Keys to Church Growth


The underlying assumptions we carry definitively shape the organizations we are part of. In a recent conversation someone asked about ours at NewChurch LIVE. The list is below. Please note, this not a theological paper. It is a statement of our basic assumptions that we function under as we attempt to grow NCL in order to serve more people.

Key Assumptions
Pastors are not here to serve their congregation. Pastors are here to join with the congregation in serving others. Pastors must be “in the streets” modeling what the congregants should be doing. And congregants must be “in the streets” modeling what the pastor should be doing.

The Sunday service is the entryway to the church. Not the last and final destination. The last and final destination is serving those in need.

The small group mentality is not an add-on. It is the organizing paradigm for everything a church does. That means teams form to support everything from sermon writing to fund raising to young moms.

Volunteers are key. The conversation, addressed to the paid staff, moves from “This is what we need you to do” (addressed to staff) to “This is what I am doing/ we are doing” (informing the staff). The staff moves to a support role. “We don’t run programs. We cheer them on!”

Growth is a numbers game. We know that it takes 53 personal invites to yield an actual member. So we work to get in front of/ interact with as many people as possible over the course of a weekend knowing that for some it will “stick.” So we do a lot of weddings, funerals, and baptisms – all great occasions for getting in front of people.

The key question is “What next?” Any events you do, ask “What next?” The answer should be clear and compelling.

“Most churches are answering questions people are not asking.” We need to help people where they are.

When people come to pastors or small group leaders with a serious problem they are not looking for an answer as much as they are looking for a listening ear and for someone to tell them God loves them.

Celebrate. All the time … CELEBRATE! When people live into being the church, celebrate. Run pictures in Facebook, on email, in person notes. Whatever you celebrate gets repeated.

Pay attention to communication loops. We post on social media several times a day. We send out a weekly congregational newsletter via email. We send out an email to our wedding ministry every month. We mail out semi-annual congregational updates and solicitations. We write, almost daily, other written thank you notes.

Support causes small groups initiate. Don’t initiate it from the top down and expect others to follow. Go from the bottom up.

Engage the congregation in the Sunday service whenever possible. We use speakers, announcements, texting, and video to let them hear each other each week.

Offer a service once a month or so for people who would NEVER come to church. That is where one-offs are invaluable. “Come and hear a Vet” is different than “Come to Church.” This way you are not frightening people off.

Use big conferences to get ideas and gather support. And remember their limitations. As one author noted, “The conference was incredible. And the ride home was crappy.” That is because they make the real hard work of growth look simple. And if it was that simple, everyone would be North Point and Saddleback.

Some stats that I think matter …
1. You need around 7% of your Sunday attendance to be first time attendees each week in order to grow. (Not sure where I read it but it seems to be accurate in my experience)
2. 21% to 28% of your congregation will come on any given week. That means you need, roughly, 4 new people to boost your average Sunday attendance by 1.
3. Only 6% of churches in the US are reporting growth

The final thing is this … it takes a long, long time to start growing. And many failures. And resets. And frustrations.

The results …  a lot of blessings!


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