What does it look like to aim for multiplication instead of addition? What does it look like to put to death the lust for addition that is so deeply embedded in our church and personal scorecards? What does it take to courageously move forward with a vision, a strategy, and a plan for multiplication?
In this “Dream Big Days of Summer” series, we are walking through the free eBook Dream Big, Plan Smart. Our hope is to help you answer and wrestle with these difficult questions, and to ignite and fuel a fire inside of you to be an activist for healthy church multiplication. Each day, we will post a combination of two thought provoking quotes, reflection questions, interviews, or video teachings.
In Becoming a Level 5 Multiplying Church, the prequel to Dream Big, Plan Smart, we introduced a framework and vocabulary to help guide the multiplication conversation. This framework is used throughout all of Exponential’s multiplication resources, including Dream Big. Take a few minutes to read and reflect on the following definitions of five levels of multiplication. All 350,000 churches in the US find themselves in one of these five levels.
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Level 1: Subtracting Approximately 80 percent of U.S. churches are subtracting (attendance is decreasing) or have plateaued. Typically, Level 1 churches live with financial tensions that produce a scarcity mindset that shapes their culture and how they approach ministry. They struggle to pay a full-time pastor and then strive toward being able to afford their own facility. Their planning doesn’t look too much beyond getting done what needs to be done for the next couple of weeks. The senior pastor is running hard to keep up with everything, and the exhaustive to-do list doesn’t leave much time for developing leaders. The church depends on the weekend gatherings for financial viability. So it’s not surprising that the weekend services become the focal point for the church. While there may be talk of growth, most of the energy is spent on keeping up with the needs of people and running Sunday services. Most strategic and vision conversations about the future end with, “We will [fill in the blank] someday when we can afford it.” Unfortunately, that elusive day rarely comes for most Level 1 churches.
Level 2: Plateaued Churches that are plateaued have survived and may be growing. But their thinking lies in a state of tension between scarcity and growth. They have growth in their sights with Level 3 at the pinnacle, but their scarcity thinking constrain growth and multiplication. Their focus and aspirations center on growth and addition, and their primary characterizations are, “tension, scarcity, survival, and growth.” Level 2 churches are often torn by the tyranny of the or: “Now that we’re financially stable and holding our own, do we put money into staff or a permanent facility?” Lacking vision and values for multiplication, the priority of actually releasing resources to multiply just doesn’t measure up to the perceived reward at the top of Level 3.
Level 3: Adding Some 15 to 20 percent of churches find themselves at Level 3. At this level, attendance is increasing. Many churches are often externally focused, making an impact in their surrounding communities, and many have added multi-site venues. Most of the largest and fastest-growing churches that make our “envy lists” are actually Level 3 churches. Leaders are conquerors with a demonstrated record of taking the next hill. They’ve grown accustomed to finding and solving problems that limit growth. Level 3 churches don’t want to fundamentally be about the numbers, but they also know that numbers matter. Income is directly proportional to attendance, and the number of volunteers needed increases as attendance numbers increase.
Level 4: Reproducing At this level, approximately 4 percent of U.S. churches reproduce programmatically as part of their growth. Leaders sense that there is something more than attendance growth and are drawn to a future that’s more about planting new orchards than putting more trees in their orchard. However, while they may aspire to move to Level 5 and might be making progress, too often the tensions and forces pulling them back to Level 3 limit their ability to move more fully to Level 5. Level 4 churches are as passionate about leadership development systems that intentionally produce leaders that go as they are about systems that develop leaders to stay. They are birthing and taking ownership of a strong value of multiplication, including putting behaviors and practices in place that are consistent with Level 5 churches.
Level 5: Multiplying Currently represented by less than .005 percent of U.S. churches, multiplying churches focus more on sending and releasing than catching and accumulating. They plant hundreds of churches and send thousands of people to be part of church-planting teams over their lifespan. Their scorecard is more about “who has been sent” than “how many have been accumulated.” Level 5 church leaders see their church through a Kingdom lens. Their burden is more for Kingdom capacity than for local church capacity. These rare churches stick out in the crowd and develop a DNA so strongly centered on multiplication that they would have to try not to multiply.
Regardless of the level you find yourself at today, the key is to consider where you are, where you’d like to go, and what you need to change now to move in the right direction—ultimately moving the multiplication needle and following God’s mandate to make disciples!
FREE Dream Big, Plan Smart eBook – This is the book we are working through during this “Dream Big Days of Summer” series and is the theme of our 2017 Exponential Fall Events Tour. Click here to download the FREE eBook.
FREE Dream Big Questions Workbook – This supplemental resource is designed for teams to work through the content together. The chapters go along with the Dream Big, Plan Smart book and includes numerous questions to work through together. Click here to download.
FREE Dream Big Pathways Workbook – This supplemental resource by Will Mancini includes 24 tools for your team to process through together as you develop a vision and strategy for multiplication. Click here to download.
FREE Becoming a Level 5 Multiplying Church eBook – This book was the theme for our 2016 conference and provides more details about the five levels of multiplication. Appendix A of this book gives more comprehensive descriptions of each level. Click here to download the FREE eBook.
FREE Dream Big, Plan Smart Online Course – This self-paced online course walks through th Dream Big, Plan Smart Book and includes additional video teaching.
Dream Big Fall Events Tour – Connect with 1,000s of other church planting leaders at one of our fall events. Locations include Washington DC, Los Angeles, Bay Area of San Francisco, Chicago and Houston. Bring a team of 10 people for under $1000!! Click here to learn more.