Listen to what Edward Hammett says in his book, "Reaching People Under 40 While Keeping People Over 60":
In most communities, if the congregation decides to keep the over-sixty crowd satisfied, the church will not grow numerically, and, in time, the congregation will die (unless the community demographic can support a church focused on senior adult ministry). In all probability, keeping the sixty-plus crowd happy almost always assures that the church will reach few new people under the age of forty.
In the church, there are at least four groups of people:
- the core - these are the people who are at everything, doing everything. These are the people who are the financial base for the church.
- the regulars - these are the people who attend most Sundays. They are involved with bible studies and small groups. They have no problems identifying with the church.
- The fringe and visitors - these are the people who attend some Sundays. They will most likely be at church on Christmas and Easter.
- Those who are not part of the church.
In the life of the church, whose complaints are most aptly to be heard by the leadership? The core, the regulars, the fringe/visitors, or those who are not part of the church?
The complaints most likely to be heard by the leadership of the church are the complaints of the core and the regulars.
If the leadership of the church focuses on the complaints of the core and the regulars at the expense of others, that church will die.
You see, fringe and visitors are not likely to voice their complaints to the leadership of the church. If they don't like something, they are not going to call the pastor or the leadership. If there's something they don't like, they're just going to leave. They complain by never coming back. But it is highly unlikely that the leadership will ever hear about the complaints of the fringe and visitors. And this exodus is taking place all over the country in established congregations.
The only ones who feel comfortable enough to complain to the leadership of the church are the core and the regulars.
But here's the problem. If the church only hears from the core and regulars, the church will become a place where only the core and regular are comfortable. And when that happens, the church will die.
The task of the leadership is to help the core and the regulars see themselves as a people whom God has called to minister to those who are far from Jesus Christ. And unless this becomes the main reason why the church exists, it will become inwardly focused. And inwardly focused churches will die a slow death.
And, if the truth be told, without the core, the church will not have the financial and people resources to do the ministry required to become a healthy and growing church.
To become a vital and healthy church, there needs to be a compelling enough vision for the core and regular to invest themselves into the future of the church. If there is no compelling vision, people won't.