Run a quick Google search on “church growth” and you’ll quickly discover two things.
First, there are a lot of ideas, products, blogs and companies that offer church growth solutions.
And second, there are a lot of people who believe pursuing church growth is wrong. Don’t worry about growth, they say. Instead, focus on health, preaching the Truth, or serving the poor.
After nearly two decades of working in the local church and several years as a church consultant, I have a lot of thoughts and ideas on church growth. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, so I humbly share these ten thoughts on church growth.
- There’s nothing wrong with a small church, but there is something wrong with a church that wants to stay small.
If you’re the pastor of a small church, don’t feel bad and don’t apologize. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a small church. Karl Vaters says small churches are to the Kingdom what small businesses are to the economy. What you are doing really matters!
But there is something wrong with a small church mentality, where a family feel is prioritized over Kingdom growth. Where there’s almost a sense of pride at not doing what the big churches do. Or where there’s a lackadaisical attitude among leaders. Small churches are great, but churches who value staying small are missing something important.
- Attracting a crowd and growing a church are two different things.
It’s not that hard to get people to show up to something, but building a church is entirely different. If you wanted to attract a crowd to a church service, it’s not that hard. Just give away $10 bills…it would be cheaper than a lot of the methods churches are using anyway. Free money would get people to show up, but you know it’s about much more than that. You may have a lot of people attending an event, but they're completely disconnected from the body of Christ. A crowd is not a church.
- The church shouldn’t be afraid of business strategies and tactics.
While a local church is much more than a business, it is at least a business. Websites, payroll, and staff meetings have more in common with 21st-century companies than the first-century church, and that’s okay.
The church needs sound business principles and gifted leaders that know how to run an organization. This stuff can never replace the Gospel, Holy Spirit, or pastoral care, but it’s important to the overall health of any organization.
- Church growth is often a result of church health.
Acts 2:42 describes the activities early church and while times are different, there is still much to learned. They listened to the Apostle’s teaching, met in homes for meals and prayer, and took care of tangible needs. And the result is the church grew rather quickly.
When the church does the things the church is called to do, the result is often growth. Maybe we need to focus on health or healthy growth, and not just growth.
- Church growth usually begins with leadership growth.
Too many people think it’s worship style, outdated facilities or a lack of a particular staff member keeping their church from growing. In reality, you can grow without any of those things. Church growth is often the result of personal growth among the pastors and leaders. John Maxwell says this is the law of the lid.
Take a look at history and you’ll see when revival comes to the church, the community often notices.
- You probably don’t need to do more. You likely need to do less.
It’s not an accident that the simplest churches are often the most effective churches. When you look at all your programs and ministries, there are some things that are simply outdated or no longer effective. Wise leaders take that time, money and energy and refocus it on mission critical activities. It’s possible the key to growth in your church is not adding new ministries, but scaling back and making everything better in the process.
You might be surprised that great churches don’t do everything well. Instead, they focus their efforts and energy on the right things.
One way to take action here is to evaluate each of your programs and ministries in light of your mission and vision and be honest about their effectiveness. This ministry evaluation form can help.
- There’s a dark side to church growth.
The relentless pursuit of more, even when applied in a good area like reaching people, can lead to deep discontentment and identity issues. Church growth can be dangerous because it's possible to grow a church and lose your soul. Read more about the myths of church growth here.
- We somehow play a part in church growth.
Whenever we talk about church growth, some love to point out there’s nothing we can do to grow the church and how it’s all up to God. They cite 1 Corinthians 3:6 to remind us God gives the increase. While God is ultimately in charge of everything, don’t miss the fact that Paul planted the seed and Apollos watered. For whatever reason, God chooses to use people in his redemptive plan. You’re called to be a good steward and what you do matters.
- God wants the church to grow.
Growth might not always look the way you expect, but God wants His church to grow. Whether it’s a church member sharing the gospel with a neighbor or a church hosting a large-scale community event, conversations and programs that introduce Jesus to people are a good idea.
- Comparison is a deadly game.
You can do all the “right” things and still not experience numerical growth. So comparing yourself to the church down the street or the church you follow online is a dangerous thing. Trying to figure it all out can drive you crazy. Trust God, embrace the tension between contentment and calling, and be a good steward of what God has given you.
If you love the local church, hopefully you will lead your church to healthy growth.
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?
We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. So we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.
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