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hope for churches in stress

Learning Curve

The phrase “learning curve” describes the rate of progress in gaining new skills or experience. As with most endeavors, it is good for a pastor and church to be on a rising curve.

Charlie Zahora left employment as an engineer to be pastor of the New Cumberland (Pa.) Church of God. At the time, the church was reeling from distress, burdened by indebtedness, and encumbered by a worn facility.

To begin, Pastor Zahora and the church tackled the financial pressure. Item by item, they examined expenses and made changes for maximum cost efficiency. They launched a fundraising campaign to repair the facility. Within five months, the needed funds were raised.

Buoyed by this success, Pastor Zahora rolled out a long list of ideas to get the church moving. The response of the church leaders was . . . dead silence. Pastor Zahora never again distributed a list of ideas. Wisely, he kept them in mind and introduced them one at a (favorable) time.

In outreach, the church has tried a brochure, direct mail, home repair ministry, and even chicken corn soup to reach unchurched neighbors. Twice a year, the church mobilizes for evangelistic impact on successive Sundays--with special worship, an outdoor concert, and simple all-you-can-eat buffets.

Nine years later, nearly everything on Pastor Zahora’s original list of ideas has been implemented. The church is moving steadily toward greater health, mission, and attendance. And the learning curve continues as New Cumberland persists in trying new strategies and gaining new insights.

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