The Church Growth Model Building Series was a monthly meeting of pastors, leaders and other church workers with an interest in church growth. The aim was to produce a set of models, using system dynamics, that would help church leaders understand how churches grow and decline and help them best lead their churches intending to produce discipled and mature Christians. The models do not concern the business side of church management but the growth of the Kingdom of God. The Discipleship model was the results of these meetings. The meetings took place under the auspices of the Cymru Institute for Contemporary Christianity, CICC, in Cardiff, UK, facilitated by Church Growth Modelling.

Summary of Meetings

  • Session one, May 2010: How to use System Dynamics to build a church growth model. An introduction to model building in System Dynamics. Notes in the form of: Powerpoint presentation, or as PDF. (8MB files). Use slide show to get the best effect. Homework. System Dynamics Elements.
  • Session two, June 2010: Principles of church growth. The nature of the church and its growth was discussed and written up for the July meeting: Summary 13/7/10. A model of issues raised by “messy church” was constructed.
  • Session three, July 2010: Issues in congregational growth. A review of issues that affect congregational growth was discussed following the guidelines: Issues to Consider.
  • Session four, September 2010: Three working sub-models. The meeting started with a presentation of 3 working sub-models: Discipleship in a modern Conversionist church; Generationally Sustainable church; and Contextual church. These are explained further on the Blog and on the September handout.
  • Session five, October 2010: Conversionist models. The model was run for the parameter values suggested in the previous meeting. It was clear that the dynamic perception, that is how many were progressing from one category to the next, and how fast, disagreed with the static perception of how many are in each category. A re-calibrated model was also presented. Many suggestions were made as to why the two perceptions disagree. One interesting point was that many of the discipled and mature Christians in a congregation have transferred in or originate as children of believers brought up in church, rather than straight converts. People were asked to re-think the numbers in various categories in their own churches, using the October handout.
  • Session six, November 2010: Discipleship model results. The discipleship tag is now added to the model. The meeting started with a presentation of the results of the discipleship model to date. Slides on PDF. The model from last time with the expected stocks was recalibrated to show the flows required to produce those values. It was clear that the ideal church with healthy numbers of mature and early mature would require significant flows though and minimal loses. It is felt that this ideal needs to be explored to help facilitate healthy kingdom growth. It was shown how transfers in can also give healthy stock numbers. One suggestion for stock values was shown to be not viable as an equilibrium solution without transfers. There is a danger that many “healthy” churches are either relying on transfers or are not in equilibrium and will become less healthy. Finally, the effect of insufficient numbers in the mature category on resourcing discipleship was shown. The next meeting will consider the control viewpoint, i.e. what mechanisms in the church control the flows through the church. Key will also be the process by which potential converts start attending church. The results are summarised on the Discipleship results page.

Session seven, January 2011: Control of Discipleship. Only the effects of the discipleship loops were presented at this meeting, and that for a 2-stage process only. During the model construction before this meeting, it was realised that important issues of supply and demand of discipleship had been raised by the control loops. The mature were needed to supply the process of discipleship with the demand being created by the number of believers further down the chain and their expectancy. Unlike market forces, a balance of supply and demand is not necessarily achieved. Instead, a church could be providing more discipleship than is needed, with the time of the mature being wasted, or more may be demanding discipleship than the mature could deliver. Ideas from supply chain modelling were used to handle supply and demand. A large number of issues had been raised with the modelling of expectancy, desire and how these could be combined with leadership. Ideas were taken from current research on modelling soft variables. It was decided that a significant amount of time was needed to finish the model and implement and investigate all its features. the final meeting was to be delayed a few months.

Session eight, June 2011: Finished Model. The model has been finished to 4 levels: Measuring discipleship, resourcing discipleship, controlling discipleship and feeding discipleship. The latter two concern the modelling of expectancy and desire. Some issues will need resolving at the fine detail level. The model has been renamed from Conversionist/Discipleship, to simply Discipleship, a title easier to present and promote. The next stage will be to consider an audit tool for measuring discipleship in a congregation and trialling the tool and model on some congregations. Slides for the evening.