Rethink your church strategy


Ian Buchanan recommends that we now need to think in terms of intergenerational ministry
photo: iStock

photo: iStock

I’ve been thinking about 20th-century church growth logic.

I graduated from seminary in the 20th century. The church growth strategy that had been implanted in my imagination was similar to most other ministers from the 20th century: ‘When you’re leading a church, focus the congregation on the future of the church, the youth.’

Logically, the first agenda item for a new minister became the employment of a youth minister. And the logic seemed sound back then. After all, for most of human history young people have outnumbered older people. They were the largest market segment.

The Boston Matrix

In the 20th century the Boston Matrix was one of the business tools that some church leaders found helpful as they grew their churches. This matrix allows you to divide ‘your markets’ and your subsequent ‘product offerings’ into four distinct segments.

The two really important segments for churches were the ‘STARS’ where new growth, new products and the future lies and then there are the ‘CASH COWS’. This unfortunate use of a bovine image allows you to identify your ‘established markets’, ones that can be ‘milked’ in order to feed the more exciting outreach into the future, into those ‘STARS’.

I don’t know how widespread the use of the Boston Matrix became but I noticed that it clarified what many churches were doing instinctively. The church needed to focus on the youth and get the older folk (read: people in the second half of life) to give their all to ensure that young people came, stayed and brought in their parents. The future of the church was young people in families, or so we were told.

Unhealthy trajectory

Two Americans, the editor of The Journal of Youth Ministry, Thomas Bergler and Professor of Youth and Family Ministry, Andrew Root, have helped 21st century churches to see the unhealthy trajectory of this strategy as it worked.…(to read more click here)

Ian Buchanan is Director of Marketing and Communications for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society.

A survey asking for your experience of older people’s ministry in your church can be found at www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk

This article was first published in the August issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, articles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.