In a recent blog, church consultant George Bullard asked the question, “Why is the Congregational Life Cycle Still So Popular and Requested?” This model related to the life of a church was developed by Bullard, Bob Dale, and others in the 1970s and 1980s to describe the develop of a congregation and possibilities of redevelopment. The idea was first introduced in secular models of organizational development. You can see the model here.
Bullard points out that he still has requests to present on the model in seminars and conferences as well as permission to reproduce it. I remember seeing the model in Bob Dale’s book To Dream Again and hearing Bullard talk about it in the 1980s.
The primary reason that I think the model resonates with so many church leaders is that it assumes that the church, any church, is a living organism. It is born, it matures, it contributes, and it ages. The big difference between the church and a living organism, such as a person, is that it can find new life by reinventing itself. Alright, I admit that individuals can retool, reinvent, and reboot themselves. I have done it myself a few times, but the opportunities are limited. There comes a time when one no longer has the time and energy to do it.
Perhaps one of the givens of the Congregational Life Cycle model is that it recognizes that nothing material lasts forever. I can point to any number of congregations that have birthed other churches, nurtured believers, and launched laity, ministers, and missionaries into the world, but they no longer exist. That is the nature of life. They are gone but their legacy continues.
If you are not familiar with Bullard’s model, take a look at it and test its applicability in your setting.