“Church on the Move: A Practical Guide for Ministry in the Community” by G. Travis Norvell (Judson Press) is the best church growth book I have ever read! I must confess that I have not read many church growth books. I really don’t like them. They often make me depressed. But “Church on the Move” has recipes! That alone tells you it is different from any church growth book you have ever read.

The author writes out of his own experience as the pastor of a historic, small city neighborhood church in Minneapolis. He begins by sharing the story of his decision to give up his car (his wife still has a car), particularly as he does ministry. He relies on his bicycle, public transportation, walking, and catching a ride with others in the day-to-day work of ministry. The result of this is that he is truly getting to know his community and the community is getting to know him and the church. Norvell found that riding the bus with people in the community and having conversations with folks while on a walk through the neighborhood put a face on social justice—made it practical in new ways.

As I read the book, every chapter stirred my imagination for what our church might be able to do to connect better with our community and grow—whether in number or mission. One chapter deals with what you can do with your parking lot, if you have one—or if you need one. Often a church parking lot is, what Norvell calls, “the temporary storage of automobiles.” What can be done with that space during the week to contribute to the good of the neighborhood? It can be a space for recreation, a community garden (on bails of straw!), or a venue for a farmers’ market or community festivals. And if more people in the congregation are walking to church (because they live in the neighborhood) or taking public transportation or riding their bicycles, a church could even find alternatives for the parking lot to enhance the Sunday experience. This is just one example of the very practical and accessible approach the author takes to the subject of church growth. Not to mention the discussion questions, exercises, and adaptations to classic prayers that are at the end of each chapter—as well as the aforementioned recipes.

Some might not call this a church growth book, but I think it is the best kind of church growth book. It is focused on the doable ways a church can organically grow in its mission, and even in numbers, by connecting in real ways to the surrounding community. It is practical, accessible, and uplifting, and it stirs the imagination. I plan to buy several copies of this book to pass out strategically among church leaders to spark their imaginations in regard to ways that our church can grow by becoming more directly connected to our community. I definitely plan to try out the recipe for pulled pork, and I may even ride my bicycle to church.


Rev. Dr. Shawn Zambrows is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Redlands, California. Church on the Move: A Practical Guide for Ministry in the Community is available from Judson Press.


Photo The Christian Citizen