The Center for Parish Development Principle for Church Growth

The Center for Parish Development Principle for Church Growth

            In 1984 I participated in training by Paul Dietterich of the Center for Parish Development, a United Methodist think tank in Naperville, Illinois. During a break, he shared with me the results of some of their research in evangelism. They built a sample of growing churches of all types to compare with a matching sample of plateaued or declining churches. Whenever a characteristic found in growing churches was also found in a declining church, they took it off their list. The goal of that particular study was to determine the essential characteristics of a growing church. At this point I began to lose interest because I knew dozens of effective, proven methods to organize a church for growth.

            He told me that this particular study found that there was only one essential characteristic, found always in every growing church without exception and never found in any declining or plateaued church. At this point he had my full attention.

The one characteristic:                                             This is about:

The _________________         1._____________________

are _________________ 2.____________________

about what is ________________      3._________________

in __________________church.        4.________________

            In 1994 I was a little burned out. I had been practicing what I had considered to be the state of the art in church growth for nine years and, while that church loved me, there was little numerical growth. When I was informed that I was moving to a new church I decided to ignore everything else I knew and focus on developing this one essential characteristic.

            I became a steward of ___________________________.

The results in the new church:

            Attendance average in 1993:                                      _________

            Average attendance growth, first six months:          _______%

            Average attendance growth thereafter:    __________%

            Community growth 1994-1998 (new water meters)  


            Average attendance in 2005:       __________


Take some time now to discuss your theories.

(Answers for the blanks are on the next page of the Training Manual.)





[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

This entry was posted in Seminar 1 Diagnosis. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.