Sullivan, New Perspectives on Breaking the 200 Barrier

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Bill Sullivan, New Perspectives on Breaking the 200 Barrier. Beacon Hill Press, 2005.

Referenced in: Church Leadership – Size Dynamics and Transitions

LifeandLeadership Summary

In this revision of an earlier volume, Ten Steps to Breaking the 200 Barrier (1998), Bill Sullivan builds upon the research of Dr. Kenneth Crow on the concept of “choice points,” the significant issues affecting a congregation which demand crucial decisions. Congregational size is one of the major choice points congregations face.

People may make decisions regarding congregational size that are not overt, formal decisions. In fact, most are informal decisions and sometimes unconscious ones. Interestingly, the conclusions are widely accepted and firmly held. Once these decisions are made, congregations appear to cycle up and down within the size range allowed by the organizational issues of the choice point. These decisions tend to prevent losses that would cause them to decline below the chosen range, and they resist additions that would help move them significantly above that range. (20)

Sullivan offers a guide to help leaders and members work together to identify the decisions that have stalled or prevented growth and change toward a “Choice Point Growth Strategy.”

Sullivan is characteristic of most materials of this genre on the dynamics of transitional congregations with average Sunday attendance (ASA) somewhere between 150-225. His unique value is in helping a congregation target the specific areas that have helped or hindered their church’s progress. He also has a helpful chapter on “Spiritual Preparations.” Of the three, Kevin Martin is my top suggestion because of his more extensive discussion of the best practices of transformational leaders, especially as they must deal with resistance. Understanding the overall dynamics (Mann) and designating the specific choice points (Sullivan) are important, but navigating the unique struggles of leading churches through these (Martin) is the key.

From the Publisher

New Perspectives on Breaking the 200 Barrier offers pastors and church leaders insight and strategies that will help their church move beyond the average and into the extraordinary. Based on current church trends and new research, seasoned speaker and strategist, Dr. Bill Sullivan, author of Ten Steps to Breaking the 200 Barrier (1988), revisits the need for churches to strive to grow beyond a membership of 200, focusing this time on the congregation and their decisions that affect the church as a whole. Sullivan stresses the need for church leaders to understand the value of training the people, not just the pastors, to understand and accept the changes that come with growth and the Church’s desire to expand Christ’s kingdom.

About the Author

Bill M. Sullivan has served as a pastor, district superintendent, and denominational executive. He currently serves as a consultant and seminar speaker in the area of church growth. He facilitated the development of the nationally recognized Church Growth Research Center and is active in, and a former president of, the American Society for Church Growth. He has authored and coauthored several books and has directed church growth efforts nationally and internationally for more than 5,000 churches. He and his wife, Kiddy, live in Olathe, Kansas, and have two married daughters and four grandchildren.

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