7 Church Growth Barriers Every Church Needs to Know

Church Growth barriers

The number one topic in the local church over the last 30-plus years addresses the church growth question, “How do I grow my church?” How can we break through to reach more people for Jesus?

The words change, but the issue remains the same. Years ago, we called them growth barriers, and now the question sounds more like, “How do I get unstuck? How can we get unstuck to reach more people?”

There was about a decade when we switched from church growth to church health, but it always comes back to growth. The reason for that is that healthy things grow!

There is nothing new under the sun, right? But it’s up to us to remain fresh, relevant and innovate our way forward for the sake of the Kingdom.

With that as context, here are some “fresh” thoughts for today.

Seven Big Church Growth Barriers:

(with insights for growth)

1) Diminished Faith for Church Growth

It’s possible for church leaders to stop believing. I’m not referring to faith in Jesus, but the potential for a pastor, staff member or key leader to lose faith that their church will ever work.

It’s all too common that a leader can lose heart and slide into discouragement. This is the enemy’s strategy! Discouragement is the breeding ground for complacency and maintenance. As a leader, you may remain faithful, but without any fire.

Vision is then lost. Whether the senior pastor, a children’s staff member or a small group leader, etc., when the leader loses vision, it’s not long before growth slows or stops.

Fight for your faith. Fight to believe again. Who do you know that believes in you? Get some time with them. Borrow their faith in you. Reflect back on when you believed in yourself, and remember that God is with you. It’s His church, it’s His idea, and what you’re doing matters.

2) Ministry Over Strategy for Church Growth

Those of us who lead in the local church are in it to see life change for the people we serve. Therefore, serving people for their spiritual growth is a priority, it’s what we do. But doing ministry for the sake of ministry can be a colossal waste of time if it’s not strategic.

The goal of ministry is not to be busy; it’s to realize a Kingdom productivity that results in changed lives for eternity. For too many years I’ve watched church pastors, staff and volunteer leaders exhaust themselves with little results.

The selection of your ministries must be strategic, not random. Your ministries should be lean and on purpose, not merely at the whim of anyone’s ideas. Alignment as a team is essential.

(And we know strategy without God’s power doesn’t work.)

3) Inward Focused Barrier to Church Growth

Inward focus is like a subtle bear trap. Of course, there is nothing subtle about a bear trap, except that it’s hidden. It’s not obvious. But when you realize you are caught in one, you then know you’re in big trouble.

No church starts out inward focused. A church turns inward from a good thing gone bad. Community, love, care, discipleship, family, etc., these are all great things and part of the healthy and functioning body of Christ. Until, essentially, they become the sole focus of the church.

The result is evangelism drops off, programming becomes all about what the Christians want for themselves, and the worship service begins to cater only to those in the body of Christ.

The scary thing is that all churches drift in that direction. All churches drift inward without the intentional effort to keep an outward focus on those who are far from God. It’s not easy, but it is that simple.

The leaders of the church must agree and align with a ministry that intentionally commits time, resources, effort and energy to reach out.

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Dan Reiland
Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.