The Right Question For Growth
The Right Question: What is keeping my church from growing?
Healthy organisms grow. If you feel stagnation setting in, barriers are inhibiting your growth. Implement a plan to remove them.
Now that you’re asking the right question, I encourage you to make one affirmative decisions.
Decision No. 1: I believe God wants to grow my church.
Second Peter 3:9 (NLT) tells us: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” Your church is part of that redemptive plan. Of course, God wants it to grow. Growth signals repentance and life change.
Does thinking about the next barrier you’re facing scare you into inactivity? Don’t get discouraged. God never gives us a vision without supplying what we need to fulfill it.
When you’re asking the right question, and you know in your core that both you and God want your church to grow, nothing can stop you—but growth barriers can definitely slow you down.
So whether you are growing a small church in the suburbs or a megachurch in a big city, you need to be able to recognize these growth barriers and know how to meet them head-on.
Growth Barrier #1: Space
Space is the most fundamental barrier we all face—and the easiest to overlook.
As church leaders, we love full rooms, so we say, “Pack ’em in, there’s still a few seats!” But the truth is that when a room reaches 70 percent of its seating capacity, it’s full.
Here is a four-step exercise to perform frequently as your church grows:
Step 1: Determine how many seats you have in your main worship space.
Step 2: Multiply that number by 0.7 (70 percent).
Step 3: Determine how many people you averaged in attendance over the last month.
Step 4: Is the number in Step 3 greater than the number in Step 2? If the answer is yes, you’ve got to open up more seats or find a larger location—fast.
Starting a second service too early usually does more damage than good, so don’t think of it as an easy fix.
For example, let’s say a church of 120 decides to start a second service. Inevitably, one service will have 100 people and the other one will have 20—it’s impossible to equally divide two services, although careful choice of service times does play a part. Over time, the 20 people will be disappointed with the small crowds and filter back into the larger service.
The better choice for a church of 120 is to find a larger space and grow to 300 or 400 before starting a second service. I encourage churches to be willing to move.
Growth Barrier #2: Stopped Progression
Growing churches are led by growing leaders. So, if you’ve stopped progressing personally, your church is not far behind.
An organization can never outpace the inherent qualities of its leader.
When a pastor isn’t growing:
Set a reading goal that will stretch you—perhaps a book a month—and spend focused time in the areas of theology, church history and philosophy, in addition to reading your Bible.
Also, schedule time to attend key conferences and plan opportunities to seek out and meet with mentors. Personal development is essential not only for your own health and balance, but also for the growth of your church.
Growth Barrier #3: Sharing
Churches stop growing when they become inwardly (instead of outwardly) focused.
If you notice a decline in your number of first-time guests and an increase in discussion of inwardly focused programs, beware! You are about to fall victim to the sharing barrier.
In my experience, healthy growing churches will have a ratio of five first-time guests to every 100 regular attendees. So, if you are averaging 200 people per week, you should average 10 first-time guests per week.
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Watch this ratio carefully, and take its waning as a warning sign.
When this barrier starts blocking your growth, here are some ways you can break through it:
Growth Barrier #4: Staff
If your congregation suddenly doubled in size, would you have the necessary staff members to serve them?
To keep your church moving forward, you will need to hire people on faith, so you’ll be prepared to receive the harvest God wants to send you.
Hiring staff is truly a faith issue. Many pastors want to put off staff hires until they have the money in place to support the positions. Sounds like a practical plan, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t work. You will never have enough money in advance to hire the staff you need.
To overcome this barrier, change your perspective on what it takes to hire a new staff person. Say you need to fill a position that would require a $48,000 salary. Don’t look at it as a yearlong position.
Instead, think in three-month blocks. If you approach the new position as a three-month, $12,000 risk instead of a $48,000 risk, you will be more comfortable filling it. Then, if the staff person you hire is good, the position will begin paying for itself after three months.
When you approach staffing with a faithful heart, you’ll be much more prepared to handle the growth God brings you.
May this encourage you and bless you on your journey.
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