Statistics say that new churches (or church plants) see nearly 100% turnover in the first three years of existence. Normally most of the key people who are not paid move on to new locations in this timeframe.
Several factors likely contribute to this turnover but the root of all of it comes down to a reality of any new church or business organization. In order to move from inception to a self sustaining existence, a great deal of sacrifice must be made.
In the case of new churches, the sacrifice comes in the form of hundreds of hours of volunteered time and above and beyond levels of financial commitments. Due to small sizes, those who are a part of something from the beginning are usually asked and sometimes demanded to give more and more in order to contribute to overall success. A dilemma exists that says, “if you don’t give more of yourself now, we can’t grow to the place where you won’t have to give as much”.
The question that arises is, “Should a church be built on the sacrifice of its people?” By sacrifice I do not mean a commitment to God that may lead to uncomfortable choices, but I do mean a sacrifice that is in the name of service but that comes at a price to relational and sometimes physical well-being.
We are now 2 years into our new church in Orange County and we have fought against the notion of demanding more and more from our people but we do have things that get left undone. We are committed to Christ and want our whole lives to be in service of God (and others) but we believe that God ultimately will build (or not build) our local church. I personally fight against the notion of sacrificing “workers” to build the organization but wonder if we will ever attain a self-sustaining existence with this attitude. Is it worth abandoning some of our ideals in hopes of attracting more people?