are improved to maintain growth and momentum.
Sometimes God brings supernatural growth, and during those seasons leaders should be especially aware of potential dangers. (Can you imagine the first-century church adding 3,000 to their numbers in a single day?)
Have you ever been in an organization with explosive growth? What would you add to my list?