The Dirty Secret of a Growing Church

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I love my church. I had better love it because I’m the planter and pastor and if there’s something deficient about it, it’s likely my fault. Over the four years that Encounter has been around, we’ve outgrown a living room, a basement, a school cafeteria, and now we meet in a former fitness club. One of the most unique attributes is that roughly 80% of those who attend on Sunday are in the often-referenced ‘Millennial’ generation or younger. You might have heard that Millennials don’t go to church. That simply isn’t our experience. Like I said, it’s a great church and you should definitely check it out if you’re in Grand Rapids, MI. If you do visit, keep something in mind: you’ll probably leave. You won’t just leave after church each Sunday. You’ll leave, leave. In fact, most of the people who at one point or another call Encounter their church home will end up leaving.

It isn’t hard to find a church leader who romanticizes the idea of reaching Millennials. My advice: tread carefully. Millennials leave. Many demographers see Millennials as the most transient generation. They move for school. They move for fun. They move for work. The vast majority of moves are among one age group…Millennials.

A few weekends ago, we said goodbye to two interim worship leaders and our director of youth ministries. Each of them is in their early-to-mid-twenties. A couple months ago we said goodbye to a worship pastor on staff. This month we’ve said goodbye to two key lay leaders who will be graduating from college and graduate school, respectively. Millennials leave. I’d venture a guess that there have been more people who have left Encounter in the last few years than who are actively worshiping with us and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Don’t get me wrong: being perpetually left behind for bigger and brighter dreams has been a difficult adjustment. It isn’t what I dreamed for God’s call on this church but now I see that it it isn’t about us and our church but him and his church. Now I see that God is giving us an opportunity to form the leaders who will lead outside our community. Now I see that God is asking us to shape pastors, teachers, missionaries, social workers, accountants, engineers, and nurses (lots of nurses) who will serve his kingdom in Grand Rapids, California, Canada, and Africa. Now I see our place in God’s call to “make disciples of all nations.”

I hope we get to keep saying goodbye. I hope you get to say goodbye to some great leaders too.

Published by permission. This post originally appeared on the YALT blog

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Dirk, This is such a great perspective! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It is always difficult to say goodbye to these folks, but when we look at the bigger picture of what God is doing in and through them, it gives us a whole new outlook going forward. I love it.

Thanks Dirk.  Great perspective.  We're all just a passing through.  How nice it is to have stopped along the way at a wonderful roadside stop.  Those stops often provide inspiration for the rest of the trip.  Thanks

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