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Plumb Lines: Health Over Growth

This post is part of series called Plumb Lines where Larry Osborne shares guidelines on how articulating certain “ministry plumb lines” can make decision making a snap, and can make sure that teams are in alignment with the greater mission. To start this series from the beginning, go to the Plumb Lines Intro post.

Now, let’s hear from Larry about the plumb line, Health over Growth.

I’ve been talking about plumb lines and how important they are. They are the rules of the road that help make most decisions a snap, and help people figure out, this is how we do things around here. So what I’d like to do now is talk about a few of the plumb lines that we use here at North Coast Church. Now, some of these might resonate with you to the point you go, “Wow, that is one of our plumb lines that’s articulated.” Others might be kind of close, and help you see something you might wanna do, and others might not fit you at all.

Remember, the plumb lines are a mashup of the eternal principles, core values, but also, sometimes, just the way we do things around here, so you have to figure out your own plumb lines eventually.

When we talk about them at North Coast Church, one of the ones we always talk about, it’s kind of first on our list is what we call health over growth. By that, we mean, that when forced to choose between the health of our church and the growth of our church, we are always going to choose the health of our church.

Now that doesn’t mean that we’re going to just navel gaze and take care of ourselves, and let the rest of the world go to hell in a hand basket, but what it does mean is that there are times when we have the opportunity to grow in front of us, but we must remember, if we grow in an unhealthy way, in the long run, we’re going to kill off our ministry and what God wants to do. Thus, we’ve come up with a little sound byte, or plumb line, health over growth.

Over and over, that has helped make decisions a snap. Let me give you a few examples of how that works.

For instance, if you think of a children’s program, and you’ve got a bunch of volunteers in this program, if I were to ask you what’s best for the kids in the children’s program, to have the same teacher every week or a teacher two weeks on, two weeks off, two weeks on, two weeks off? You’d all understand that for the kids, the best thing is, and probably growing the church, the best thing is a consistency. But if I ask you what’s best for the volunteers, it’s pretty obvious, two weeks on, two weeks off, two weeks on, two weeks off, so they can stay connected to the body as a whole. So guess which one we do, because of our plumb line? Two weeks on, two weeks off, two weeks on, two weeks off.

It’s the same with the small groups that our church is built around. The best thing for our church growth would be to have them year round, especially in summer, when new families are moving into the community, but if I want to do this for decades, and I want to make sure we don’t burn out “the ponies that are carrying the mail”, if you will (in the Pony Express). If I want to make sure we’re taking care of those people, then what I’m going to do is I’m going to give them a break. So health over growth at North Coast Church means we take the summer off, even though it slows down our growth.

Now, you might like that plumb line, you might not like that plumb line, but it’s an example of one, and you can see how it makes most decisions a snap around here. And why it’s so important to articulate it on the front end before people start running off in different directions, because they don’t know that plumb line.

Plumb lines–they keep you on mission, they keep you from drift, and they’ll keep you on target. And for us, health over growth is an incredibly important one.

What’s incredibly important for you?

This video is part of the Plumb Lines series available for free on YouTube, To watch the video, click below.