System Dynamics Model
Each year some unbelievers attend church, the “Potential Converts”. Some of these get converted and want to go deeper into “Basic Discipleship”. However, others who get converted, decide to go no further, “stop at conversion“. They keep attending church but do not progress much in the Christian life. The others are not converted and say “no thanks“. They spend a while as people now hardened to church, “dipped toe in church“, but do again become open to trying church again, like other unbelievers.
Of those in Basic Discipleship, some progress no further, but other progress on to Early Mature and play a full spiritual part in the church. A fraction of those who stop leave the church each year.
Of the “Early mature“, some take on lay leadership and become mature, some do not and stay at the early mature. Both early mature and mature eventually retire from active service and become inactive in the church. Although those who stopped at conversion and the basic discipleship stages are also inactive in a spiritual sense, the specific “Inactive” category represents those who were once active but are no longer.
Definition of Terms
- Church Growth. The numerical growth of the church, whether measured by attendance, membership, etc., regardless of which category people belong to, basic discipleship, mature etc. The growth may be by conversion, transfer or birth.
- Discipleship Process. The work that takes place in the church to produce mature Christians, i.e. to facilitate the flows from potential converts right through to mature believers. This may occur through courses, but more often discipleship is built though informal contacts that occur in areas such as housegroups, shared mission work, or general friendships.
- Progression in Discipleship. The fraction in each category that progresses to the next one and the duration spent in each category. That is the controls on the flows in the system dynamics model.
- Balance of Maturity. The fraction in each category, in this model: Potential Converts, Basic Discipleship, Early Mature and Mature.
- Healthy Balance of Maturity. A church with a balance of numbers in each category that optimises the discipleship process. Although it would be difficult to set exact ratios, there is a recognition that a disproportionate fraction in any one category will not sustain a discipleship process. E.g. too many in basic discipleship will leave too few mature and early mature to resource discipleship. Too many in the mature category at the expense of basic discipleship will give too few contacts with the wider community and restrict potential converts, and perhaps portray a church of “experts” where “learners” may feel less at home.
- Kingdom Growth. The numerical growth of the church, whether measured by attendance, membership, etc., through conversion, with a discipleship process that produces a healthy balance of maturity. The church grows through conversion, with maturity achieved by discipling those converts, not by transfers from other churches.
- Church. This is the sum of all the believing categories: Basic Discipleship, Early Mature, Mature and Inactive; with Stop at Conversion, Stop at Basic Discipleship, Stop at Early Mature.
- Congregation. This is the church plus the potential converts, as these are deemed to be attending worship or other church functions.
- Outsiders. Unbelievers, Dipped Toe in Church, all others who have left the church.