Is church growth all up to God? Or do we have some part to play? I know these are complicated questions, and perhaps this tension will never be resolved.
We didn’t do a scientific study and this is certainly not a comprehensive list, but after working with more than a thousand churches over the last year, we do have some observations.
#1 – Excellent Church Services
For most churches, the Sunday morning service is the starting point for church engagement.
It’s when people sing songs, hear a sermon, and get to see one another. I’m not saying this is all there is (or that it’s even the most important part), but it is usually the most visible thing a church does and a basic starting point for many people.
Your weekly church service provides your biggest opportunity for church growth.
Your service is like the 4-yard carry on first down, a successful play to a Super-bowl winning team. It may not make Sports Center, but it’s crucial to the team’s goals. As you take a look at your church service, here are three ways to get better.
- Pray for the service and the opportunity you have to share the gospel and encourage Christians. Prayer is always a good starting point and a worthy activity.
- It doesn’t cost any money to run through the songs, preach the message in front of a mirror, and let people practice key elements of the service. Do a full run-through and practice transitions.
- When the service is over, talk about what worked and what didn’t work. Talk through what connected and what missed. Make this normal, but a few times a year, make an evaluation a really big deal.
#2 – A Church That Regularly Invites
The second thing we’ve seen that often leads churches to growth is a culture of inviting. Growing churches have a sense of excitement, where people naturally want to invite their friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
Inviting just happens.
But make no mistake about it. There are things you can do to encourage and facilitate this healthy behavior.
It’s easy to believe that people will just naturally invite their friends if they love your church, but even people who are sold out may still be timid to invite others. You’ve got to teach your church how to invite others and give them simple ways to do it. Asking your people to invite and equipping them are two very different things.
Here are a few ways to do this.
- Use invite cards. Print up some small cards (one of my new favorites is favicards.com) promoting a coming series, your kids ministry or the church service in general.
- Teach people how to use invite cards. Don’t just make them available…take time in the service or in a sermon to teach people how to use them.
- Ask people to use social media. During the welcome time in your church, encourage people to take out their phones and share a status update or a tweet.
For more ideas on how to encourage and equip your church to invite, check out this article: 19 Ways to Encourage Your Church to Invite
#3 – Engaged Volunteers
I heard a mega-church pastor recently attribute church growth to the high number of engaged leaders.
“Every church has volunteers,” he said. “What makes us different is we have people that are engaged.”
We’ve seen that as well.
Healthy and growing churches have a higher percentage of volunteers and leaders who thrive in their role. These aren’t people who show up on Sunday morning to do a task or reluctantly meet a need; they are people invested in the ministry outcome.
They don’t think like attenders; they think like staff.
Volunteer and leader engagement is often a leading indicator of growth. It’s on the front end.
You may not be able to get 25 people to show up this Sunday, but you can spend some time this week recruiting or developing one leader. That will have a long-term effect in your church.
When people are serving with an outward focus, growth often comes down the line.
#4 – Growing Leadership
We work with churches of all shapes and sizes, and by far, the biggest growth barrier they are encountering is leadership. It cuts across every program and ministry and touches every corner of the church. When the leaders get better, the church often grows.
The good news is that you can take responsibility for your own leadership development. You can adopt a growth mindset and create a plan for your own growth.
No one will make you do this and people aren’t going to ask you to make time for it. But it’s one of the biggest opportunities you have to lead your church.
In The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield writes about the difference between a professional and an amateur. He brings up the example of a professional golfer who develops a problem with his swing. He says, “It would never occur to a professional golfer to try and figure it out on his own.”
A professional golfer, clearly at the top of his or her game, knows the value of coaching. Likewise, great leaders invite people to speak into their circumstances, decisions and opportunities.
Great leaders invite people into the development process and model the way for other leaders throughout the church.
#5 – God
There’s a part of church growth that is simply unexplainable. It’s all up to God, but he chooses to use us. A divine partnership.
There are churches with leaders who love Jesus with all their hearts that do all the right things, who don’t experience any kind of visible growth. There’s no button to push guaranteed strategy.
We are called to be faithful and expected to contribute our best in His strength, and to leave the results to God. There are things we could (and should) do, but no matter what a resource promises, there is no guarantee.
If your church isn’t growing the way you think it should, it’s not necessarily because you’re not leading well. Always consider that, but in the end, put your hope in the Lord, not in any system or strategy.
Church growth is often the result of divine intervention mixed with human leadership. It's all God, but God chooses to use people.
— Church Fuel (@ChurchFuel) March 13, 2017
So What's Next?
Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not?
Ultimately, church growth is up to God. Are we being good stewards of what He's given us? 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?
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