I recently spent a day with Eric Geiger, who has just joined the Auxano team. In addition to serving as the executive pastor at Christ Fellowship in Miami, and having co-authored the highly influential book Simple Church, Eric helps walk churches through Auxano’s Vision Pathway.
During Eric’s 7-year tenure at Christ Fellowship, the church has grown from 1200 to 6500 in weekend worship. During an hour conversation I drilled down with Eric to explore the strategic side of the growth equation. He mentioned four factors that drove different seasons of growth.
Before jumping into his response, it is absolutely critical to underscore the role of providence in studying fast-growth scenarios. For scores of leaders who are doing things “strategically correct” there may be one who finds a particular favor by God’s grace of right time and right place.
Eric immediately identified 3 stages in the recent years of growth. The first two growth factors occurred in stage one, and the other two occurred respectively in the following stages.
STAGE ONE: The first stage was growth from 1200 to 2500 in attendance, identified as the “simplicity chapter.” During this season, a foundation of simplicity was built as growth factor #1. Eric highlighted that all following phases required clarity and simplicity in order to succeed. The importance of a process-oriented, disciple-making culture is the thrust of the book, Simple Church. The key words of this emphasis are clarity, alignment, movement and focus.
During this time, factor #2 was identified as strong children’s and student ministry. The church made a conscious decision to not compromise in this area. As a result, resources and leadership were allocated to build top-notch ministries.
STAGE TWO: The second stage from 2500 to 4500 in attendance was identified as the “multi-site chapter.” Building on a simple ministry strategy, the church continued to grow as it multiplied campuses, factor #3. Rather than the more expensive route of a bigger centralized facility, Christ Fellowship learned that they could launch new sites with no debt and much less capital. In 2007 they had two sites. Today they have five.
STAGE THREE: The third stage enabled sustained growth from 4500 to 6500. Eric identified this as the “external focus” chapter. Again building from the prior phases the church turned up the heat on serving the community as factor #4.
For example they launched a separate not-for-profit called “Caring for Miami” that serves the under-resourced and hurting throughout Miami-Dade County. Eric mentioned several heart-gripping stories and statistics such as men being transitioned out of homelessness, an estimated 1000 babies a year being rescued from abortion through the two women centers, hundreds of un-insured people in Miami being served through a mobile medical/dental unit, and families of migrant workers being served via tutoring for their children. At a life stage where a church can grow inward, and protect its “accomplishments,” Christ Fellowship has kept the redemptive passion hot.
My favorite nugget from Eric came as he discussed the relationship between the phases. He said, “You can’t be externally focused if you’re complicated!”
FOUR GROWTH FACTORS
- Building a culture of simplicity to bring alignment and movement
- Uncompromising quality with children and student's ministry
- Multisite expansion reflecting good stewardship
- External focus to keep the church on mission