Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Hitting a Church Growth Barrier? Getting Bigger Isn’t Your Only Option

Hitting a Church Growth Barrier? Getting Bigger Isn’t Your Only Option

church growth

For years it’s been assumed that if your church is hitting a growth barrier there’s only one thing to do — learn how to readjust your leadership style so the congregation can keep growing numerically.

As it turns out, it’s not that simple.

When your church is pushing up against a numerical growth barrier you have a decision to make. Most of the time, the decision is made subconsciously – and therefore poorly. In this article I want to take that decision from the subconscious to the conscious level to help give us a chance to make the decision more wisely.

Here’s the decision: Should you, as a pastor adjust your leadership style to accommodate a larger congregation? Or is there a way to allow for and encourage growth that won’t require such a radical shift?

It Starts With Awareness

I’m not talking about stopping or limiting church growth. Never.

And I’m not saying we shouldn’t adapt, grow and expand our leadership skill set. We should always be doing that.

What I am suggesting is that it isn’t always necessary to make a radical shift in your leadership style in order to accommodate for numerical growth.

There are options that will allow and adapt for church growth without making the abrupt and not-always-helpful change from hands-on pastor/shepherd to CEO-style manager.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t aware of any other options. I know I wasn’t.

Stay Inside Your Gifting and Calling

Years ago, when our church experienced a season of sudden numerical increase, I made the transition from shepherding to managing quite willingly and enthusiastically. But very soon I found that this shift had placed me outside my calling and gifting — the end result being a very dark season for me and the church.

In my conversations with hundreds of fellow small-church pastors, I’ve come to believe that my situation is not unique — in fact, it’s normative.

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.