Is church transfer growth good, bad, or neutral? Let’s look at some different perspectives.
In simplest terms, transfer growth is a church member moving his or her membership from one church to another. Attitudes about this growth have changed significantly over the past twenty years. By the way, some of the funny phrases used for this growth are “shuffling of the sheep,” “sheep swapping,” and “circulation of the saints.”
Here are my eleven observations about church transfer growth:
- In the recent past (15 to 20 years), transfer growth was rewarded. Churches and church leaders were recognized for the total number of new members who joined their churches. Thus, at least implicitly, transfer growth was seen as important as conversion growth (where a non-Christian becomes a believer and joins the church).
- The pendulum has swung, and transfer growth is viewed more negatively today. The Millennials specifically seem to have an aversion to this type of church growth.
- Much of transfer growth has been the result of the consumer mentality creeping into churches. Many Christians have become church hoppers and shoppers to find the right church that meets their needs and preferences. They view a local congregation as a country club with perks for the members.
- It has not been uncommon for pastors to become competitive and antagonistic about members transferring from one church to another. This attitude is less common today than it was over a decade ago.
- Transfer growth can mask sickness in a church. Churches can be lauded for their fast growth, even if the growth includes very few new Christians. So it is possible for a church to be held in high regard even though its members are disobedient to the Great Commission.
- Transfer growth has been easy in many churches because of low membership standards. If churches truly communicate and expect members to be fully functioning in the congregation, fewer would transfer with a consumer mindset.
- The decline of cultural Christianity has slowed the flow of church transfer growth. Many persons, including some non-Christians, used to transfer into the “popular” church in town because church membership was a cultural expectation. That is no longer true in most areas of our country.
- More pastors and other church leaders are actually contacting the church from which a person desires to transfer. They are attempting to confirm that the person has been a member in good standing, and that he or she is not transferring unresolved problems with their membership.
- Despite obvious issues concerning transfer growth, we should not assume all transfer growth is bad. It’s a bad metaphor, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
- Some church members seek to transfer because of major doctrinal aberrations in their churches. I recently spoke to someone who left her church because the leadership denied the exclusivity of salvation through Christ.
- The fastest growing category of transfer growth today takes place when a person moves out of his or her community. We should be thankful for Christians who seek a church home when they move to a new community. This category of transfer growth is becoming the most common because of the mobile nature of our culture.
Perhaps transfer growth has been an issue or concern in your church. I would love to hear your perspectives on it.