Small churches almost always run into rigid growth barriers when they try to expand their congregations, especially past the 200, 400, and 800 attendee mark. To break growth barriers, you need to start thinking big. Redefine the church leadership and restructure the church as a whole to start matching the needs of a big church before the church actually expands in attendance.
Method 1 Method 1 of 3:Part One: Think Big Download Article
Believe that God wants your church to grow. If you want to break through the growth barriers at your church, you need to firmly believe that God wants those barriers torn down. Before you can believe it, though, you also need to listen for God’s voice and make sure that this sort of growth is His will for your church.
- There are two systems of belief regarding church size. The first states that God wants all churches to grow. The second states that God has a need and a place for both large and small churches. Regardless of which camp you fall in, if you want your church to grow, you need to have confidence in the belief that breaking through these growth barriers is something God wants for your individual church.
Develop conviction. Once you believe that God wants to grow your church, you also need to have a firm conviction in your personal desire to see it grow.
- The idea of growing your church can scare many church leaders into inactivity and complacency. Dissolving the barriers that prevent growth is hard work, and the steps aren’t often clear-cut.
- While the fear can be both strong and warranted, if you let it control you, you won’t be able to get anything done. Once you make the decision to start growing your church, you need to stick with it. It shouldn’t be your opinion that the church needs to grow—it should be your conviction.
Provide enough space. As long as there are a few seats left each Sunday, you might think there’s already plenty of room. If your church reaches 70 percent of its seating capacity, however, visitors are less likely to show up and stick around.
- Determine how many seats you have in your main worship space and multiply that number by 0.7. Compare that percentage with your average attendance from last month. If your attendance is greater than 70 percent of your seating, it’s time to expand.
- Expand according to your resources. You may need to move to a larger building, or you might be able to build an addition onto your current one.
Create more worship services. When space gets tight and physically expanding is not an option, the next best thing to do is to introduce a new worship service time.
- Understand that this alone may not fix your space issues, even though it can help. People are more likely to stick with the service they’re already accustomed to, so new worship times are often less crowded than the old times. In a church with 120 regular attendees, 100 may attend the old service while only 20 might switch to the new one.
Hire more staff. A larger church will require a larger staff. It might seem sensible to wait until the church expands before you start the hiring process, but it may actually be better to hire the people you hope to need beforehand.
- Finances may restrict the number of new staff members you can hire. Start with those positions that seem most crucial to your growth as a church. As the finances start accumulating, quickly hire more staff, even if your long-term budget projections aren’t quite high enough yet.
Study larger congregations in the area. Look to the large, thriving churches in your region, even if they belong to other denominations. Attend worship services there and speak with the pastor and staff.
- Once you find out what growing churches in your area are doing to break through the barriers, you can adapt those same strategies to your own church. You do not and should not copy these churches exactly, but you can try to weave some of their ideas into your own church structure.
Get your finances in order. Growing a church is an expensive business. You need to have faith that God will provide financially, but you also need to be a good steward of all financial resources that do come your way.
- If no one among the church staff can handle finances in an expert manner, someone new will need to be hired. A full-time finance officer is ideal, but you can also check into contract financial consultants if doing so will be easier on your current budget.
Prepare for growing pains. During this growth period, everyone from the pastor down to the newest member may have some difficulty adjusting to the change.
- Pastors often struggle to adapt to the feeling of having less control and less personal interaction.
- Members of the congregation may feel that their church is less of a “home” and may resist the changes going on.
- As the church grows, its leaders will need to prepare themselves for the changes that will come. These leaders also need to be out among the members of the congregation, encouraging them through the changes, as well.
Method 2 Method 2 of 3:Part Two: Redefine Church Leadership Download Article
Transform the pastor into a leader. The pastor of a church must be able to lead the church in its growth. This usually means that the pastor will have to grow along with the church. It also means that he will need to shift himself into a leadership mindset.
- The pastor needs to be both a minister and a leader. Ministry requires you to respond to others’ needs. Leadership requires you to take initiative without consulting others.
- Study up on topics related to the logistics of growth. Learn how to equip your church for ministry and how to raise money. Research time management and learn to balance your resources.
- Spend time reading on ministry-related topics like theology, church history, and Scriptures. Commit to a certain reading goal, like a book every one or two months.
- Pastors can also benefit from attending conferences and meeting with mentors in the field of church leadership.
Build a pastoral care team. In a small church, the pastor can run the business affairs of the church while still being there for every member of the congregation. As the church grows, however, it will need to have a pastoral care team to help minister when the pastor cannot.
- Sometimes, you’ll need to hire assistant pastors to formally meet the pastoral needs of your church.
- A pastoral care team may also consist of thriving lay ministries. Lay people of the congregation won’t be able to help preach and teach, but they can assist with worship, visiting the sick, and leading small groups.
Stop micromanaging. The governing board of your church needs to be geared toward managing a larger organization. A board packed with members who fixate on the detailed organization of a small church will struggle to adapt to the needs of a large church.
- When accepting people to the board, keep in mind that they should be comfortable with larger budgets, larger systems, and larger staff numbers.
Method 3 Method 3 of 3:Part Three: Restructure the Church Download Article
Build new groups. Growing churches are very active churches, and very active churches typically offer plenty of activities and groups for members and visitors to get involved with.
- The groups don’t need to be large, and they don’t even need to meet on church grounds.
- The important thing is to vary the nature of the groups so that you can provide a little bit of everything. Have groups for different ages, circumstances, and interests.
- Organize based on the gifts of the people. Get to know your staff, volunteers, and congregation. Find out which skills and gifts the people of your church have to offer, then develop programs around those attributes.
Expand the worship service. Build the sort of worship service you want to need, not the sort of service you need right now. It’s easier to draw in a larger crowd when you already have a service meant for one.
- Try to energize worship time or have more passionate preaching. Build the ambiance of excitement that you would expect to find in a larger church.
- Ask for feedback on the service. Look for ways to view the service through the eyes of both guests and regular attendees, then tweak the service as needed.
Turn your attention outward. Programs focused inwardly on current members of the congregation are important, but if these programs vastly outnumber programs focused on the community, you won’t be able to draw new people from the community in.
- Encourage more outreach by teaching on relational evangelism and by telling stories about inviting people to church. All members of the staff and congregation should be challenged to invite friends.
Ask yourselves how to make ideas happen. When someone suggests a new idea that can help grow the church, the leadership needs to automatically begin thinking of ways to make it happen.
- Church leadership teams that immediately assume new ideas cannot happen lack vision, and a church without vision will struggle to grow.
- You should, of course, evaluate each new idea honestly. Those that honestly won’t help the church should be set aside, but those that are helpful yet difficult to accomplish should receive attention.
Consider major events with caution. Some churches may plan one or two major events during the year to create community interest. This can have a positive result, but the result is often minimal at best.
- Attendance will usually spike for a few weeks after the event. As time continues to pass, however, new visitors may lose interest and stop coming, causing the numbers to drop back down.
- Major church events only work at breaking growth barriers when your church is structured in a way that can keep the interest going after drawing in that initial crowd.
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