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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"Measuring the Orchard" (Geoff Surratt)

Measuring the Orchard: Changing the scorecard of church growth
AUTHOR: Geoff Surratt
PUBLISHER: Exponential Resources, 2013.

[Free ebook available here.]

How do we measure Church growth? What are the measurements of success, if there is such a thing? Written when the author was pastor of Church planting at Saddleback Church, the book begins with napkins, fellowship talks, that birth exciting ideas about what church is and how success is measured. Having experienced the roller coaster ride of ups and downs, from small church to mega-church, he begins to question basic assumptions that many people tend to adopt without much questioning. The main culprit is the uncritical acceptance of numerical growth as the key measurement of success. The key to the book is to recognize that every Church has its own seasons of growth. Stop emphasizing the tree and look instead at the orchard from which the tree can flourish and help other vegetation flourish. How can an individual Church growth within the context of a larger kingdom vision?

Using the image of a tree and an orchard, Surratt tells the story of how two men began the same way, but reap different results as their methods change. The first man, Stanley, had a roaring harvest, which led to multi-year on year growth. Due to the astronomical growth, he becomes distracted and starts to spend more time doing conferences, giving speeches, writing books, and promoting methodologies. The second man, Ted, prefers to stay on course on producing apples rather than diversify into other things. The difference between the two men is this. Stanley focused on just growing great trees. Ted focused on cultivating an orchard. Stanley concentrated on one big church. Ted looked at the land area, grew fruit trees, and concentrated on growing good fruit trees. The work of a farmer involves not just planting, watering, or cultivating the fruits, it includes the work of ensuring the health of the land and trees.

Surratt then shows readers the five stages of any Church.

  1. Birth: "Who are we?" (Question of Identity);
  2. Child: "Is it sustainable?" (Goal: Survival)
  3. Adult: "Are we making mature disciples?" (Goal: Maturity)
  4. Parent: "Are we preparing for healthy multiplication" (Goal: Reproduction)
  5. Grandparent: "How can we bless another Church?" (Goal: Mentoring)
  6. Senior Citizen: "How long can we survive?" (Goal: Legacy)
  7. Death/Reborn: 

These five stages between birth and death represent the basic growth stages, and the leadership expectations summarised as follows.

The four final tips leave readers an opportunity to do some homework. The scorecard of success is essentially making sure that we do the following.

  • Begin with the orchard in mind
  • Act your age
  • Think multiplication at every stage
  • Assess your orchard leadership

Simple principles but with very practical applications. I like the book's brevity and clarity in putting forth a vision for implementation. The main issue I have is the seeming lack of nuances in the various stages. What about the different contexts surrounding every stage? What about the types of people within each congregation? Are there any more specific tools and resources to enable leaders to use more quickly? These are not addressed adequately. Having said that, I think the idea is not to furnish details but to provide a thinking paradigm forward. I recommend this book highly for your Church and leaders.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5


This book is provided to me free by Exponential.org resources without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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