McIntosh, Taking Your Church to the Next Level

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Gary McIntosh, Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Baker, 2009.

Referenced in: Church Leadership – Size Dynamics and Transitions

LifeandLeadership Summary

Taking Your Church to the Next Level is a significant expansion on the material in McIntosh’s earlier volume, One Size Doesn’t Fit All, long regarded as a standard text among evangelicals on size transitions. In the earlier volume, McIntosh limited the discussion to numerical progression from church sizes of smaller (15-200), to midsized (201-400), to large (401+). Both volumes share the potential weakness of categorizing small churches too broadly (see materials on size transitions that address up to three divisions within the 200 marker). This does not diminish, however, the incredible value of this text. It is the new standard on the subject.

In Taking Your Church to the Next Level, McIntosh discusses transitions among five church sizes:

  • The Relational Church: 15-200 worshippers
  • The Managerial Church: 200-400 worshippers
  • The Organizational Church: 400-800 worshippers
  • The Centralized Church: 800-1,500 worshippers
  • The Decentralized Church: 1,500-plus worshippers

He describes the dynamics of each congregational size. He suggests that instead of viewing growth transitions strictly through a size-type lens, one must navigate a church’s progression through the predictable stages of the congregational life cycle: emerging, growing, consolidating, declining, and dying. Each size/type experiences these phases differently. He explains each stage in detail, and outlines the particular patterns and challenges a church faces at each stage in eight different categories: commitment to mission, involvement of lay persons, congregational morale, facilities, programs and organizational structure, attitude toward change, pastor and staff, and worship and attendance. He provides a profile to designate where a church is in the congregational life cycle.

McIntosh’s central philosophy (pp. 33-34) is that all churches are inclined to follow a basic pattern of growth, plateau, and decline. Some do this at a faster pace, some slower. Others defy the pattern for a time, but eventually all churches follow the same pattern. It is rare for a church to skip a phase. Growing churches tend to go through the stages in natural order, and declining churches in the normal order. Movement from stage to stage may be interrupted, experience plateaus, etc. The longer the plateau, the more difficult the movement. In some dynamic situations, the progression through stages is compressed such that the church blows right by them (like a jet flying over a parade so fast that the jet is gone almost at the same time you see it). Churches that are vital for long periods of time experience not one single cycle but several life cycles of growth, plateau, and decline. A church can experience renewal at any time in the life cycle; but the older the church, the more difficult it is to see true resurgence.

Why do some churches keep growing while others decline? McIntosh suggest three essential factors:

  1. values that guide the creation of its programs and ministry
  2. programs and processes designed to encourage behavior that reflects those values
  3. leaders who function as architects of the entire process.

From the Publisher

All local churches experience a predictable life cycle of growth and decline. But if a church is on a downward trend, how can it turn around? Taking Your Church to the Next Level explains the impact of age and size on churches and outlines the improvements that must be made at each point for a church to remain fruitful and faithful to its mission. McIntosh deftly describes the cycles of fruitfulness and the importance of continual improvement to diminish destructive forces that keep a congregation from its mission. Church leaders, pastors, and all who care about the church and desire to see it experience biblical growth will benefit from the sage wisdom offered in these pages.

About the Author

Dr. Gary L. McIntosh is a nationally known author, speaker, educator, consultant. He is president of the Church Growth Network and professor of Christian ministry and leadership at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, located in La Mirada, California. He has written extensively in the field of pastoral ministry, leadership, generational studies, and church growth. Dr. McIntosh received his B.A. from Colorado Christian University in biblical studies, an M.Div. from Western C.B. Seminary in pastoral studies, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in church growth studies. As president of The McIntosh Church Growth Network, a church consulting firm he founded in 1989, Dr. McIntosh has served over 500 churches in 53 denominations throughout the United States and Canada. The 1995 and 1996 president of the American Society for Church Growth, he edits both the Church Growth Network newsletter and the Journal of the American Society for Church Growth.

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