Niyi Dunmade is the CEO/Lead Church Consultant for Magnicraft Consulting Limited and the Executive Director of Church Answers, Nigeria. He serves at The Transforming Church International, Abuja
Dunmade is a Certified Church Consultant with the Society of Church Consultants and Church Answers/Church Consultation University both in the USA.
He is also a Certified Church Revitalization Specialist, a Certified Church Administrator with the Church Administrators’ Society of Nigeria, a Certified Interim Pastor; and a Chartered Manager with the Nigerian Institute of Management, amongst others.
He is the host of a weekly live broadcast show tagged “Monday Morning Matters” on Magnicraft Consulting Facebook Page & YouTube Channel.
Dunmade, a registered engineer also holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Lagos. He has a vast experience both within the public and private sectors, including the oil and gas sector.
He spoke with Church Times on issues of Church Growth, find below excerpts:
At what point did it occur to you that you have to go into church consulting?
The whole thing started when I began interacting with churches and their leaders. I was shocked to discover that many churches are declining in communities where the population is growing at a faster rate. In some instances, churches are growing at a rate of 2% while the communities in which they are situated are growing at a rate of 45%.
This discovery gave me a lot of concern, and I thought it would be a great idea to begin to help churches find solutions to the health and growth problem. So, apart from praying and getting myself ready spiritually for the task, I had to take up some training and certifications in the area of church consulting.
What you are saying is that the situation on the ground inspired you to venture into church growth matters and church consulting?
Yes. But beyond that my passion and love for God also informed my commitment. I believe the reason Jesus has not come back is that the Church (that is the Bride) is not prepared to receive Him. Another reason stated in the scriptures is that the gospel has not been preached yet to all the nations or people groups of the world.
We must also appreciate that Jesus is going to be married to a Bride without any spots, blemishes, or wrinkles. I believe the day the church attains this state; the marriage of the Bride will take place subsequently.
The beauty of the Church can only be seen when the wrinkles and the spots are taken care of. I also discovered that many church leaders try to use business tools to assess their growth rate. This is counterproductive because the church is not driven by profit but by the number of souls that are won to God’s Kingdom.
You have been trying to help churches see the need for growth in the last 15 years though you started a formal organization to pursue this about four years ago. What are your early recollections in the area of helping churches to grow?
I discovered that the average Nigerian pastor wants his church to grow. But they experience quite some frustrations, stress, fatigue, and burnouts. They win souls but the souls go out of the church through the back door.
So from the very beginning, we tried to help churches reach more people in their community and improve their retention capacity the right way. We make pastors realize that if God called them they must follow God’s pattern (especially the descriptive nature of the early church) in implementing His assignment. If they don’t follow the Way, He wants them to do the work they won’t experience His kind of growth.
The good thing is that there are tools that can be put to use to help churches catch up with the changes in the society (both in terms of demography and psychography of a community). There are also diagnosis tools that are used to access a local church based on the biblical descriptive nature of the early church as recorded in the Book of Acts.
In the 70s we hardly find people who are into church consulting in Nigeria. But churches were growing What happened that we now need to have consultants?
Most of the churches that were growing were drawing strength and resources from the US and other big churches outside Nigeria. Bishop David Oyedepo for instance had a connection with Tulsa in the US. He was close to known pastors like Kenneth E. Hagin. Pastor Enoch Adeboye was always going to Yongi Cho (of blessed memory) in South Korea, the pastor of the largest church in the world then.
So many of the churches that you see experiencing growth today had an influx of refined and relevant knowledge from those advanced countries. No ministry is an island. There is a need to have professional and outside eyes (church consultants) to be used to help churches as the objectives and vision framework are very different from those of businesses.
But there were people like Moses Orimolade and Apostle Ayodele Babalola who also experienced growth in their churches despite not being exposed to foreign church leaders. How do you explain this?
I think they were also exposed to the early experienced missionaries who were well trained in the UK. Pa Sidney G. Elton for instance was a seasoned man who had encounters with our native ministers. He was from the UK. The UK had people who were theologically grounded in these areas and they helped indigenous ministers with practical tips to help the growth of their churches.
Beyond that, we must also realize that times have changed. There is a gap of socio-cultural change that the church needs to bridge. The church needs to be aware that we have a younger generation who is different from older generations. The main thing about growth is change as you can have growth without making some changes. The church has to catch up with the current times, trends, and current challenges in society. The church has to change its methodology, not the message, mission, or mandate because the times and trends have changed. By that I mean the souls we are to reach out to today, have changed in their disposition.
Some pastors are skeptical about church consultants. What makes what you do different from the business consultants?
In my book (Church Retention: Pathway To Growth), I surveyed almost 600 pastors and asked if they budget for church consultation. Almost 90% say no, and 11% say they do. Also, about 80% said they do not use the services of church consultants. But some don’t use church consultants but use business consultants, which is approximately 21%. Church consultation is still new in Nigeria and I do understand the skepticism. However, with time, people will embrace it to see the massive benefits.
The tools church consultants use are developed based on the descriptive nature of the early church so churches assessed can align with God’s design as experienced in the Acts of Apostles. The early church was a discipling church, it was an evangelistic church. The early church was a praying church. It was a worshipping church and it was a serving church.
That is the organic or spiritual side of the church. Those elements must be active and balanced in a given local church. It is like saying you have to concentrate only on your digestive system alone. That person will not last or be healthy at all. We need to get a balance. All these six church functions or systems must be balanced and this cannot be done by accident but intentionally.
I have seen pastors who concentrate only on prayers. They tell you they are a praying church and refuse to do evangelism. Some say they are heavy on evangelism and refuse to pray. There is no way such churches can stand the test of time away from God’s design.
So what has been your experience consulting for churches over the years?
Over the years I have discovered that the Church is minoring in the major and majoring in the minor. The goal of the local church is not to entertain people but to make mature disciples. The main duty of the church is evangelism and discipleship. But most churches are weak in these major areas. When churches say they want to grow, they must be ready to pay the price in the areas. Most churches are not majoring in evangelism and discipleship. The way you know is when they only focus on themselves and do not reach out to the outside world with an outward mentality.
I talk to pastors daily. Most wait till when things are so bad in their church before they ask for help. And they now want a quick fix that isn’t feasible. When leaders don’t reach out to consultants when things are bad then things get worse which is not good. The consultants should be carried along from day one. Most church leaders are not ready to face the reality of the true state of their churches from in-depth assessments
They manage the symptoms of the church instead of asking the consultant to diagnose the disease so this can be properly addressed. Most pastors sometimes think church consultants don’t have empathy as we don’t look at symptoms. We look at the source of the problem. Pastors should ask for help outside of their church. You can’t possibly give an honest and objective view of yourself. Somebody has to do it for you since everyone has blind spots.
What is your definition of Church growth?
Growth is not only numerical as they are different types of growth. If you look at growth from human physiology, you will discover that no two human beings grow at the same rate. So church consultants look at growth comprehensively. We look at quality, quantity, biological growth, transferred growth, extension growth, financial growth, expansion growth, etc.
If a church grows because some people join it from another church and not by not conversion such growth may not last. Such growth can be harmful.
What we concentrate on as consultants is to make sure the church is healthy. God wants to use a church that is healthy to save mankind from the shackles of the devil.
By implication, you are saying a church could grow and not be healthy?
You can have healthy churches that are small or big and also unhealthy churches that are also small or big. Health is not really about numbers. It is about the process of growth. If a church does not grow in the biblical way, which is evangelism or winning of souls, such growth is not healthy. We look at the type of growth a church is experiencing for us to establish if a church is truly healthy or not.
Does that mean a lot of churches are not growing in a real sense?
Very correct. Many churches use numbers as a yardstick to measure growth. I’m afraid that’s not right and complete. Transferred growth, for instance, comes with its headaches. It takes time to uninstall what these people bring from the other churches. There must be a balance between quality and quantity. There is always tension between these two extremes of church growth types.
How does a church then experience real growth when new people who are believers move into the community and join the church?
First I will say there are some areas every church needs to look at. The church needs to look at the quality of leadership it has. Most churches don’t appreciate the human resources God has blessed them with. They, therefore, don’t maximize this human resource potential. When we have everybody bring their strengths to the table it goes a long way to help the church.
Community knowledge is key. Most churches don’t do community analysis well. If you know the people in your community, you stand a chance of relating with them well. The community analysis must be done periodically to know the changes that occur so you could minister to the people’s needs. There is also a discipleship pathway where the next steps are clear to all. The church needs to focus on the children’s department, and do a lot of teaching with an educative syllabus.
With the aid of the community analysis, the local outreach would be effective. As the church grows healthy there will be an increase in resources. You cannot grow if you don’t know or identify your church’s target audience. There is a specific target audience you must reach out to. Jesus for instance said he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, even though the world was his ultimate target eventually.
Money is believed to drive church growth. What do you think should be the correct attitude of the church to it?
The early church had issues with welfare. The widows were complaining because they were neglected in the daily ministration of food. In Acts 6 they had to bring in more leaders (deacons) to help. It is the sheep that give birth to sheep. You get the funds when the congregation keys into the vision of the church. Once the people buy into the vision of the church there won’t be issues with resources. So money should not be the primary target or concern of any church. When discipleship is healthy in a church, resources won’t be a problem.
The church also needs a bylaw that will stipulate how to generate money, manage it, and how to spend it. The church should have a clear finance policy and keep improving as the church grows. Some churches don’t raise offerings. That is their policy. And they are getting on fine. One of the essential functions of leadership is to vision-cast. The more you do that people buy into it and become stakeholders. When they know there is integrity in how money is used, people will not have a problem giving. God will not give you what the church does not have the capacity for.
What about church ownership?
Jesus is the Owner of the Church, the Head, and the Leader. Why many people disrespect pastors is because of some, who claim ownership of the church. Anybody called is a messenger or custodian for God. If you are a messenger, you must get the Owner’s approval to do what He wants you to do. Pastors need to ensure they are accountable to God and the people in their care. I believe having healthy church governance in place will help any church grow, revitalize and be healthy.