Your church has an important mission, a big vision, and there are a lot of people in your community to reach with the Gospel.

But money is pretty tight and you don’t have a substantial budget.

Does this mean you can’t reach people or lead a growing church? Are you supposed to just wait until giving picks up to implement changes?

I don’t believe a small budget means small impact.

Let’s talk about some things that are free or incredibly cheap you can do to dramatically improve your ministry and reach more people for Jesus.

1. Love people.

You don’t need intelligent lights, a second campus, or a new staff member to love the people God has placed in your community.

Loving and honoring people is absolutely free.

And it makes a huge difference.

People tend to be attracted to environments where they are invited, valued, and loved.

So if “we’re glad you’re here” moves from something you say on Sunday to something you value as a church, it will go a long way toward welcoming new people.

People outside your church don’t need your judgement, they need your love. And that’s something you can do regardless of your budget.

2. Evaluate.

You may not need to start a bunch of new stuff to make a bigger difference. The programs and ministries you’re offering the community right now might be the right things.

But chances are, they could be improved. And a lot more effective.

That’s why evaluation is so important.

Not the kind of evaluation that results in comments like “It was good” or “I liked it.” But the kind of honest evaluation that answers the question, “How effective is this at fulfilling our stated mission and vision?

If you want to get better, evaluate everything. This doesn’t cost money; it’s just requires honesty and focus.

How is your student ministry working? What about that annual event every summer? How about your church service?

When is the last time you pulled together a few people and put everything up for discussion? When is the last time you asked someone for honest feedback?

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had the honor to “secret shop” a couple of churches. Both of these churches made a relatively small investment to bring in a fresh set of eyes to evaluate everything and share insights with key leaders. The resulting changes made a big difference.

  • You can pay someone $5 to visit your church homepage and send you an evaluation.
  • You can ask three or four people to provide an honest evaluation of your sermon next week.
  • You can pull together some people and have honest conversations about what could be better.
3. Plan.

If you want something to get better, lengthen the runway.

Add a little more time to the same budget and the same people and the result will be better. That’s because planning can solve so many problems in your church.

  • If you want your sermon to be better, start praying, writing, and planning earlier.
  • If you want your service to be better, involve a few people and plan it out in advance.
  • If you want that event to reach more people, spend just as much time planning the promotion and communication as you do on the event itself.

Listen, I’ve been guilty of saying “that just snuck up on me.” But an event on the calendar can’t sneak up on you. It’s not a cougar! Saying something snuck up on you is just a nicer way of saying you didn’t plan properly.

But, the good news is that planning is virtually free. Just look ahead a few weeks or a few months or to the next season of ministry and start there.

4. Engage people online.

Every week, we hear from churches across the country who want to reach more people, but don’t have a lot of money. They ask about outreach ideas, plans to invite, and general advice about how to reach more people.

Nine times out of ten, these pastors would have great success online if they would spend just a little bit of time moving through the learning curve.

Google is the biggest advertising platform in the world. Facebook is a tremendous opportunity to engage.

And it’s extremely cost effective for churches to use these platforms to reach people.

Nobody is going to do it for you; you have to learn it or build a team. But the results will be worth the effort.

You can post engaging content (NOT announcements) to your Facebook page and create conversations with people in your community. And, with a small amount of money, you can make sure that content is seen by unchurched people in your community.

You can repurpose content you’ve already got (your sermon, for example) and share it far beyond Sunday.

Creating and sharing content works better than traditional advertising and it’s 60% cheaper. Learn a little and dive in. 

5. Develop leaders.

The biggest growth barriers churches face has nothing to do with parking lots, service times, or second campuses.

Pastors love to talk about those things, and while they are important, they aren’t deal breakers. I can point you to dozens of thriving churches with outdated sanctuaries and massive parking problems.

No, the biggest growth barrier you’ll face as a church is far more subtle.

It’s leadership development.

  • Start with yourself. Believe it or not, you’re the biggest lid in your church. It’s not fun to look in the mirror, but you’re the only person who can own the outcome. Take out a sheet of paper or open up a document and write down what you are going to do to get better as a leader in the next 12 months.
  • Then look at your staff. They need you to lead, not just manage. They need you to develop and disciple, not just assign tasks. They need you to invest in their lives, not just talk about ministry. Whether they are full-time, part-time, or volunteer staff, they need you to create a roadmap for them.
  • Then look at your leaders. You may not have hundreds of volunteers and leaders, but you have some. God has placed some people in your life for you to lead. You need a roadmap to turn volunteers into leaders. It’s not going to invent itself; you’ll have to design it.

You can’t lead your church with the team you wish you had. God has called you to be a good steward with what He’s already given you.

Here’s the good news. Leadership development in the church is really just discipleship and you don’t need a lot of money to do this. Invest your time and energy into making your people better.

Those are five suggestions for improving your ministry and making a bigger impact without significantly changing your budget. I’d love for you to add your suggestions in the comments.

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 are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?

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 breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.

Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Breaking Barriers today.