“Are all the things that we do here at Willow Creek that these people so generously support really helping them become fully devoted followers of Christ—which is our mission—or are we just giving them a nice place to go to church?”
This was the question that prompted the research, that resulted in the book: ‘Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth‘.
The book contends that there is a spiritual continuum that looks like this:
People in churches are in one of the four ‘segments' on this continuum. Based on their research, they contend that there are three movements, that help people to move from one segment to the next.
25 ‘catalysts for spiritual growth' help people to move along the continuum – with different catalysts more or less useful, depending on the segment people are in.
Not surprisingly, research with 1,000 churches reveals:
Reflection on Scripture is, by far, the most influential personal spiritual practice for every segment and across all three movements
However, don't let this obvious conclusion put you off the book (besides, despite how obvious this might be, how much do we invest in helping people to read the Bible during the week?).
I found the following helpful in this book:
- It is possible to measure spiritual growth (interestingly, this can be done in part, by seeing how people describe their faith).
- “Participation in church activities does not necessarily drive spiritual growth.”
- The reminder that one of the most useful thing we can do in our churches is to get people reading the Bible.
- The reminder that people are on different stages of a journey, and different encouragement, resources, tools and training are helpful for these different groups. We can't treat everyone the same, or split into ‘believer' and ‘unbeliever' groupings.
- Church leaders need to help people to see how an activity/ministry will help them to grow as a disciple of Jesus. For example: “When the church incessantly promotes all the things people should do, it’s very easy for them to lose sight of the real goal—which is who they should become,” and “Prodding congregants to plug into multiple church activities may too often suggest to them that the end goal is the activities themselves.”
- People want, even expect to be challenged by their pastor. “This is a far cry from previous (and erroneous) assumptions that “baby Christians” want to be coddled or treated with kid gloves.”
- People like clear steps, a pathway that will help them to grow.
- Membership classes are good (they increase retention in church from 35% to 72%!).
- Announcements need to be ‘preached' – to connect the dots between the activity and how it will aide spiritual growth.
- Beliefs in certain doctrines (e.g. that God can be known personally) can help people to spend time with God.