Church Growth Institute News

The Rock Soup Theory of Starting and Growing a Church

Do you remember this story from when you were a child?  That there was a small village somewhere and nobody had any food.  There was not enough to eat and most of the townspeople were miserable and hungry.  So one guy ?a community leader? came out and said "Hey guys, I know what I'm going to do" (or  maybe he said "I know what we'll do") let's go make some Rock Soup.

So all the townspeople chattered amongst themselves and said "what the heck is rock soup?"  I never heard of that.  That doesn't sound very tastey.

So the community leader went out and started a big bucket of Rock Soup (although it probably wasn't a bucket, it was probably a big kettle).

Water was plentiful so they took some water, put it in a very large basin, and started to boil the water.  Then the commnity leader went and washed off some rocks and plunked them into the soup.

As the community stood around and looked at this craziest thing they had ever seen, and perhaps chattered amongst themselves, the community leader said "now only if we had some carrots" that would really flavor up this rock soup.

Now at that point one of the older women who was standing in the crowd and not saying much said "well, actually I have some carrots".  So she went and cut up some carrots and propped them into the rock soup.

As they stood there and waited for it to boil, the community leader said, "now only if we had some onions to flavor up this rock soup".  And one of the other people who was standing by said "well actually, I have some onions, and they went and chopped them up and put them into the Rock soup".

Well, this all carried on for a while, until they had quite a feast.

What did the leader do?  He took nothing and made something.  He took a depressed bunch of individuals, had them work together, and came up with a solution to the problem they were all experiencing.

I recently spent a weekend with someone who was growing a church on basically the rock soup theory of buidling a church.

I showed up at a meeting where there were just a few people present.  To the untrained eye it might almost look like a venue that wasn't very  appealing to attend.  If you didn't know what you were looking for or you blinked, you might walk right by and miss it.

But the individual gave a message.  He had been invitted to attend and to speak by another one of the individuals who had setup the meeting, and gotten a few friends together to have lunch.

The individual mentioned that he was also going to be speaking Sunday night at a venue nearby.  For those who showed up he had another message prepared.  At the first meeting he allowed for an opportunity for individuals to pray for one another.  At the second meeting he asked if any individual had a testimony.

A testimony is really a powerful thing.  All you really need is two people and you can have a testimony.  It's low tech.  It doesn't cost a lot.  It's not a far off goal you have to work for.  One person can simply tell another person about what is going on in their life, or what God is doing in their life.  If it is someting good, they can rejoice together, if it is something bad, they can pray for one another.  Many times something good this week will be the resolution of something bad that was going on last week (and this builds positive morale among the group).

The leader set a goal - by saying "I think if we had a video projector then we could show videos out in the parking lot and attract more people from arround the neighborhood to come and watch the video", People who might not come into the building but may come by out side to check out what was going on (the individual was aware of where some people "hang round" outside the facility in the nearby town).

When no one was sharing a testimony, he sort of went around the room "how about you Bob, do you have somting to share?" and Bob would either say yes or no but usually share someting.  Ok how about you Sallly, do you have a testimony to share (by doing this he was pulling quite people out of their shell)?  It was hard to be a "wall flower" at his meeting, if you didn't participate he would call on you.  But to those who then participated in the meeting, they actually had more fun.  If someone still woudln't share he might say "would you like to close in prayer".  In other words he consistenly encouraged "participation" (bringing peple out of their shell, and getting people to interact with the group, for the good of the whole group).

So before you know it you had:

  1. A goal
  2. A dream
  3. A deadline
  4. A cause
  5. An outreach
  6. A group

Instead of a bunch of downcast individuals feeling bad about problems in their life, you had a group that all felt pretty positive by the time they left. As I write this article I am basking in the somewhat "stunned" ambiance of how simple, but how effective, was this little meeting.

In defining characteristics of churches that thrive we have identified that:

  1. Pastors who want growth or Setting Growth goals is a key "factor" behind a growing church.  This individual did this by using the community to raise funds for a projector to use for an outreach effort (toward the goal of connecting with more people).  In other words, he made rock soup.  He took a group of individulas, had them pool their resources, and made a group out of them.
  2. Another key factor is leadership, or good leadership, John Maxwell says "the leader starts with the end in mind" he or she gives people a goal to streatch for.  It may stretch them.  They may not have it.  But by working together they can work toward and obtain a goal.  Sometimes a vision sort of unfolds, if you jsut keep working with whateve r you have you can take stray pieces and weave them together into some kind of whole.
  3. Both of those other two factors (setting an outreach goal for the group, while bringing them together to encourage each other) and (exercising leadership to facilitate that by encoruaging testimonies and participation) he accomplished a third intangible of "morale".  Now this group had positive morale.  No longer was it a group of individuals each sort of "downard looking" worried about their own troubles, now it was a group, each feeling their own troubles cared for by one another, and working toward an even bigger goal, that woudl help even more others as well.  Outward focus is also so key to the work of the church as well.

For more infomration on how the Chruch Growth institute can hyelp your churcch grow, and implment factors that cause growth, contact us at ( or visit os unlien at