Healthy growth

Healthy growth

Yesterday, I measured the height of my eleven year old daughter, and she has soon out-grown her mother. Today, I forced myself on to the bathroom scale. To draw the comparison: not all growth is healthy.

Both at our Sunday school and in our Children´s choir, we count kids. We measure and compare. We hand out star stars and stickers to the kids for their attendance. How many were we at the same time last year? Some times the figures are in our favour, and we pat ourselves on the back. Other times, we struggle in achieving the same numbers, and we easily fall into mumbling about inner growth and quality.

As leaders we are supposed to be concerned with growth, but not all growth is healthy. Even weed can grow rapidly, and my observations on the bathroom scale, where I had to lean forward to see the numbers down below my belly somewhere, were not exactly a testimony to health.

Healthy growth is growth that´s created in others by them getting to know Jesus better, and when this causes them to become contagious Christians sharing their faith. This growth requires that we as leaders focus on our own health, and that we sow from ourselves into the lives of the Children. Or as Jesus says it in John 12:24: "unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Here, Jesus predicts his own death, but at the same time he holds up an ideal to us as leaders - based on how growth between generations works in nature.

Unhealthy growth is growth that is content with its own measures and ends. Here, we are talking bathroom scales taking a complete round and flowers being choked by uncontrolled quantitative growth of weeds.

Many times I have heard tired leaders say stuff like: "Here, we don´t grow in numbers, but at least we grow spiritually". This is probably a well meant attempt to keep spirits up in a difficult circumstance, but it is not biblical. Qualitative and quantitative growth can not be separated from one another. One triggers the other.

You might be in a situation where you say: "We´ve reached a plateau in our Sunday school. Measured up against the population and our location, it is not realistic that we will grow much farther." That might be, but if you are truly in such a unique position, the possibilities for growth are not pre-emptied. Maybe you can start up a weekday "Sunday" school in addition? Maybe you can help planting a new Sunday school in the nabouring town? Maybe you can offer leadership training to get others started?

If my 7 year old daughter stopped growing for a full year, I would not have said: "Our household has had a year of consolidation, and we hope that we will see growth again next year". I would on the contrary immediately be forced to look at the health and what was stopping this natural growth from taking place. Growth does not come from motivational speeches nor from extraordinary short term efforts, but it comes naturally through health.

This article was first published in the Norwegian Sunday School magazine in 2008

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