There are not many people within ministry, who aren’t interested in finding ways to grow.  That is one reason why there are so many different promotional ideas floating around.  When a ministry finds that they are no longer growing, they begin to seek reasons why unbelievers are not drawn to their congregations. 

Growth is a tricky thing.  And growth means work.  Most of my life, I’ve been involved with churches or ministries that have not had to struggle to grow.  Therefore, I’m probably not the best person to talk about growth.  In addition, struggling to grow is almost a foreign concept within the mentally challenged sub-culture.  In the history of specialized ministries, growth has been a natural outgrowth of a desperate need felt by our members to be loved and accepted.  The Church, under the headship of Christ, provides both of these emotional necessities in abundance.

However, there are some things that I’ve learned about growth.  Here are a few of them:

  • Growth is often–but not always–in direct proportion to the amount of consistent hard work that is applied within the congregation.
  • Growth is an organic thing that often cannot be pinpointed.
  • Because of its organic nature, growth cannot be forced.
  • Growth does not duplicate effectively.  What will work in one setting may not work in another community.
  • Realize that some things have a life span.  Magnificent oak trees die after 100 years. 
  • We must be willing to allow everything to die in order for new growth to be birthed from the old seed.
  • Faithfulness cannot be underestimated in the growth process. 
  • Consistent growth is better than growth spurts. 
  • Growth may depend on your location.  T. J. Jakes struggled for years until his church moved to its present location.
  • Growth may depend on the maturity of the leadership.
  • Local congregations will not grow if there are no evangelists who are invested into the ministry of the congregation.
  • At the end of a time of extreme hardship, growth will often begin again.

This year in Central Florida, we experienced our first winter in decades.  Typically, we have a day of 50 degree weather interspersed into a week of moderately, mild 75 degree days.   Last year, it was cold every day from the end of October until the end of March.  Everything that was not killed by the cold has flourished with exuberant gusto.  The flowering vegetation displayed magnificent blossoms.  The fruit was abundant and extra sweet. 

Growth of specialized ministries within the mentally challenged community may begin to wane because of several factors, including cuts in transportation, inclusive principles, and normalization that pushes sin as normal behavior.  Each of us must continually pray that God’s hand will stay on this exciting and important ministry.