Multiplication Center

Why They Stay

June 12, 2008

Easternstarfrontsign Imagine that you moved to a new city a couple of years ago, found a great church, and over time found your niche for involvement and developed some close church friends.

Now, how long will you stay at that church?

One of the many things Eastern Star Church in Indianapolis has figured out is how to help you stay with the churcEasternstarmuralfixed_2h potentially for decades, and to keep growing spiritually all along the way.

The church was stop #10 on Scott Thumma’s and my mega-tour of U.S. churches. (See links for previous stops here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.) Here’s what we learned about why people stay at this church:

  • Preach Bible Application: One of the most prominent expressions at Eastern Star is “Where Jesus is exalted, and Easternstarnancyrogersdthe Word is explained.” Indeed Senior Pastor Jeffrey Johnson Sr. takes the congregation into the Scriptures, and then shows how it applies to following God’s way in day-to-day living.
  • Validate Longtermers: Since Eastern Star’s founding in 1920, attendance has grown from a handful to thousands. Through repeated facility expansions and even a major relocation, change has been continual but step-by-step. The church’s good leadership helps people experience change in increments and validates long-term members by making sure there’s always important roles for them.
  • Move with the Population: If you move to an outlying suburb of Indianapolis, Eastern Star moves with you. It has become one church in three locations and with three church plants, making somewhat of a circle around Indianapolis.
  • Keep the Music Relevant: Eastern Star’s music ranges from hip-hop to Easternstarworshipfixed_3 classic black gospel. The contemporary instruments, high-energy leadership of the worship services, and wide variety of choirs continually push the worship to new levels of cultural relevance.

As a result, the church has young, new families coming in the door, helped by such programs as their stellar academy with 200-plus students. But we also found a disproportionate number of people who have been part of the church for 30, 40 and 50 years (often along with their children and grandchildren). Indeed, they’ve figured out how to be a big family, growing bigger by growing smaller.

Our next stop is The Rock in San Diego. See you there!

Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 19 books on various aspects of church health and innovation.

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