Exponential co-founders Todd Wilson and Dave Ferguson offer nine best practices to adapt and model.
Though we may not necessarily think about it, our experiences with the individuals in the various contexts of our lives—home, church, community activities, etc.—cause us to naturally group people into profiles. For example, after one meeting, a small group leader knows who the “extra grace required” (EGR) people are in the group, the ones who dominate the conversation. Within the first week of school, teachers know who the overachiever students are. And supervisors quickly learn who to turn to on their team when something vitally important needs to be finished with excellence.
Reputations are built on demonstrated behaviors and results. In each of the above examples, we could observe the behaviors of a specific group and then create profiles based on their behaviors. In other words, we could study the characteristics of “extra grace required” people and then define a profile for that type of person based on their demonstrated behaviors. Anyone in a small group could read that profile and say, “Sure enough, Brian was an EGR in the group I was in last year!”
In the same way, we can apply this idea to churches to look at distinct behavioral types that help us assess where they are with becoming a multiplying church. Specific behaviors describe five different levels of multiplication in churches. We have defined these as Level 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 multiplying churches. Regardless of church size, growth rate (positive or negative) or behavioral type, all churches will exhibit behaviors from all five levels; however, we can begin to define a primary level and create profiles for each of the five behavioral types.
As you may have guessed, Level 5 churches are the most aggressive multiplying churches and Level 1 churches are the least. You might be surprised to learn that most of the largest churches—those congregations and leaders we tend to hold in esteem and even aspire to be like—are actually Level 3 multiplying churches. For this framework, we’ve intentionally defined churches that have a strong attendance growth culture but are not aggressively multiplying as Level 3 churches.
Believe it or not, many Level 3 churches are actually stuck, even though their accumulation statistics look good. The very growth strategies that propelled them to Level 3 are the same ones that are keeping them from becoming a Level 4 or 5 multiplying church.
A New Scorecard
If we are to move the needle on multiplication, we must start by creating a new scorecard. Who wants to aspire to be a Level 3 church when you could be a Level 5 church? (And make no mistake—your church was made to be a Level 5.)
At this point, you might be saying, “I only wish our church was a Level 3. Then we’d have the resources to multiply.” The truth is that most new churches are born into Level 1; 80 to 90 percent of churches in the U.S. are a Level 1 or 2. If that’s your church plant, don’t let this truth paralyze you. In fact, count your blessings. The reality is that this elusive, tension-free day when churches can afford to multiply will never come, even for Level 3 churches. They are stuck for a reason.
If you’re leading a Level 1 or 2 church, hear this: The behaviors, values and decisions you make now position you to become a future Level 4 or 5 multiplying church, possibly even bypassing some of the limitations Level 3 churches experience.
Plain and simple, setting your sights on Level 3 as your definition of success is a futile exercise. You’ll eventually find yourself feeling empty and, like many leaders today, wondering if there’s something more. How might things be different if you reworked your scorecard for success and embraced the practices and behaviors of Level 5 multiplying churches?
Regardless of the multiplication level your church is at today, the key is to consider where you are, where you’d like to go and what you need to change today to move yourself in the right direction.