Are you frustrated trying to grow your small church?
Maybe it feels as though you’ve hit a plateau, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get past a certain point. Maybe you have no idea which church growth strategies to try. Or maybe you know exactly which strategies to try… if only you had the time!
Unfortunately, many small church pastors waste a great deal of time on church growth strategies that simply don’t work.
That’s why, in this episode of the Hello Church! podcast, we’re sharing why church growth matters, 6 common myths about church growth many small church pastors believe, and 5 practical strategies you can use today to figure out why your church isn’t growing as fast as you’d like.
Why Church Growth Matters
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Healthy churches are growing churches, because healthy things grow. If your church has become stagnant or complacent, this is typically a sign that something is wrong.
It’s important to note, however, that when we talk about “church growth,” we aren’t only talking about the number of people who attend your church on a regular basis.
We don’t simply want to get more people in the door. We want our church members and guests to grow spiritually, relationally, and emotionally as well.
Our goal isn’t simply to increase our numbers. Our goal is to share God’s Word with a world in need. We want to see lives transformed as a result of the life-changing power of the gospel.
Jesus commands each of us to “go and make disciples of all nations” in the Great Commission. When we fulfill this mission as pastors, it typically results in church growth.
6 Common Church Growth Myths
Whether we realize it or not, there are many common church growth myths that can prevent or distract us from sharing the gospel as effectively as we would like.
Have you ever found yourself guilty of believing any of these myths?
Myth 1: You Need an Expensive AVL Budget
Just because larger churches often have bigger AVL budgets doesn’t mean your church needs fancy equipment to grow.
Your church growth is not connected to your AVL budget. If you can afford better audio or video equipment or a nicer light setup, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too.
Myth 2: You Need a Young Pastor at the Pulpit
Don’t fall for the myth that “younger is better.”
Yes, there comes a time when you will need to pass the mantle to the next generation, but don’t be so quick to replace older leaders with their hard-earned wisdom and experience.
Instead, aim for a church leadership team that offers both young enthusiasm and years of wisdom.
Myth 3: You Need More Money
Similarly, don’t believe the lie that if you only had more money, time, or resources, then your church would grow.
Yes, money can be a helpful tool. However, the same God who multiplied the fish and loaves (Matthew 14:13-21) is perfectly capable of multiplying your church’s limited resources as well.
Rather than wishing for what you don’t have, focus on being a wise steward of what you do have. You’re only limited by your imagination.
Myth 4: You Need to Wear Skinny Jeans to Preach
If you pastor an informal church and you’re comfortable wearing skinny jeans, you’re welcome to wear what makes sense for your church.
However, don’t feel like you need to dress, act, or preach like someone else for your church to grow. God called you to pastor your church. Show up as you!
Myth 5: You Need a Rockstar Worship Team
Thankfully, having a rockstar worship team is not a prerequisite to church growth, either.
While you will likely want to make sure your worship team isn’t obnoxiously off-key, it’s okay if your team is small or still learning. A single guitar player with the Lord’s anointing is far more powerful than a large, well-known worship band simply going through the motions.
Myth 6: You Need to Copy the Church Down the Road
While you can certainly look to other churches for ideas and inspiration, you should avoid outright copying what another church is or is not doing.
Chances are that other church has a different congregation with a slightly different mission or set of needs. Programs or methods that are vital to them may be completely unnecessary for you, and vice versa.
Be sure to choose your church’s programs based on your church’s needs, not simply by copying what other pastors are doing.
4 Common Reasons Small Churches Stop Growing
If you feel like your church has stopped growing, you’re not alone.
Instead of asking, “What can I do to help my church grow?” however, it may be more effective to ask, “Why isn’t my church growing?” or “What barriers are getting in our way?”
Here are four common reasons why your church might stop growing.
1. You’ve Stopped Growing as a Leader
According to Pastor Craig Groeschel, “When the leader gets better, everyone gets better!” Conversely, when we, as pastors, begin to stagnate, our churches stagnate as well.
It’s incredibly easy to get so caught up in ministry and the needs of our people that we forget to take care of our own spiritual health, but this is a trap we need to avoid. As leaders, we have a responsibility to take good care of our spiritual health first. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming ineffective religious hypocrites.
2. You Aren’t Training the Next Generation
Alternately, sometimes the reason our churches aren’t growing is because we’re so busy trying to do everything ourselves that we fail to train the next generation of leaders. We fail to delegate.
There are plenty of reasons why pastors might struggle to delegate, including pride, a lack of trust, poor time management, or simply not knowing how to lead a team well.
Whatever the reason, the truth is we simply cannot do everything on our own. We need to partner together with others and get help if we want our ministries to grow.
3. You’re Trying to Protect the Sacred Cows
Are there any elements of your church or your church service that are “untouchable,” even though they’re no longer serving you?
For example, maybe you couldn’t possibly end an underperforming program, fire an ineffective leader, or stop giving to a cause that’s no longer producing results because someone in your congregation wouldn’t approve.
When we get locked into traditions, we sacrifice the needs of our current congregation for the needs and preferences of the past. Yet, it’s important to serve the community we have rather than the community we used to have.
4. You’ve Lost Sight of the Mission
Similarly, perhaps your church has gotten so focused on chasing new initiatives or exciting new programs that you’ve lost sight of your true purpose or original mission.
Don’t sacrifice gospel-centered evangelism for the latest shiny object or social media trend. Rather, prayerfully consider the mission your church was given to accomplish and whether or not you’re accomplishing it well.
5 Ways to Discover Why Your Church Isn’t Growing
While the four reasons listed above are the most common reasons why a church might stop growing, the options don’t end there.
If your church isn’t growing and you don’t believe it’s due to one of the four reasons listed above, you may need to ask those around you for their feedback and insights.
1. Ask Your Key Leaders
One of the most helpful ways to determine why your church isn’t growing is often to talk to your church’s key leaders, including the staff members and volunteers. Oftentimes, they will see issues you simply don’t (or don’t want to) see.
If you can humble yourself enough to ask for open, honest feedback, chances are, your staff members and volunteers would be happy to tell you exactly what issues your church is facing!
2. Talk to Your Congregation
Secondly, you may want to invite certain members of your congregation to share their experiences. While this could be opening a can of worms (you will always have some people who just want to complain), it can also be helpful to get an outside perspective you may never have considered.
3. Talk to People in Your Community
Similarly, have you taken the time to find out how your church is perceived by your local community? Do others see your church as helpful, welcoming, and kind? Or are you perceived as judgmental, hypocritical, greedy, or aloof?
Whether or not the community’s perception of your church is accurate, if you are unintentionally sending the wrong message to your local community, you want to know about it.
4. Look at Your Metrics
Whether you love spreadsheets or you hate them, as a pastor, you have a responsibility to steward your time, talent, and resources well, and knowing your numbers is one effective part of that.
Ask yourself (or your church staff) questions like:
- How many people currently volunteer at your church, and how often do they serve?
- How many people tithe on a regular basis, and how much do they give?
- How many new guests visit your church, and how many return?
- How many people attend each of your programs, and how many do they attend?
- And finally, are these numbers increasing or decreasing over time?
When you slow down to look at the trends over time, you can often spot patterns that will tell you exactly why your church isn’t growing or where the breakdown might be.
5. Get Honest with Yourself
While your church staff, volunteers, and members may have wonderful feedback to offer, there may be times when you don’t need that feedback because you already know the issue. (You just don’t want to admit it or deal with it.)
- Are your sermons too basic, boring, or irrelevant to your audience?
- Has God asked you to go in a new direction, and you haven’t obeyed?
- Do you need to make a specific difficult decision you’ve been avoiding?
Growing a church isn’t always easy, but the health of your church is worth it.
If you’re willing to do the hard work of self-reflection, leadership, and delegation now, it will pay off in the future.