CHURCH GROWTH (IV)
Factors in Church Growth (1)
Location of the Building
When a church does not grow, or even declines in its membership, questions are often raised as to why this occurred. Why do some churches grow while others decline in numbers? A number of factors can come into play. One factor can be the location of the building.
The location of a meeting house can be an important reason why a congregation does not grow. If a building, for example, is located in the center of a fifty-mile area where there is a population of a hundred people, then obviously its location will be an important factor in the growth of that church. In that situation, even though the congregation described above can serve an important function in that area, until the population numbers change, the congregation will most likely be small.
The retail world suggests that there are three important factors for success: LOCATION, LOCATION, and LOCATION! Looking at matters in a realistic way, “location” is an extremely important factor for growth in any congregation.
Congregations, in choosing a site for their building, should keep this factor in mind. They also need to think further into the future than the next ten to fifteen years in considering a good location, as a new building is a big expenditure of the Lord’s money. It is advantageous to locate a building in an area which has good growth potential, and wise choices by brethren in choosing where to locate has no doubt contributed greatly to the growth of many congregations.
But, there is another issue to consider. Some buildings originally were located in what would be called “good neighborhoods.” A “good neighborhood,” euphemistically, is sometimes used to mean the people in the neighborhood are of the same race and economic status as the members of the congregation. When the neighborhood “changes,” members begin to move off to the more prosperous parts of town. Young people in the church eventually grow up, leave home, and choose to live elsewhere. Some people will remain members of the congregation in the old neighborhood, perhaps out of loyalty or because of friendships, driving significant distances to attend services. Eventually, a few older members will be the only ones left living in the area, and the neighborhood, as it changes, will often be regarded as unsafe. As time goes on, the membership in the congregation will dwindle, and finally, the building will be sold and the congregation will cease to exist. Numerous congregations no longer exist today having followed this cycle.
When neighborhoods change, a congregation must adapt to these changes. A congregation facing the above circumstances is doomed to failure if it is not willing to make extensive evangelistic efforts toward the new residents of the neighborhood. Brethren facing this situation need to put away any prejudice which might exist and evangelize the lost regardless of their race, social status, or economic condition (Gal. 3:27-28; Acts 10-11; Rom. 2:11). Truly, the gospel is for all. A strong congregation can continue to exist in such a location, provided the evangelistic efforts of the members there are successful.
A good location is desirable. Though difficult, it is possible for a congregation to grow in an area which, for one reason or another, might not be considered the best of locations. Examples could be cited where churches have grown and prospered facing this circumstance. Examples could also be cited where congregations with a building on a very busy highway have closed. But, if location is an issue in the growth of a church, then before it becomes too late, a group ought to consider finding a more favorable location with more potential for growth and, ultimately, for the saving of more souls.