In another thread I was asked my opinion on why the Gig Harbor Church is growing. This is my response.
Some of you don't know the story, so I will give some background. Four years ago, the Gig Harbor Church of the Nazarene went through a crisis. Our pastor confessed to molesting his daughter and is now serving a 12 year sentence. The church had a lot of negative publicity, but came through the crisis united. After a lengthy interim, we called pastor Steve Gates.
When Pastor Gates arrived the church was averaging about 50 in Sunday attendence. Now the church is averaging over 200 and is growing steadily.
I have been in awe as I have watched the church grow. I do have some observations about why:
My first obseration is that the Gig Harbor church isn't unique. Every church that Pastor Gates has pastored has experienced growth during the time he was pastor. I believe there are several things that have made that happen:
1) Prayer -- Pastor Gates models a life of prayer. When he first came, he expressed concern that the church was mostly elderly people. We had only three teens. He asked the church board to join him in praying specifically that the Lord would send some teens to the church. As we prayed, it was a true miracle -- now about 1/3 of the sanctuary is filled with teens.
2)Caring -- Not one person enters our church that Pastor Gates doesn't attempt to learn their name. He keeps a note pad in his pocket and writes down the name of everyone he does not know. If they come back, he remembers their name and greets them appropriately. I don't think he has a special talent for remembering names. I am convinced it is just that he makes more of an effort than most of us do.
3)Freedom -- Pastor Gates believes that people should be freed up do do the ministry that God has laid on their hearts. The number of different ministries sponsored by our church has blossomed. The church exercises very minimum oversight. It trusts people to conduct their ministry and supports them were needed.
4)Caring for Others -- The church has set aside money in the budget to care for others, including an amount that Pastor Gates can use without detailed accounting for "outreach." We also have a "Helping Hand" budget equal to 1% of our income that is administered confidentiallly by a small committee to help folks who need it.
5)Preaching -- Every week, Pastor Gates feeds the congregation through solid, practical messages. They are short enough that he gets more complaints about being too short than being too long (Usually 20 to 25 minutes.) Every sermon is from the scripture and includes insights that can only come from extensive study. He doesn't just read and recite what others have said. He clearly has spent time thinking about the truths he wants to share. His delivery is always optomistic, even when he is dealing with tough issues.
6)Confident about finances -- I have never worked with a pastor who is as comfortable allowing the finance committee to do its job. He doesn't attend finance committee meetings and doesn't seem to worry about the finances. There is no tension between the board and the pastor concerning finances.
I have been blessed to be a member of a number of different rapidly growing churches. One thing that I have observed is that in rapidly growing churches people don't leave quickly after the services --"..behold how they love one another." On one recent Sunday, Linda and I decided to have lunch at a place near the church. After we had completed our lunch, we drove back by the church and observed that people were still there visiting with one another.
One more point -- the Gig Harbor Church has decided that our building should be used as much as possible. In addition to our congregation a Seventh Day Adventist Congregation meets there on Saturday, another church meets there on Sunday afternoons and another group meets on Monday nights.
It is exciting to see what God is doing in Gig Harbor.