Matt Miofsky, founding and lead pastor of The Gathering, a multisite United Methodist congregation in St. Louis, Missouri, came to North Georgia recently to present an education opportunity for church leaders. Dear colleagues made sure I heard about what he taught and made sure I had the material. I’ve been drinking from the fire-hose every since.

If an organization is healthy, it’s growing. Matt Miofsky co-authored the book Eight Virtues of Rapidly Growing Churches with Jason Byassee. Jason Byassee is the Butler Chair in Homiletics and Biblical Interpretation at Vancouver School of Theology.  He previously served as senior pastor of Boone United Methodist Church, a 1500-member congregation in Boone, NC. The accounts shared in the book give insight to some commonalities of the culture and vision of today’s successful church planters. Knowing where the local church sits in today’s culture, the authors remind us, “We are all church planters now.” Find my thoughts on the first two virtues as it relates to children’s ministry here.

Virtue #3 – Rapidly Growing Churches love the local

“Christianity is a local story.” (p 39) Not everyone is born in the area where they are in ministry, but it helps. There are plenty of anecdotes in this chapter where the successful church planter is ‘from these parts.’ They know people, places, history, and have immediate connections. But if not, we can get our ‘extrovert’ on and dive deeply into the community with a maniacal work ethic. Do that dashboard research and make quick, deep, personal connections with people at lunches, coffees, in businesses, schools, governmental meetings, table life. We meet and we meet and we meet and we meet…in the community. I have served the Lord in multiple capacities of professional ministry in four local churches in the Atlanta-Marietta district. I know what families live with, live on, live for, and have lived through in this area of North Georgia. I raised my family here.  I know the local politics and local politicians. I know the systems, the traffic patterns, and deep-dive into the lives of those I serve alongside. Love the local community where God invites you and learn the history of how they came to be. Someone wants to meet, do it. Someone wants to chat on the phone, do it. “We have to love those places (where we’re called to serve), or spend our time and energy learning to do so.” (p 38) 

Virtue #4 – Rapidly Growing Churches exist to reach the next person

“What good is a revivalist sect if you’re not reviving anybody?” (p 44) Evangelism is introducing people to Jesus: talking about Him, sharing testimonies of His presence and faithfulness, and telling His stories as family stories followed up with, “Do you know my Jesus?” Our entire faith is based on an historical fact. It’s not intuitive, so we must tell the story of Jesus. We tell the accounts of Jesus then and Jesus now, then invite people to make Him Lord of their lives. In children’s ministry, we must talk Jesus every time, every week, every day. When we share the gospel of Jesus, we share what we know to be good news, indeed. “Jesus is the sort of good news you can’t keep unless you give it away.” (p 52) Evangelism should permeate all we do with energy, joy, hope, and compassion. Invite kids to believe in Jesus. Invite kids to follow Jesus. Invite kids to become more like Jesus in their world, their school, their family, on their ball or dance team. When we model this invitation to know Jesus with a ‘come to’ rather than a ‘join us’, we are looking for new friends to share life with. Are we building Jesus’ tribe?

We are halfway there. More to come next week.

“Churches naturally drift toward what they like and what has worked for them in the past. Like throwing a leaf in a river, the natural movement is downstream. Thinking of new people takes constant and relentless effort – it is like walking upstream.” (p 51)