Breakout Churches

One of the leadership books that has played a big role in businesses over the last few years is Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great.  What you may not be aware of is a similar book written by Thom Rainer several years ago called, Breakout Churches: Discover How to Make the Leap.  Inspired by Collins’ book, Rainer decided to write a similar book for churches modeled after the Good to Great framework.  Rainer’s criteria for identifying “Breakout Churches” included:

  • Number of conversions
  • Ratio of conversions (how many members it takes to reach one person for Christ)
  • The church was plateaued or in decline for several years prior to its breakout year
  • The church experienced sustained new growth for several years after breaking out of its slump
  • The slump, reversal, and breakout all took place under the same pastor
  • Since the breakout point, the church has made a clear and positive impact on the community
Rainer and his research team received data on 50,000 churches but found only 13 churches that met their criteria.  These 13 churches experienced what Rainer calls a “Chrysalis Factor” (analogous to the “black box” in Jim Collins’ Good to Great), the factors that led to the transformation of the churches in their study.  Based on Rainer’s research, there are six components of the Chrysalis Factor in Breakout Churches:

1.  Acts 6/7 Legacy Leadership – Rainer states that the breakout pastors all displayed Acts 6/7 leadership, a form of leadership seen in Acts 6 and 7 where leaders “seek to equip others for the work of ministry while deflecting recognition for themselves.”  

2.  The ABC Moment – The A stands for “Awareness.”  The breakout pastors came to an awareness that something was not right in the church.  The B stands for “Belief” and is demonstrated when the leader is willing to “seek out and confront the brutal facts about the church’s inadequacies.”  The C is for the “Crisis” that takes place within the leader’s heart because of the gap that exists between what the church is and what God intends.  This stage in the process typically implies some “cost to the leader.”

3.  The Who/What Simultrack – Pastors of breakout churches addressed what the purpose of the church is and who the right people were to help move the church toward it’s real purpose.

4.  The VIP Factor – The VIP factor (modeled after Collin’s Hedgehog Concept) represented vision discovered in the intersection of three circles:  The passion of the leader, the needs of the community, and the gifts, abilities, talents, and passions of the congregation.  

5.  Culture of Excellence – Working hard to make sure gains have not been lost, breakout leaders measure everything in the church against “a barometer of excellence.”

6.  Innovation Accelerators – Breakout pastors had a balanced approach to innovation.  “On the one hand, they were not carried away by the latest concept or church fad.  On the other hand, they did not reject innovation outright just because it was something new.”  Breakout leaders view innovation as a “tool that could enhance an already healthy transition.  In other words, innovations were accelerators but not the solutions to all of the church’s needs.”

Questions:  What’s the status of your church right now: growing, plateaued, or in decline?  How well is your church embracing Rainer’s six components above?