Church Growth Lesson from the Bees

Church Growth Lesson from the Bees

If it seems like I’m talking a lot about the bees lately, it’s likely because Spring is the busiest time for beekeepers. It’s the time when the colonies are coming out of winter and expanding rapidly because there’s just so much in blossom. With lots of nectar coming in, the queen starts laying profusely and colonies are sensitive to Spring weather fluctuations. If it’s cold and wet (as April & bits of May have been), not only is there less nectar available, but they consume the nectar that they’ve already collected, as opposed to storing it for honey.

So… let me tell you a bit about the week and then share what the bees taught me about church growth.

Bible School & Company

Last weekend was a Bible School weekend, meaning that I did a quick trip up to Melun Friday afternoon and back Saturday afternoon. These weekends are always a bit tiring, but it’s great to be connected to a larger group of eager learners & Christian workers.

Soph had a friend from school come, stay the night, and join us for service on Sunday. What’s kind of unique is that this girls boyfriend is also my student. So… after service we did a quick run to Poitiers to pick him up and he joined us for dinner and an afternoon of Suspend. It was a lot of fun and a good ice-breaker.

Soph’s also been making good use of Dominic’s room while he’s been gone… he has a tub chair looking out the door-windo and this week I saw one of Soph’s pillows there…. hmmm… she’s laying claim. 🙂

She is finally done her semester and did really well academically.

Church Yard Bonfire

On Thursday evening Liz had to send me a text asking if I needed rescuing from the church yard. I went down around 4:30pm and she texted around 9:30.

I’d taken advantage of a break in the weather (we’ve had a LOT of rain this week) to go down and mow the lawn & do some other tidy-up work. This included having a bonfire with some cut branches that had been sitting out back in a pile for about 2 years.

Things had been so dry in April that I didn’t dare, but since we’d had so much rain, I figured it was a safer proposition. While it burned I puttered away at the mowing and other trimming work.

The Bees’ Lesson in Church Growth

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I went into winter with 4 colonies of honeybees, but that two of them didn’t make it. That means I began the season with 2 colonies. However, I now have 9 colonies… yes, NINE!

#HowdThatHappen

…it all has to do with the way bees naturally multiply in nature. That process is called “swarming.”

When we think of a swarm of bees, we think of a gazillion bees that we think are going to attack us because they’re angry. In fact, when bees swarm, they are incredibly docile and can generally be approached with only a minimum of precautions.

What’s a Swarm?

Swarms typically happen in Spring when there are a maximum of resources available and the hive population is at it’s highest & strongest. It can be provoked by a number of scenarios, both positive and negative, but the end result is the same… two colonies from one.

The bees sense a need to swarm so they make several extra queens (heir and a spare) and then, usually just before those new queens hatch, they’ll chase the old queen out of the hive after scout bees have found a suitable new home. The queen never leaves alone however. In a primary swarm, anywhere from 1/3 – 1/2 of the colony will leave with her. They go up into the honey stores, gorge themselves on honey (so that they have resources with which to begin the new colony) and they accompany her out of the hive, to the location that the scout bees have chosen.

From there, they have everything they need to quickly establish a new colony.

  • a viable queen who can begin laying the next generation of worker bees
  • enough existing worker bees to carry out the necessary tasks of hive establishment (wax comb-building, foragers, guard bees at the entrance and internal cleaning & resource management bees)
  • resources to carry them over until they can find a local food source and begin gathering it.

If the queen went out on her own… she’d die quickly as she can barely even feed herself… worker bees do that. If worker bees went out on their own, they wouldn’t last more than 3 weeks, the lifespan of an adult bee. It takes the whole team and if those conditions are in place… VoilĂ , you have a new colony.

Church Growth… Church Planting

Church planting, done right, looks a lot like this I think. I’ve seen church planters go out more or less on their own and have struggled for a very long time. It’s not impossible, but it’s an uphill battle. I’ve also seen other scenarios where church plants have happened as a full blown team effort and thing happen both more quickly and with fewer initial growing pains.

  • When Jesus sent the disciples out, he sent them in pairs. (Luke 10.1)
  • It’s not good for man to be alone. (Gen. 2.18)

If you’re a church leader reading this, and you have a desire to plant a new church… consider the bees. It’s so much easier to have a successful church plant when all of the material and spiritual resources are present and available.

In just two months, because things happened in the right season, I went from two colonies of bees, to nine. I won’t be able to harvest honey from them all – the harvest comes in time. May our spiritual efforts be similarly multiplied and equally as successful – yours and ours.


Thanks for being part of our “swarm”, and for the resources that you contribute – whether through financial, prayer or moral support.

God bless you today!

3 responses

    • Hi Michele… I remember your dad passing, but somehow I didn’t realize / remember that he too was a bee keeper. Hmmm could be a number of reasons. Typically if bees swarm, that’s how they multiply so 1/2 would go with the old queen & /12 would stay with a new queen that they will have raised. THAT typically happens because the queen is getting old & has a weaker pheromone (scent) in the hive, or they’re just too crowded.

      If there has been absolutely no activity since then, my hunch would be that the possibilities would be:

      a) there was a problem with the hive (eg. infestation of varoa mites or possibly hive beetles) and they just wanted to make a clean break & start anew elsewhere. I’ve never had that happen, though I’ve heard of it.

      b) it’s possible that they DID leave 1/3 – 1/2 behind, but the queen failed or there was just something wrong and the remaining colony didn’t survive.

      If you leave it there untouched, it wouldn’t surprise me if, after a while, another swarm took up residence (if there are any around). The smell of a formerly inhabited hive with old brood comb is a strong temptation for them.

      Do you know any other beekeepers in the area? If so, they might be able to take a look & give a better analysis.

      hugs to you!!

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