Church growth is a goal that the majority of our church clients come to us trying to reach in some way, shape, or form. Rarely is it explicitly stated, but it often shows its face in requests like:
- We need a more effective website
- We need a new logo and brand message
- We have a new campus launch coming up that we need to market
- We want to send out some direct mail for an upcoming series
The list of requests goes on and on, but it almost always boils down to the desire to grow and reach more people with the hope of Jesus. And more times than not, the obstacles are a bit deeper than a website update, new logo or series branding can resovle on its own.
I was a student of church growth for over 20 years. I can remember being in college and reading about new churches, like Willow Creek and Saddleback, and the tremendous growth that they were having as they were reaching more and more people wondering, what on earth these leaders were doing so differently? How were they seeing such exponential growth year after year?
But, let me stop us right here before we get the wrong idea. There’s no magic formula that will instantly grow your church overnight. There are far too many elements at play for someone to make that sort of claim. But while this isn’t an exact science, there are a few strategic things you can do that will ensure your church is set up for growth.
Throughout my life, I had the incredible opportunity to start and pastor two fast-growing churches—one in a small town in Kentucky and another one right here, in Nashville. I've pastored through the growth barriers of 100, 250, 750, 1000, 2500, and 5,000+ people. While there are unique growth challenges at each stage, there are also certain things that stay consistent.
In fact, I believe there are 5 things that almost every growing church must do effectively.
Effectively tell your story. God has given your church a specific calling — a sweet spot. The question is, have you really tapped into it? Do you know your true mission as a church? Figure out your sweet spot. Get in your zone. Clarify your calling. Then go and do your thing like no one else and find really effective ways of communicating your uniqueness. You may know your calling, but time and time again we see pastors not communicating that mission to their audience in a way that moves the needle.
Welcome guests with excellence. Making your church guests feel welcomed as soon as they drive into the parking lot will greatly increase the likelihood of turning them from one-time visitors into fully-engaged members. Try and step back to see your church as a newcomer would see it. It’s easy for us, who are familiar with the church environment, to overlook many of the challenges a visitor faces. Every church has its own nuances, and you need to make sure every step is intentional, authentic, and welcoming.
Serve your city selflessly. One of your goals as a church should be this: If something happened and you suddenly had to close your doors, your community should mourn over its disappearance. People should notice your absence in more ways than just your physical building’s emptiness. Finding ways to serve consistently and in ways that align with your heart as a church is crucial to your growth.
Add a service, venue, or campus. The trick here is to add one of these options at the right time, for the right reason, and in a very strategic way. For example, you shouldn’t simply add a service time just to allow for more options if your first service isn’t near full. Straining your staff, volunteers and resources in that way will only hurt you longterm if the timing isn't right, or if the value-add isn't high enough. Understanding when it’s time to add a service, a new venue in your current facility, or a new campus altogether will help save you resources and grow at the right time.
Develop trust and transparency. If you want to be a growing church, you have to effectively reach the elusive 22-35-year-olds we so loving call "millennials." And if you want to reach them, developing trust and transparency with them isn’t an option. And friends, I don’t think this is as hard as we make it out to be. If you don’t do this right, you’re going to try tactic after tactic to reach this group and have very little (if any) effectiveness in capturing their attention and their hearts. They need to know that you are real and that you care abou them. How you do that will be unique to each of you.
I bring up these five important growth engines because we’re launching our very first Church Growth Bootcamp. This is a 6-week, one-on-one coaching program where I’ll personally walk you, the senior pastor, through these five things and help you make sure you’re implementing these things correctly and strategically. It's one call a week for 6 weeks, with someone who has been where you are and learned the right and wrong ways to accomplish my own growth goals as a pastor.
I'm excited to help you build a custom approach to break through whatever growth barrier you may be facing. Leading a church through certain growth barriers isn’t easy, nor is it something we should be doing alone, so click here and find out how we can do it together.