A little boy, travelling with his father in the car, suddenly cried out in great excitement, "Look, Daddy, I see a church moving!" Sure enough, a church building was being moved to a new location.

There is something exciting about a church that is moving, and there's something exciting about a movement that is nearing its destination. Both of these reasons for excitement exist in Adventism today.

How about your church? Is it moving? Is it growing? What is its rate of growth, and what are some of the things that could be done to help it grow faster?

When a church is moving, it not only brings excitement, it stimulates research into factors responsible for the growth. In this article we shall look at conditions that cause church membership figures to move upward. You will catch the inspiration of relatively simple things you can do to help your church grow.

Perhaps you're saying, "Now, look, I'm not a pastor. I'm not even a church officer. I'm just a layman. I want to see the church grow as badly as anyone does, but what can I do about it?"

Read. Because if your reading might trigger some ideas and inspiration, then you can take another step. You can engage in a personal experiment in soul winning. Let me tell you about some other church members who did just that.


John and Ruth, both in their early 30s, are members of a growing suburban church with a membership of 150. A number of young couples have recently been baptized. John and Ruth have invited several of these new members for Sabbath dinner on different occasions. Conversation invariably included the question, "How did you first become interested in our church?" A pattern began to develop out of these answers that fascinated John and Ruth. The stories told by the new members revolved around friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues at work or at school. Others told of their first contact as being through Adventist literature or one of our radio or TV programs.

John was especially interested because he is the lay activities leader of his church. The lay activities council had been looking for a project to involve a greater percentage of the membership, some type of activity in which the new converts could also participate.

The council decided to encourage church members to make friendship visits with people whose names were in the interest file. In preparation they updated the file and added other names the members could supply, including neighbors, relatives, friends at work, and others who had shown interest, as well as former members. This was the logical way to begin a visitation program because these people had shown signs of interest.

At the door introductions varied to fit the background: "We're representing the It Is Written telecast;" "You requested study guides from Breath of Life, and we're here to deliver them;" "We're calling at the request of the Voice of Prophecy;" or "We're from the company you purchased the Bible Story books from."

The visits were warm, friendly, and relaxed. People responded.Those showing the highest interest were invited to a Saturday morning Bible class taught by a warm-hearted physician. (The pastor has two other churches to look after and can't be present at this church every week.)

People on the next level of interest were offered reading guides or audio-visual studies. Others were listed for future friendship visits; still others were coded to receive notification of stop smoking seminars, nutrition classes, socials, musical programs, or other activities in which they showed some interest.

Let me tell you what happened in the number one category those invited to the Saturday morning Bible class. One month into the visitation program there were seven new adults attending the class. By the end of the second month there were fourteen. After three months there were twenty-one.

After the third month the growth rate fell off. There was a logical reason: the members visited the best prospects first; after three months they had contacted the most promising names in the interest file. From this point growth came largely from new names coming in from regular seed-sowing sources and referrals from enthusiastic people already attending.

After six months 30 interested adults were attending each Sabbath. Many of them were bringing their boys and girls to the children's divisions. Evangelistic meetings were held and 50 were baptized, including the 30 in the Saturday morning Bible class.

As John and Ruth watched the candidates coming up out of the baptismal waters one by one, John whispered, "Just think, all these jewels were buried in the interest file! What if we hadn't launched our friendship visitation program?"

Lay Bible Instructors

Clara Miller and Sue Jackson were middle-aged members of a rural church of about thirty members. You could stand on the front steps of the little church building and see only one house -the one where Sue, a recently reclaimed member, lived with her nonAdventist husband. The membership of the church was declining because families were moving from the country to the city.

Sue had regained her first love for Jesus and His message. Now she felt a compulsion to share this love with others. She wanted somehow to make up for the years of service she had wasted while out of the church.

In Clara Miller she found a kindred spirit. Clara had been dangerously ill; physicians had despaired of her life. But the members of the little church had prayed and God had performed a miracle of healing. In appreciation for God's goodness, Clara made up her mind to give herself to Him for service. She and Sue set aside one day a week to work for the Lord.

They began visiting the farm homes sparsely scattered throughout the surrounding countryside. In an age when most people say they're too busy for oldfashioned neighborly friendship, these visits were received with great appreciation.

The two women invested in clubs of missionary journals. As they became acquainted with the various families, they gave careful thought to their interests and left the magazine that seemed to be the most appropriate: Signs of the Times, and so on. The journals seemed to strengthen the friendships. The articles provoked questions and provided a basis for spiritual discussions. Monthly visits became regular because of the delivery of each new issue of the magazines.

After about a year Clara and Sue offered gift-Bible reading guides to their farm-family friends. Now they had a reason for weekly visits. This required more time, but the rewarding experiences they were having made them more than willing to devote extra time to their project. As interests deepened, they found opportunity to involve their pastor in the friendship circle. Invitations were given to the friends to attend the pastor's Bible class. In less than three years the two women were responsible for the baptism of seven persons very good fruitage, we would agree, from the labors of two members in a small country church. Think of what the growth could be if even 50 percent of the members had such active soul-winning projects.

As we review the experience of Clara and Sue, we see four important steps: (1) friendship; (2) literature; (3) Bible studies; and (4) the pastor's Bible class.

These soul-winning experiences began when two members decided to do something about their burden to reach the families in their community.

reach the families in their community. If you were to talk to Clara and Sue they would tell you that they felt very inadequate when they began. Neither had given Bible studies. But, you remember, that is not how they started out. They started by giving friendship. Then they gave a sequence of beautiful missionary magazines. By the time the need for Bible studies arose, two factors encouraged them that they could do it. First, the people were now their friends; they were not dealing with strangers. That fact alone took away much of the fear. Second, the gift-Bible lessons provided virtually a do-it-yourself method. To become acquainted with the material, Clara and Sue did the lessons themselves. Then they enthusiastically told their friends about the reading guides. "We're doing them, and if you would like to have them too, we could get together once a week and compare our answers," they suggested. They were not saying, "We'll come and teach you," but rather, "We'll learn together." This approach was not threatening to our lay workers or their prospects. And best of all, it worked.

George E. Knowles writes from Chula Vista, California.