Go into all the world and make disciples.
That’s the mission God gave His church.
And even though we have creative purpose statements and fancy website slogans, that’s still the heart of the mission of the church you’re leading.
Our job is to reach people and help them follow Jesus. That’s business.
So let me ask you a simple question.
How’s business? How is your church doing at accomplishing this God-given mission? Are you truly reaching people?
It’s easy for a church to be about maintaining the status quo, keep the saints comfortable, or stay busy doing good things. But we must never forget that our job is to reach people.
Here are eight reasons your church might be struggling to reach people who need to hear, know, and live out the Gospel.
#1 – You have too many ministries.
In a way, “reaching people” is a pretty generic option. With a little bit of creativity, you can make just about anything fit into that bucket.
That’s one reason churches end up with too many ministries.
It’s true that God can use anything. But effective churches understand they live in a unique community with unique resources guided by a unique calling. Instead of trying to do everything, they focus on what they can do best, because that’s what stewardship looks like.
In our workshop, we dive deeper into how to identify your keystone ministries and align your ministry strategy with your church-wide mission. We spend time working hard on this because we know the key to growth might not be something you start but something you stop.
The most effective churches carefully evaluate everything and make sure each ministry aligns with the mission of the church and has an effective strategy. Without this type of focus, it’s likely the ministry menu gets bloated.
If you’re struggling to reach people, get some people together and answer this question. If we could only do three things to reach our community, what would they be?
#2 – You’re not actually equipping people to invite.
Pastors often do a great job encouraging their people to invite their friends, neighbors, and co-workers. But encouragement and equipping are two different things.
People don’t just need encouragement to invite, they need the tools. You need to do more than ask them to bring people to church, you need to give them resources that make it easy to follow through.
Are you asking people to invite their neighbors, friends and co-workers, or are you giving them the actual tools to do it. After all, if you want someone to do something, make sure they have the tools to do the job.
Here are two examples:
- Instead of saying, “invite your friends using social media,” say something like “if you go to ourchurch.com/invite you will find sample images you can share and even Facebook posts that you can cut, paste and share in your feed. If you can copy and paste, you can invite people to church next week.”
- Instead of saying, “don’t forget to invite your friends next week” say something like “on the way out, our greeters are going to give you three small business cards. I’d like to ask you to personally give them to three people this week. It could be someone you work with or it could be a server at a restaurant.”
Looking for more ideas? Here are 19 ways you can equip your church to invite.
#3 – You aren’t designing church services with guests in mind.
Here’s a growth strategy that costs zero dollars.
Plan your Sunday services knowing there will be brand new people in the room.
It doesn’t mean you have to change your message or avoid a topic, it just means you have to plan what you’re going to say knowing there are guests in the audience.
It doesn’t mean you have to avoid worship or dumb anything down, it just means you have to be sensitive to explain what might be strange for a new person with no background or context.
We work with churches who teach verse by verse through books of the Bible who still design their services with guests in mind. That’s because this is a mindset issue not a style issue.
If you want new people to come to church your church service, make sure it’s designed with them in mind.
One practical way to do this is to speak to guests every week. Even if there are 15 people in the church service and they are all related to you, intentionally welcome guests and let them know what to expect.
It’s a powerful way to reinforce to your regulars that new people are supposed to be here.
#4 – Your ministries don’t match the needs of your community.
Across the nation, communities are changing.
Wise churches pay attention to these changes and make sure their ministries match.
As the community changes, the ministries of the church need to change to adapt. It’s possible your ministries meet the needs of the community 20 years ago, not today. Listening to the community may not be as important as listening to God, but it’s right behind.
Your community might be different, but people in suburban Atlanta are busy with school, sports, and all sorts of groups. Pastors routinely discuss this phenomenon, lamenting the fact that people don’t seem to have time for church anymore.
On one hand, we bemoan the busyness of our culture but on the other, we keep planning events. Are people calling your church in October asking for a bigger and better fall festival? Are parents discussing the need for a better community Easter Egg hunt in the spring? Are those really the needs of the community?
If they are, then by all means, move forward.
But it’s possible you might need to do more homework.
If you want to know the needs of the community, ask people. Ask the mayor, city council, school principal, police chief, Wal-Mart manager, waffle house cook, or the town gossip.
#5 – You’re not planning for growth.
Most churches don’t have a purpose problem. Their purpose is made clear in the pages of Scripture.
But rare is the church that takes the time to develop a clear mission considering that purpose and align their strategies and plans with that purpose. Sometimes, churches don’t grow because they don’t plan to grow.
Some pastors avoid this part of leadership because it doesn’t feel very spiritual. It looks more like business school than Bible study.
But planning is Biblical. Nehemiah created a plan to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Jesus preached a parable about the value of planning and good stewardship. The book of Proverbs is filled with admonitions to plan and trust God.
Planning is not for God’s benefit, it’s for ours. God can show up whenever and wherever He want. He’s not limited by any plan we create. He doesn’t need your plan at all.
But you, your leaders, your volunteers, and your community…all will benefit from proper planning. That’s why working on a growth plan is a great idea.
If you need help with this, just reach out. We can help.
#6 – Your staff and key leaders are focused on maintenance.
Here’s a hallowing truth: Most people in your church don’t want it to grow.
They don’t want more cars in the parking lot or more people in the pews. They don’t want to share the access they have with others because it means less access to them. They aren’t trying to be spiritually sinister, but deep down, they like things the way they are. That’s why they attend.
They want their church to stay the same, to stay the way they like it.
But maintaining the status quo isn’t the purpose of your church. You’re not just called to care for the 99 sheep, you’re called to go after the one that is lost.
Practically speaking, this means you have to carve out time to work ON the church, not just in the church. You have to devote some of your time to things that will make do difference this week but can make a huge difference over the next five years.
Here are some practical ways you can do this.
- Take one day a month to pray, think, and plan for the future.
- Devote the first 20 minutes of your staff meeting to leadership development. This makes it easy.
- Make appointments with yourself to do those things nobody will pressure you to do, like watch coaching videos or pursue relationship that can help you grow.
- Sign up for a workshop where you will be forced to think about the big picture.
- Evaluate your staffing plan to make sure you’re hiring people that will help you reach more people, not just facilitate existing ministry.
#7 – You don’t advertise or promote.
Many church have good church services, good programs and ministries and a really important mission.
But not all those churches are growing.
And while there’s more to it, taking a look at your outreach plan is a good start.
Some think advertising isn’t a spiritual concept. But advertising and marketing are neither good nor bad. They are simply tools that can be used for anything.
If you have a good church service and you’re confident in your process to make disciples, it might be time to think about advertising, marketing or promotion.
Chances are, you’ve got people in your church who are good at this stuff. They may even do it for a living. Marketing is a valuable that could be put to great use. And if you don’t have people in your church with these skills, learn them. Take it upon yourself to learn best-practices.
Reorient some of your budget towards growth opportunities
A good starting point could be gathering a small group of people, giving them a small budget, and unleashing them on the opportunity.
# 8 – You’re not learning.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve been a youth pastor, church planter, senior pastor, church consultant and CEO.
And in nearly every case, when the department or organization I was leading hit a growth barrier, I was the problem.
Not circumstances, culture, facilities or ministries….ME.
I’m the biggest growth barrier.
It’s too easy for pastors to fall into what we call the stuck mindset. It’s where we accept our circumstances and limitations to the point of disengagement. We say things like…
- Well, we’re just not in a wealthy area and that’s why we can’t raise money for ministry.
- Well, we’re reaching a ton of new people and that’s why we can’t raise money for ministry.
- People just aren’t committed to church or God as much as they used to me.
- I don’t have a staff member that can handle these.
Some of these things are real issues that can be addressed. Some of them are realities that can’t be changed.
But we’re not powerless in any of this. In fact, we’re called to embrace current reality and LEAD ANYWAY.
That’s why learning is the key. It’s action based on a GROWTH mindset, not the STUCK mindset. We know we’re in that position when we say things like…
- These are the people God has given us, now how can we disciple them?
- These are the needs of our community, now what are we going to do about them?
- These are the potential volunteers and leaders in my circle of influence, now how can I develop them.
- This is my schedule and my church, now how I can I get better?
No matter what situation you’re in, you can learn and you can get better. Adopt a posture of learning and open yourself up to new ideas. Take on the growth mindset.
Get or stay in learning mode, and you’ll be in a much better position to lead your church to reach new people.
So What's Next?
Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not? From someone who used to be a pastor and church planter, I know it can be frustrating.
Ultimately, church growth is up to God. But what else can you do as a steward to reach more people?
We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. As a result we created a free guide to reaching more people that will bring clarity and inspiration.
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