Ready, Set Grow!: Three Conversations That Will Bring Lasting Growth to Your Church - eBook
An engrossing book with a unique structure
This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute (www.desertbibleinstitute.com).
Ready, Set, Grow is a thoughtful, well-structured book about how to not only to help increase the size of your church, but more importantly about how to create interconnectivity among your church leaders. The book has a number of strengths to it: its narrative style, the layout of the book, and the additional resources provided both in and after the book proper.
Too many books on leadership read either like and instruction manual on how to assemble your son's new bicycle or like one of those endless, droning sermons that you keep checking your watch to see how much there is left. Scott Wilson largely avoids this problem by presenting information that he found useful in developing his church in a story format rather than a process paper or a moral lesson. One added benefit to this format is that it develops a sense of suspense. As readers get to know the people involved in Wilson's 3-year journey, they want to know how the various trials and confrontations worked out. You find yourself cheering for the person that you connect with and frustrated with the one that just cannot get with the program. Another advantage to the narrative structure is that it made the reading of the text smooth. Rather than the start-and-stop feel that is common to type of book, Wilson is able to maintain coherence through his use of this alternative genre.
The structure to this book was also unique. While Wilson does maintain a narrative style, he frequently has recursive chapters where he goes back and looks at how certain events turned out or examines them from a different perspective. While this adds a strong element of clarity to his writing, it also made a few parts a little repetitive. This was not an overwhelming issue, but it could be a mild point of frustration for the reader. The upside to it was that the reader is extraordinarily clear on Wilson's main points. Usually after one of these recursive chapters, he had a short input for one of his team members in which they offered their take on what Wilson had just talked about. After these short interludes, they offered a few reflective questions for readers to think about. These short breaks are refreshing and help refocus the reader on the topic at had while at the same time reviewing the previous couple of chapters.
Something this book has, that other less scholarly books often seem to leave out, is references to the books and materials that the team found useful. Wilson actually finishes the book not only with a list of first-rate materials but also a link to a website filled with information that could be used by a team wanting to use the model he purposes. While the book is good and offers a number of strategies and approaches that would be beneficial to any church wanting to improve their leadership, it is this list of resources and plans that will be most useful to the pastor that plans to move forward with this strategy.
Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President
Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson's blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.
November 13, 2013
Helpful, but I have reservations
Wilson's Ready, Set, Grow: Three Conversations That Will Bring About Lasting Growth in Your Church is intriguing to me. First, I really don't need another book on leadership. Perhaps 1/20 of my 2,000+ volumes in my library concentrate on leadership, pastoral ministry, discipling and church leadership. Second, there were many moments where I kept thinking, 'Where have I heard this before?' Then it dawned on me: Robert Coleman's 'The Master Plan of Discipleship.' While not a duplication, many of the principles are articulated in Coleman's book. Third, because we've been in a two-year process of bringing about a culture of disciple-making disciples at Cornerstone EFC, I wanted to see what Wilson brought to the table.
Wilson discovered that his church, The Oaks Fellowship, in Dallas, Texas, was reaching highs but always coming back to about the same number of people: 650. His goal: 1,000. He had to devise or discover a method of getting him to that plateau. He did and this book is how it happened. It's a fascinating method of writing for what would seem to be an instructional 'How To' book. Wilson gives a narrative of how he discovered his methodology, how he brought it to his pastoral staff and how, over a three-year process, it got implemented. I liked this approach, simply because he was putting on display how it worked itself out in their church. Most, who want the quick, bold bullet points on how to do this or that might be a little frustrated with this approach, but I found it a better read.
I think there are some good principles laid out in Wilson's approach. His plan of 'Model, Mentor and Multiply' is fairly sound. I don't think he strays too far from what Coleman discussed in his book. A big difference is Coleman exegetes the texts of the gospel accounts while Wilson doesn't. Whether Coleman assumes the reader is familiar with the texts and didn't feel the need to 'go there' or he simply didn't want to lay out the texts in this fashion, I'm not sure. He gives no indication of intent here. Being a firm believer in exposition, I found this left the book wanting for me.
Here, in a nutshell are some of the methods Wilson employed:
He was intentional in his selection of potential leaders
He did not assume that his staff would buy in to his vision
He held people accountable after getting buy in
He followed up on how people were doing with his challenges
He set definite goals for growth: both personal and church-wide
He managed people well and adjusted where necessary
He dealt with conflict both fairly and quickly
I did have some concerns and questions to raise, however. My first concern with books like these is always: 'Why and where do you get a biblical mandate to set numerical goals for growth like this?' I know a pastor within my own denomination who thought pastors that claimed to be unconcerned with numbers 'stupid'. Well, color me stupid, but I'm really not all that concerned with numbers. Do I know how many attend our church? Yes. Do I think about the future numbers we might get? Partly, if it would mean we could plant another church or two in the area. Do I set goals for growth based upon numbers? No. Never. Absolutely not. I see no precedent in the Scriptures for it. So, whether it be in a vision statement our EFCA is working on at present or whether it be at Wilson's church, these things are troubling for that reason.
The principle of multiplication is one I think is missing in far too many of our churches, EFCA or otherwise. I really liked this stress in seeking a means to multiply people and leaders. My concern (and you knew there was going to be one, didn't you) is this: I think, if I recall correctly, there was only one place where the author even mentions any thought of evangelism in this process. Otherwise, the whole process deals with modeling, mentoring and multiplying leaders within the church. Ephesians 4.12ff is the basis for this: 'to equip the saints for the work of ministry.' Great. Good foundational passage for this. At the same time, I couldn't help but feel sorry for those that were 'mere workers.' In order to reach their goal of 1,000 (and that goal became too small after everything got rolling along), they needed to concentrate on the number of multipliers it would take to achieve that goal. Very little is said about how to get the 'mere workers' (the other approximately 750 or so parishioners of the church) to be involved in the process somewhere along the line.
I don't know exactly what the leadership organization looks like at The Oaks Fellowship, but whenever the board is mentioned in this book, it seemed to be a group of people who existed separately from the paid staff, who ran the 'business' end of the church and gave the stamp of approval to matters the staff did. I may have this all wrong, but that's the impression I received from the book. One of the big questions this narrative left unanswered was this: 'Why weren't any of these board members involved in this process?' Were they not in leadership positions? Or are they just the governing board with several CEO/staff members over them? They seem to get informed of certain decisions/processes the staff makes, but they were neglected (on purpose, by sheer lapse of forethought, or by the organizational structure inherent in this church). This group needs to be the elders of the church who are the ones helping equip the saints for the work of ministry.
I think this book can be helpful, but I would want to read it with a group: of other pastors, of elders, or just with other wise, mature, grounded men in order to extricate the nuggets and skim off all the detritus. So, I recommend itÃ¢ÂÂ¦with some reservations.
November 12, 2013